Josh Hashanah

Josh Frydenberg being sworn in as Federal Treasurer last Friday. Photo: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

WHEN Malcolm Turnbull addressed the media on Thursday afternoon last week, the thought of becoming deputy leader of the Liberal Party hadn’t even crossed Josh Frydenberg’s mind.

But only 24 hours later, Frydenberg was elected to that position – the first Jewish Australian to become deputy of one the main federal political parties – and shortly afterwards appointed as the Australian Treasurer.

“My family wasn’t there for my swearing-in because it all happened so quickly,” Frydenberg told The AJN this week.

“It really only became a possibility the night before.”

It all happened so swiftly, Frydenberg had to ask fellow Jewish Liberal MP Julian Leeser if he had a Tanach for the swearing-in ceremony.

“It was all a bit surreal,” he recalled.

Reflecting on last Friday’s spill, Frydenberg said that he voted in support of Turnbull, because he “deserved better” and should be remembered “for the outstanding contribution he made to the country”.

But now, the Treasurer insisted, there is no use dwelling on the events of the past week because “we all need to get to work in our new portfolios”.

“There is much to do and a lot of detail to get across. Next week is the national accounts and then we start preparing for Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO). Budget preparations also start well in advance, so the coming months are going to be extremely busy.”

He also reassured the community that despite the change in leadership, new Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a friend of the Jewish community and Israel. “The relationship between Israel and Australia is really strong, with a proud history that reaches across the political divide.”

Frydenberg said that under Turnbull’s leadership the relationship become even stronger and deeper, including the historic visit of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Australia and Turnbull’s return visit for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba.

“After politics, I know ‘Menachem’ Turnbull will continue to be a great friend of Israel and the Jewish community.

“Scott Morrison is a man of faith and he too understands the role the Jewish community plays in Australia and the importance of Australia’s strong ties with the State of Israel.”

It’s been a meteoric rise for Frydenberg, who never contemplated a career in politics when he was attending Mount Scopus Memorial College.

“I always hoped that I would be a success on the tennis court, however my ambitions were far greater than my talents.

“I therefore never contemplated when I was at school that I would embark on a career in politics, let alone an opportunity to serve as Treasurer of Australia.”

His father, Harry, revealed that he only found out the big news while listening to the radio in the car.

“My wife and I were driving from Noosa to Brisbane airport and we heard on the radio and are very proud of Josh,” Harry told The AJN. “It was pleasing and emotional, but the main thing is that he’s happy.

“He’s working hard and achieving great things so it’s really good.”

Former PM John Howard was one of the first people to reach out to Frydenberg after he was elected as deputy leader.

“It’s an amazing thing that he is the first Jewish Australian to be the deputy leader of the Liberal Party,” Howard told The AJN.

He described Frydenberg, who previously worked for him, as highly intelligent and extremely talented with a superb work ethic. “In the last couple of years Josh has been responsible for this very difficult energy issue and he has handled himself quite superbly with that because he gets very focused on things he is doing.”

Howard noted that Frydenberg has prosecuted the government’s policy and worked with the states, many who had Labor governments, to try and reach an agreement.

“He has won the respect of people right across the spectrum and that could be seen last week because the vote in the party room, which was from all sections of the party, is a tribute to the esteem in which he is held.”

JOSHUA LEVI