17th October 2023 17:36
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne
Rachel PAYNE (South-Eastern Metropolitan) (17:36): I rise to make a contribution to the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Salute Prohibition) Bill 2023 on behalf of Legalise Cannabis Victoria. Appallingly, Melbourne has been labelled the neo-Nazi capital of Australia. This is a hard label to refute, given reports over the weekend of a group of masked men performing the Nazi salute at Flinders Street station and aggressively questioning people on the train about their faith and whether they are Jewish. In recent years there has been a steady increase in far-right groups in Victoria using the Nazi salute to promote hateful ideology.
The events that triggered the creation of this bill occurred at an anti-trans rally in March this year, where members of the National Socialist Network repeatedly performed the Nazi salute. These groups have been targeting our communities to incite hatred and fear, and they are doing so in an increasingly organised, violent and escalated way. First Nations people, the Jewish community, LGBTIQA+ people, people with a disability and other racial and religious groups have all been targeted by these attacks. This bill sends a message that this hate has no place in Victoria, and we are pleased to see the full force of the law being used to target these harmful, hateful symbols and gestures. In the context of this increasing hate and the need to curb far-right extremism, bills such as this need to be part of a wider, proactive and holistic response. This must include continued education about Nazi and fascist movements and their horrific consequences throughout history.
The Nazi salute that this bill seeks to prohibit is inseparably linked with the Holocaust. The atrocities committed by the Nazi regime were countless and marked one of the darkest periods of human history: the genocide of 6 million Jews, millions of prisoners of war and countless victims of other marginalised communities. To see the glorification of this history and the same hateful rhetoric and gestures in Australia all these years later is profoundly disturbing. These symbols and gestures target the very core identity of groups of people, and it vilifies them for it. With this in mind, I am sure you cannot help but understand my frustration that we continue to wait on expanded anti-vilification protections. Every day we delay, we allow this hate to fester. As I mentioned, the triggering event that caused the creation of this bill occurred at an anti-trans rally in March this year. The Nazi salute was just one aspect of the hate speech being directed at those trans Victorians on that day, and it is that hate speech more broadly that we so urgently need to address.
I spend quite a bit of time talking with particularly the LGBTIQ+ community. The response by the government to the hateful language and the rally in March has been, ‘We’ll just ban the Nazi salute,’ rather than actually looking at the cause and effect and the vilification that is occurring and protecting those people that are being vilified. That is something that is incredibly frustrating for the community.
This matter has been the subject of a parliamentary inquiry, which was completed in September 2021. In the government’s response they accepted recommendation 1, in principle, to extend anti-vilification protections in both civil and criminal laws to cover the following attributes:
a. race and religion
b. gender and/or sex
c. sexual orientation
d. gender identity and/or gender expression
e. sex characteristics and/or intersex status
g. HIV/AIDS status
h. personal association.
The inquiry recognised that extremist movements cause harm to the community and that mainstreaming of marginalised homophobic and transphobic sentiments legitimises the kind of targeting of LGBTIQA+ Victorians that we are seeing. As this government have said in their response:
The harm caused by hate conduct and vilification can be profound, affecting the physical and psychological wellbeing of individuals as well as whole communities’ ability to participate in daily life. Significantly, hate conduct and vilification challenges the very core of Victoria’s social cohesion through its inherent divisiveness and unequal distribution of power.
Delay is causing harm. I know the government are committed to extending anti-vilification protections to additional groups of people, pending a consultation process. It is a matter I have raised with the Attorney-General in this chamber on several occasions. I was grateful when she committed to an 18-month time frame, but I am not sure if that has since been walked back. What I do know is that it is over 800 days since the government accepted those parliamentary inquiry recommendations, while there are people in our community who are desperate to see reform occur. We need to expand anti-vilification protections, and those affected will benefit so greatly from a concrete time frame for this legislation. The fierce urgency of the moment is clear: when people seek to spread their hatred we must be firm in our position that this has no place here.
My electorate is one of immense diversity. Our diversity is our strength. It should be embraced, and we should all work towards a shared future of our nation. We must stand against those that seek to divide us. Accordingly, Legalise Cannabis Victoria lends its wholehearted support to the bill, and we hope to see the government soon deliver more to stamp out far-right extremism, vilification and hatred.