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Sydney - Australian Elections Set To Fall On Yom Kippur

Published on: February 3, 2013 08:33 PM
By: Jerusalem Post
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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaks at the National Press Club in Canberra January 30, 2013. REUTERS/StringerAustralian Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaks at the National Press Club in Canberra January 30, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Sydney - Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced on Monday that the country’s upcoming national election will be held on September 14 – the date of Yom Kippur this year – arousing heated debate among politicians and Jewish community leaders.

After Gillard’s announcement at the National Press Club in the capital Canberra, MPs from both Gillard’s Labor party and the Liberal Party were quick to question the decision, both due to the long campaign season ahead and its perceived insensitivity to Australia’s Jewish community.

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There are an estimated 107,000-120,000 Jews in Australia, about 0.5 percent of the country’s population, and several Federal Electorates have large enough Jewish populations to be politically significant.

Jewish MP Michael Danby (Labor) issued a statement after the decision, saying that “As a matter of personal conscience I will be unable to participate on Election Day. It is my practice, with my wife, Amanda, to observe Yom Kippur.”

Elections in Australia are always held on Saturdays, which has long made casting a ballot in the normal manner impossible for observant Jews.

However, local Jews have long been granted the accommodation of being able to cast their ballots by mail. Voting is compulsory in Australia.

“After hearing from the prime minister,” Danby said, “I am negotiating with the Special Minister of State Gary Gray to ensure arrangements for the fullest participation of the Australian Jewish community in our Australian democratic process. This will mean extra attention to postal voting and particularly pre-polling” in several Federal Electorates, he said.3 “Many of these electorates already have high levels of postal voting and pre-polling due to shift and emergency workers, travelers and Orthodox Jews being unable to vote during the day on Saturday,” he said.

Liberal MPs blasted Gillard’s decision.

Former opposition leader MP Malcolm Turnbull turned to Twitter, posting that he is “deeply disappointed that Julia Gillard chose to hold the election on Yom Kippur – the most solemn and sacred day of the Jewish year.”

Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg, who like Danby is Jewish, also tweeted about the chosen election date, saying that it “disenfranchises many Jewish Australians and is incredibly sloppy work.”

Leaders of the local Jewish community have been divided in their response.

Dr. Danny Lamm, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, was quoted by Jewish Australian news website J-Wire as saying that the Yom Kippur election date is problematic for “Jewish supporters of parties and candidates who would have wished to be active at polling booths on Election Day.”

The decision “may affect Jewish candidates who will be unable to campaign on election day [such] as Michael Danby. However for voters, pre-voting and postal vote alternatives are available, ensuring that no one will be denied their vote.”

Other communal leaders said that the issue was blown out of proportion.

According to Vic Alhadeff, the CEO of New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, the election date is “not a problem at all.”

Philip Chester, the president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, said while the election date may inconvenience, Jewish members of parliament who would ordinarily be campaigning on the day, “there are opportunities for voters to exercise postal or early votes prior to Yom Kippur.”


Content is provided courtesy of the Jerusalem Post


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Read Comments (6)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Feb 04, 2013 at 04:06 AM MBYIsrael Says:

Australians are permitted to vote by mail because to not vote is a finable offense. This is not the issue some people are trying to make it. Every Aussie Jew who wants to vote, may do so without violating halakah.

2

 Feb 04, 2013 at 06:49 AM Absentee Voter Says:

I have not voted at my local election precinct in over eight years. In 2004, there were horrendous lines, whereby people had to stand for hours. Hence, the Ohio General Assembly changed the law, which allowed for absentee voting, without any preconditions. It is a pleasure to vote by absentee ballot, in advance. Not only don't have I have wait on line, but I don't have to deal with incompetent election workers (one time I smelled liquor on one), voting machines which don't work, a lack of privacy, etc. Also, with an absentee ballot, one can take their time, and not feel rushed in the voting booth. Also, one has to remember that the Australian Jewish community does not have ths same political power, which we enjoy (and take for granted), in the USA.

3

 Feb 04, 2013 at 09:22 AM Brooklynhocker Says:

Reply to #2  
Absentee Voter Says:

I have not voted at my local election precinct in over eight years. In 2004, there were horrendous lines, whereby people had to stand for hours. Hence, the Ohio General Assembly changed the law, which allowed for absentee voting, without any preconditions. It is a pleasure to vote by absentee ballot, in advance. Not only don't have I have wait on line, but I don't have to deal with incompetent election workers (one time I smelled liquor on one), voting machines which don't work, a lack of privacy, etc. Also, with an absentee ballot, one can take their time, and not feel rushed in the voting booth. Also, one has to remember that the Australian Jewish community does not have ths same political power, which we enjoy (and take for granted), in the USA.

Ha! The guy from Ohio is talking about political power in an election. Once Romney lost your state it was all over.

5

 Feb 04, 2013 at 02:28 PM ShmuelG Says:

There is something wrong with a country that compels its people to vote. At the very least, Australia is not an important country.

6

 Feb 04, 2013 at 07:13 PM Sha1om Says:

I don't see the issue here. Why is holding elections on Yom Kippur any worse than holding them on Shabbos? Either way you can't go and vote.

7

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