New hate speech laws in focus as social cohesion frays

Anti-Semitic graffiti scrawled on the perimeter fence of a Jewish school has been condemned by the prime minister as the government considers tougher penalties for hate speech.

The wall of the Jewish school in Melbourne's east was vandalised with an anti-Semitic message on Friday evening, prompting Anthony Albanese to declare there was "no place for this in Australia or anywhere else" on X, formerly known as Twitter.

A report of the racially motivated graffiti on Mount Scopus Memorial College's Gandel Campus in Burwood has sparked a police investigation, the force confirmed to AAP on Sunday.

The incident comes as the federal government works on new hate speech laws, which will enforce criminal penalties for serious instances of vilification based on sexuality, gender, race and religion.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the new rules would protect the community from "those who promote extremism, hatred or seek to incite violence".

"The Albanese Government is committed to promoting and supporting respect, acceptance and understanding across the Australia community," he said.

The government first indicated it was exploring laws to strengthen hate speech protections back in February, with religious groups, women's groups, ethnic communities and other groups consulted as part of the work.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the government was still consulting to identify where there needed to be further penalties, noting the matter should be "above politics".

"We make it clear that as a government – we will not tolerate the kind of hatred and abuse on the basis of people's race or religion," she told Sky News on Sunday.

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan condemned the graffiti and sent her strength to the Scopus and Jewish communities.

"The biggest victims of anti-Semitism are children," she wrote on X.

"This is unacceptable in any community, in any school - anywhere."

Victorian Opposition Leader John Pesutto suggested anti-Semitism was the worst he'd ever seen it and called for a stronger response from the state government and police.

"This is serious," he told reporters.

"We need to see our agencies and, in particular our law enforcement agencies, mobilised to crack down on this."

Just.Equal Australia spokesperson Rodney Croome said there were many questions yet to be answered as the government drafted the legislation.

"Will vilification on the grounds of gender identity and sex characteristics be included and will the kind of protection currently provided under 18c be made available for LGBTIQA+ people?" Mr Croome said in a statement.