Danby walks out of Question Time over PM’s Nazi reference

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By Daniel Wilson

Federal Member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby walked out of question time last month following the ejection of Labor frontbencher Mark Dreyfus. The two Jewish MPs from Victoria were incensed when the Prime Minister called Bill Shorten “the Dr Goebbels of economic policy”.

The chamber filled with cries of abhorrence following Tony Abbott’s comparison of the Opposition Leader to Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. Amongst all the shouting one could hardly hear the Prime Minister say “I withdraw, I withdraw”.

“I do withdraw and I do apologise for using that phrase,” Mr Abbott said. But Mr Dreyfus was singled out for his vocal protest by Speaker of the House Bronwyn Bishop and ejected from Question Time.

This prompted Mr Danby to rise to his feet and declare “if he’s out, I’m out over this”. The Prime Minister “can slag us as much as he likes but it is silly to use an example of the ultimate evil in politics”, he told the ABC. “He’s the Prime Minister – he is supposed to have standards.”

Mr Abbott was responding to a question about Australia potentially loosing its AAA credit rating. Insisting that Labor was even worse at managing the economy he suggested it was “like the arsonist complaining about the fire”. Instead of leaving it at that he drew the nation’s attention to this issue with a Nazi reference.

And it is not the first time Mr Abbott has done this. He made another Nazi reference just a month prior when speaking about the decline of defence jobs in Australia. “There was a holocaust of jobs in Defence industries under members opposite”, the Prime Minister told Parliament.

He withdrew immediately and apologised later for it. In light of the more recent Nazi reference this apology does seem disingenuous.

Mr Danby has long been a strong supporter of the Jewish community and of minority rights. In the May issue of last year he wrote an editorial for St Kilda News condemning the Liberal Party’s attempt to repeal the Racial Discrimination Act.

The Act was never repealed, but during the public debate over it Mr Danby chastised Attorney General George Brandis for “defending even a bigot’s right to freedom of speech”, while at the same time the government was gagging civil servants. “Extreme libertarian ideology is fuelling the Liberal Party’s move to weaken the Racial Discrimination Act”, Mr Danby explained.

Quoting the philosopher Isaiah Berlin, Mr Danby pronounced in this paper that “total liberty for wolves is death to the lambs”.


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