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Victoria to ban Nazi salute after ‘disgusting’ scenes at anti-trans protest

The Andrews government will move to ban the Nazi salute within months after the gesture was used at a protest attended by neo-Nazis at the weekend.

But Victoria’s attorney general, Jaclyn Symes, says the proposed law will take “some work” to get right.

Anti-transgender activists clashed with pro-transgender rights activists outside Victoria’s parliament on Saturday after an event held by the controversial UK gender activist Kellie-Jay Keen. A group of about 30 men from the Nationalist Socialist Network marched along Spring Street, repeatedly performing the Nazi salute.

On Monday Symes said the Andrews government would take “active steps” to ban the gesture.

“The behaviour we saw on the weekend was disgusting, cowardly – a sense of sadness, outrage and disbelief all at once,” she told ABC Radio. “It’s clear this symbol is being used to incite hatred against a variety of people, a variety of minority groups … it’s being used as a recruitment tool.”

Josh Roose, an extremism expert and associate professor at Deakin University, said

Dr Dvir Abramovich, Chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission, who has led a campaign to ban the salute, said

who launched a campaign in January 2023 to outlaw the Heil Hitler salute issued the following statement:

The event has sparked turmoil in the Liberal party after Pesutto announced that he would seek to expel the first-term MP Moira Deeming from the parliamentary party room due to her involvement in the anti-trans protest.

Pesutto said Deeming’s position was “untenable” because of her involvement with speakers at the rally who had been publicly associated with far-right extremists. Deeming was contacted for comment but has been advised not to speak publicly before the vote.

Keen has come under fire after a speaker at one of her events quoted Adolf Hitler when speaking about transgender rights.

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In a statement on Monday Symes said Victorians had “zero tolerance” for the behaviour displayed by the neo-Nazi protesters. The government would consult with a variety of groups as it worked out the details, she said.

“It’s got to be done carefully,” she told the ABC. “We’ve got some international jurisdictions that have banned the salute outright, others have made it part of their anti-vilification laws. We’ll look at some models and we’ll get it done as quickly as we can.”

Earlier this year Symes flagged that the government was considering banning the salute after white supremacists performed the gesture in public, including at a 26 January ceremony for First Nations Victorians.

Last year Victoria became the first Australian jurisdiction to ban the public display of the Nazi swastika. The ban acted on a recommendation from a parliamentary inquiry into the state’s anti-vilification laws, which called for the criminalisation of all symbols of Nazi ideology.

Queensland last week vowed to make it illegal to display Nazi swastika tattoos as part of its ban on hate symbols that it says will be among the strongest in the country.

This story was corrected on Monday, March 20 2023. The group involved in the protest at parliament house was from the National Socialist Network, not the National Socialist Movement, which is a separate and unrelated group.

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