Poulton quits ALP

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is seen delivering a speech in Melbourne on Monday. Photo: AAP Image/David Crosling

TREVOR Poulton, the figure at the centre of a renewed storm over Josh Frydenberg’s eligibility to sit in Parliament, has quit the ALP, amid claims antisemitism played a role in the attacks on the Treasurer.

The Melbourne lawyer resigned from the party on Tuesday instead of appearing at a dispute hearing, following a formal complaint against him submitted by Josh Burns, the Labor MP for Macnamara.

Burns’ call for Poulton to be expelled from the party, received broad support, including from ALP Leader Anthony Albanese.

Poulton reportedly prepared the legal case for a High Court challenge against Frydenberg, which was mounted by climate activist Michael Staindl in the Court of Disputed Returns.

A lawyer representing Staindl told The AJN Staindl has “never spoken with nor communicated with Trevor Poulton on this matter at any time”.

The challenge focuses on Frydenberg’s Hungarian-born mother Erica Strausz, who arrived in Australia after the Holocaust as a stateless refugee.

It claims the Treasurer, and Member for Kooyong, is a dual citizen, ineligible to be an MP under Section 44 of the Constitution, but Frydenberg has stated these matters were resolved during the previous Parliament.

The court action follows the defeat of independent candidate Oliver Yates in Kooyong at this year’s federal election. During the campaign, Frydenberg’s election signage was defaced with antisemitic symbols a number of times. 

A Liberal state MP in Victoria, Tim Smith, last week claimed Yates worked with Poulton and Staindl on the court challenge, although Yates denied involvement.

Attention swung to Poulton’s 2012 novel The Holocaust Denier, a sympathetic account of a Holocaust revisionist, although Poulton has rejected accusations he himself is a Holocaust denier.

However, in 2014 he advocated for diluting section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act to “liberate the debate on the Holocaust”.

On the issue of Shoah education in schools, he argued, “Without the academic freedom to question the literature, research material and survivors’ testimonies, the subject essentially becomes a form of indoctrination of innocent children, a form of child abuse.”

Poulton’s role as a Labor activist – who had also drafted anti-Israel resolutions – had mired the ALP in charges of antisemitism, increasing pressure on him to resign.

However, he told media that although he has worked with Yates, he has never communicated with Staindl, and accusations of antisemitism against him are a Coalition “war plan” to save Kooyong for the Liberals.

Poulton’s departure has been resoundingly welcomed in senior ALP circles, with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews telling The AJN, “I welcome this resignation – there’s no place for this person in the Australian Labor Party.”

Thanking Albanese and other supporters of the move, Burns said, “Mr Poulton’s past comments relating to the Holocaust [and] section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act … made it very clear he has no place in the modern, multicultural Labor Party which is devoted to fighting racism, antisemitism and bigotry in all its forms.”

Senior Labor MP Mark Dreyfus stated, “This is a very good outcome. People who hold those sort of views have no place in our party.”

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim noted, “The UK Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has paid a high political price for recruiting and fostering members who harbour an obsessive hostility against Israel and Holocaust remembrance. The ALP is far better off avoiding that path altogether.”

Calls for Poulton to be expelled from the party had come from as high up as Prime Minister Scott Morrison last month.

Poulton was approached by The AJN for comment but had not responded by press time.