TRUE to his word that he would reconsider holding an election on Yom Kippur, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd this week announced Australia would go to the polls a week earlier on September 7, a move that has been met with praise by Jewish politicians on both sides of the divide.
Back in February, former PM Julia Gillard scheduled the federal election for September 14, the same day as Yom Kippur, posing problems for Jewish MPs and political activists and causing an uproar among some members of the community who deemed the date insensitive. Federal members Mark Dreyfus, Michael Danby and Josh Frydenberg all said they would spend the day in shul rather than on the campaign trail.
But following his reappointment to the top job in June, after the third Labor leadership spill in as many years, Rudd signalled a date change, saying the scheduling conflict would be a “massive inconvenience” for Jewish voters.
Dreyfus told the The AJN on Monday that he was pleased the Prime Minister had “honoured his commitment” to avert a clash with the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
“I am, of course, pleased that this year’s federal election will not fall on Yom Kippur,” Dreyfus said. “Australia’s democratic tradition is to always hold elections on a Saturday, and so religious Jews generally choose to vote at pre-poll stations or by post in the weeks before federal and state elections.
“However, while arrangements are in place for voting prior to the election, Prime Minister Rudd indicated in June that he understands the significance of Yom Kippur to the Jewish people,” he added.
Liberal MP Frydenberg said he was “pleased the long wait is over and we now have an election date that does not fall on Yom Kippur”.
The member for Kooyong went on to lambast federal Labor, saying the electorate was now presented with a “clear choice” between “more Labor chaos and incompetence from arguably the worst Australian government in living memory or a Tony Abbott-led Coalition government which has a plan to get the economy back into the black and the country back on track”.
Danby, who pushed for arrangements to be made in Jewish neighbourhoods to allow voting ahead of Yom Kippur, praised the decision to move the date of the election.
“Through my work with the cooperative Australian Electoral Commission we had plans for the first ever Sunday pre poll station in Caulfield to compensate for Yom Kippur. Nonetheless, the move to hold the election so that it doesn’t fall on Yom Kippur, as PM Rudd referred to in Question Time, is a good one,” Danby said.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.