Mr E. T. PAGE: My question without notice is to the Premier. What is the Government's response to recent attacks on places of worship in Sydney's east?
Mr CARR: Australia is one of the few societies in the world that can claim to be both harmonious and tolerant. That society was on display to the world during the Olympic Games. Any visitor to these shores would have been struck by the happy and benign multiculturalism that is part of the Australian way of life. The pluralism and cultural diversity of our society was on display during the Olympics. That is one of the reasons why all members of this House will share my view that attacks on places of worship are especially abhorrent. An attack on a mosque, a church, a temple, or a synagogue has no place in this culturally diverse democracy. Members of this Chamber will recall the arson attack in February 1996 that destroyed St Patrick's Cathedral at Parramatta.
I am advised that in the past two weeks there have been a number of deplorable incidents in Sydney's eastern suburbs, including three firebombing attacks on the home of Rabbi Pinchus Feldman of Bondi, the latest being on Sunday night. Last week there was a sickening attack on the Roscoe Street synagogue in Bondi, where intruders tied 10 prayer shawls together into a wick and lit them with kerosene. There have also been reports of people who are walking to synagogues in the eastern suburbs being harassed on the street. I have spoken to the President of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, Mr Stephen Rothman, who speaks on behalf of 35,000 Jews, the past president, Mr Peter Wertheim, and Mr Michael Marx. On 1 November Mr Rothman, on behalf of this very fine community, wrote to me thanking the Government for its concern and for its effort, through the New South Wales Police Service, to investigate these attacks. This morning the office of the New South Wales Commissioner of Police advised:
In addition, the deputy commissioner's office advised that since the attacks the eastern suburbs local area command has established Operation Spencerville to investigate the offences. It has set up patrols of Jewish premises in the eastern suburbs. It has organised regular meetings between the police and the Jewish community, and engaged the special information and intelligence centre of the Police Service to review and monitor evidence available from the attacks. Attacking places of worship is a particularly offensive crime, not only against the 35,000 members of the Jewish community in this State but against our Australian sense of fairness.
At the present there are no established links to the conflict in the Middle East as causation for these offences.