Nazi salute ban attracts broad political support
Laws banning the Nazi salute in Victoria will be fast-tracked but a change could still be months away.
Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes on Monday confirmed the government would expand legislation banning the Nazi swastika to include the salute.
It comes after National Socialist Movement members repeatedly performed the salute on the steps of Victorian parliament at an anti-transgender rights rally on Saturday.
Ms Symes described the behaviour as disgraceful and cowardly, noting the salute was being used to incite hatred.
She said the expanded legislation would ensure Victorians felt safe, welcome and included.
"We'll look at how this can be done carefully, with considered consultation with a variety of groups and will have more to say on the details of this legislation as we undertake that," Ms Symes said.
Those processes could take some time.
Opposition leader John Pesutto said the coalition worked with the government to ban the swastika and would do so again.
"(The Nazi salute) is as much an incitement of hate and violence as the swastika itself," Mr Pesutto said.
"We would not take a different view, having led that process and then work with the government on that."
Victoria Police would not comment on the proposed changes, nor did it respond to questions on the alleged actions of officers during Saturday's protest.
Melbourne Activist Legal Support has accused police of discrimination, alleging officers focused their control measures almost exclusively on the pro-trans groups.
There is video circulating online of an officer kneeing a person in the head during an arrest.
A Victoria Police spokesperson told AAP there have been no complaints in relation to the incident.
Police Association of Victoria president Wayne Gatt said the short arrest video lacked context.
"I'm certainly not going to condemn the actions of individual officers who were thrust into quite a volatile melting pot of ideology," he told ABC Radio.
Mr Gatt said officers felt ashamed they could not act against those who were performing the Nazi salute.
In Victoria, police can move on people for disturbing the peace and make arrests over offensive behaviour or incitement.
Despite the existing laws, Equality Minister Harriet Shing said police still needed greater powers to deal with gestures and symbols that incite hatred.
"There is a need for change," she said.
Banning the gesture will give law enforcement personnel the tools to act against neo-Nazis, Anti-Defamation Commission chair Dvir Abramovich said.
"There is no perfect cure for the disease of extremism but this law is a first good step," he said.
The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council is also backing the move to ban the salute.
"Unless and until there are consequences for their actions, we can expect neo-Nazis to become more brazen, which is both a sobering reality and a reason to act expeditiously," the council's Jeremy Jones said.
But Monash University Holocaust expert David Slucki warned the changes would only reduce the presence of symbolism in public, rather than eradicate Nazism altogether.
"These Nazis will continue to target vulnerable groups," said Mr Slucki, who is also the director of the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation.
"It is incumbent on political and community leaders not to use those groups as political pawns, which only empowers these groups."
There also needs to be more cautious reporting of such incidents so "tiny" groups of neo-Nazis are not given "outsized megaphones", he said.