JEWISH Australians – indeed all fair-minded people interested in religious and racial tolerance and freedom – will applaud several developments concerning the Victorian government this week.
Premier Daniel Andrews has announced Victoria will ban public displays of the Nazi swastika, becoming the first state or territory in Australia to do so. It is a welcome if overdue advance in the fight against hatred.
As the government states, new legislation will make it a criminal offence for a person to intentionally display the Nazi symbol in public. Anyone who does so faces stiff penalties, prison or both.
The announcement – which Andrews made to coincide with last night’s (Wednesday) event celebrating Israel’s 74th Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) in the company of Victoria’s political community, Jewish communal leaders and friends – is a significant one.
But credit is also due to the Liberal-Nationals opposition – David Southwick, Victoria’s deputy Liberal leader and MP for Caulfield, has been campaigning long and hard for the banning of the Nazi swastika.
We were also heartened this week to hear that the Andrews government has allocated a $2 million grant towards communal organisation Courage to Care, to assist its efforts in spreading a message of multicultural tolerance throughout Victoria by educating young people about the Holocaust, and about the type of society we need to ensure such times never return. The grant is designed to help Courage to Care address year 9 students around the state.
These developments have come in a week when the Victorian government also embraced the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. Contrary to what some have said about IHRA, definitions do matter. This definition – on global parameters – frames the conduct, verbal and other, that constitutes antisemitism. It is our first, most potent weapon in the fight against this most ancient of hatreds.
Again, this has not happened in a vacuum – the Victorian Liberals adopted the IHRA definition late last year, as did the NSW government, setting the bar for a decision the Andrews government has now adopted, to its own great credit. These are all big steps forward in the fight against antisemitism.