PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS - Extradition of Leifer, Ms Malka

10 February 2020

 I rise to speak on the motion moved by the member for Wentworth and seconded by the member for Macnamara, and I thank them for bringing this matter before the House. I wish to associate myself with the comments by my colleague from across the aisle, along with the contributions of the member for Macnamara and the member for Higgins. We cannot overstate the importance of the words put before us in this motion and the standard that they set. We are talking about an individual who, aside from allegedly committing some of the most heinous crimes, has demonstrated complete contempt for the rule of law in our land and sees themselves as above our nation's judiciary.

The individual in question, Malka Leifer, was placed in a position of authority over children. She was placed in a position of power over children. She was placed in a position of great importance, being responsible for the care and academic development and wellbeing of children. She had a respected role and title and, as such, had the trust of members of her immediate community and of the community in general. She cared for the community's children. As a paediatrician—and I'm sure the member for Higgins would agree with me—I see it as a sacred duty to care for those children and to care for them in a way that nurtures their development. It's alleged that Ms Leifer violated that trust in the most horrific and heinous way on multiple occasions.

As the motion before us indicates, this individual was the former principal of the Adass Israel girls school in Melbourne. When allegations were raised about her conduct over a number of years, she fled our nation instead of facing the allegations and charges laid out before her. This individual acted as though she did not need to answer to our legal system and to our families and has refused to return to answer for her alleged conduct. As we've already heard, her conduct could be responsible for devastating psychological effects on children over many decades and, indeed, for the rest of their lives. In my opinion, her utter contempt for the rule of law speaks volumes about any potential plea she may make.

On what has been said about the Israeli legal system, I'm horrified that over 60 hearings have taken place into this matter. I'm not a lawyer. I'm not entirely sure how the Israeli legal system works. But, to me, the fact that there have been over 60 hearings and the fact that the Israeli health minister has, in some way, accommodated Ms Leifer is very concerning. I really do believe that the Israeli legal system needs to bring Malka Leifer to justice.

Australia has rightfully requested that Ms Leifer be extradited to answer for her sins. In fact, Australia filed for extradition some six years ago, requesting that this person return to the state of Victoria to face up to no less than 74 charges of child sexual abuse. That is at least 74 heinous acts and crimes that this individual has not answered for. I commend, in particular, the bravery of Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and others for trying to bring Ms Leifer to justice, but I am very concerned that it has taken so long. Australia has made a formal extradition request, and this remains unresolved. Surely Australia's support of Israel since Israeli nationhood suggests that they should support us in this. Reports have indicated that medical professionals have declared this individual is fit to stand trial, and I cannot see why she can't be brought to justice in Australia.

I share the frustrations of many Australians—not just Jewish Australians but Australians across the board—as parents, as fathers, as mothers and as grandparents, as to why this person cannot be brought to justice. The fact that an individual who is alleged to have committed such heinous acts can flout the rule of law is abhorrent and unacceptable to all of us. I am comforted by the fact that there's such a consensus across the parliament for this, in defence of the laws of our land and in the belief that this person should be, and will eventually be, held to account. I thank the House.