Boycott campaign ‘has no traction in Australian business'

Business Council of Australia head Graham Bradley leads high-level trade delegation to Israel.

By NADAV SHEMER
April 6, 2011 23:21
3 minute read.
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Strauss boycott 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The visiting head of the Business Council of Australia says the boycott campaign against Israel is “a complete and utter joke” that is being ignored by the Australian business community.

“It has no credibility,” Graham Bradley, who is leading one of the highest-level Australian trade delegations ever to visit the country, told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday.

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“None of it has any traction in senior government or business circles in Australia.”

The campaign against Israel has hit the headlines in Australia in recent weeks, after federal senator-elect Lee Rhiannon, of the left-wing Greens Party, pushed for a boycott to become Greens national policy.

Bradley, who is in Israel for the first time, said Australian trade delegations to Israel, which are sponsored by the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, typically come to learn about Israeli technological innovation. Nevertheless, he said he was also interested in learning about how Israel had managed its urban planning and immigration policies.

“Australia has a very high [level of] immigration from a multiplicity of ethnic backgrounds, and I was keen to know the kind of things Israel has done to cope with high levels of immigration and to ensure participation in the work force and society,” Bradley said.

The delegation had received presentations on the ongoing political turmoil in the Middle East, he said, adding that his dominant impression from the visit is “that Israel is getting on with the business of being a successful economy and is not allowing any of this [regional instability] to distract it, and certainly I can’t see any reason why the trade relationship between Australia and Israel should be in any way negatively affected.”

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This is about the 35th time in the last three decades that the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce has sponsored a trade mission to Israel. Aside from Bradley, who is chairman of HSBC Australia and a director at Singapore Telecommunications, the 33-member delegation includes many other senior business figures, including Heather Ridout, CEO of the Australia Industry Group, and Paul O’Sullivan, CEO of Optus, Australia’s second-largest telecommunications company.

As the president of the Business Council of Australia, Bradley is in charge of an association of CEOs from more than 100 of Australia’s leading corporations, which together have a combined workforce of more than one million employees.

Austin Bryan, Optus’s director of digital media and a member of the delegation, said his firm “actively seeks out companies in Israel to partner [with] and to bring innovation to our company in Australia today.”

He said he had noticed a marked increase in awareness in the Australian business community of the benefits of trading with Israel since his first visit here nine years ago.

“Bilateral trade is good for both of us,” Bryan said. “It’s incredibly important for the Australian economy for us to be able to partner effectively [with Israel] and to build a lasting business relationship.”

Paul Israel, executive director of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, said the delegation would fit more than 100 meetings into its week in Israel, which would “lead to a high amount of deals in the hi-tech, clean-tech and other sectors.”

He said the chamber was particularly excited to have sponsored several young business leaders to join the delegation, including Australian Youth Climate Coalition national director Ellen Sandell, Australian Indigenous Minority Supplier Council CEO Natalie Walker and Zhenya Tsvetnenko, who was named by Ernst and Young as the 2010 Australian young entrepreneur of the year.

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