Foreign Minister Marise Payne has denied Australian diplomats rebuffed an Israeli initiative at the UN in protest at the delayed extradition of alleged Melbourne child sex abuser Malka Leifer.
Reports of the dispute, in which Australian representatives at the UN in Geneva allegedly refused in November to attend an Israeli-led event about preventing child sexual abuse, come as the former school principal is set to appear before Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday.
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, an Australian diplomatic source said their delegation refused to attend the Preventing Sexual Abuse of Children — An Educational Toolbox event jointly run by Israel, Uruguay and the EU because of Leifer’s years-long effort to avoid extradition.
However, a spokesman for Senator Payne denied there had been a direction given to diplomats to boycott the event. The Israeli ambassador to Australia did not respond to a request for comment.
While Australia is yet to take any official action against Israel over its handling of Leifer’s extradition, a growing chorus of Leifer’s victims and politicians from both sides of politics have called for action.
Liberal MP and former Australian ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma and Labor MP Josh Burns announced last week the “Bring Leifer Back” motion they plan to bring before parliament next year, which they expect to pass the lower house.