Jewish leaders have applauded the Victorian government’s banning of Nazi salutes in public, after milestone legislation was passed in State Parliament on Tuesday.
The bill is set for royal assent on Friday after passing in the Legislative Council, with moves to expedite it into law to urgently clamp down on extremist groups harassing members of Melbourne’s public, as happened yet again – on a metro train – last Saturday.
It makes Victoria the second state, after Tasmania, to ban such gestures. Several states have already outlawed public displays of swastikas.
Under the new laws, strongly promoted by Deputy Liberal leader and Caulfield MP David Southwick and by former premier Daniel Andrews, anyone who displays or performs a Nazi symbol or gesture in public will face penalties of up to $23,000, 12 months’ imprisonment or both.
Speaking to a motion condemning the Hamas attacks, Premier Jacinta Allan told Parliament on Tuesday, “We do not want to waste one single day in making the Nazi salute ban the law of our state.” She said that since the Hamas onslaught, there has been an upswing in antisemitic incidents in public. “What has transpired in the past days has been shocking, and we know that there will be many more challenging days and weeks to come.”
State Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said the bill “was scheduled to receive royal assent on Tuesday. However, we’ve worked with the Governor to secure her agreement to fast-track this and it will be completed this week.”
Jewish community leaders were uplifted by the passing of the landmark laws. Jewish Community Council of Victoria president Daniel Aghion was emphatic: “In the wake of offensive recent displays by neo-Nazis in Melbourne, we are pleased the Victorian Parliament has quickly passed these new laws banning Nazi salutes and additional Nazi symbols.
“The next step we want to see is Victoria Police using these new laws to send a strong message that there is no place for Nazi supporters in Melbourne.”
Anti-Defamation Commission chair Dvir Abramovich stated, “Tomorrow Victorians will now wake up to a better, stronger and more tolerant state, and should be proud of their efforts in stemming the rising tide of neo-Nazism.”
Addressing the ban, Southwick told Parliament this week, “We have certain individuals – as few as they may be but as extreme as they may be, hateful and hurtful as they are – [and it] demonstrates that we have more work to do.”
Neo-Nazi protesters outside Victoria’s Parliament House earlier this year. Photo: James Ross/EPA