Legislation to ban the Nazi salute in Victoria is being fast-tracked in state parliament, However, it won’t come into effect for a couple of months.
The government is also expanding legislation banning the Nazi swastika to include the salute, after National Socialist Network members repeatedly performed the salute on the steps of the Victorian parliament on Saturday at an anti-transgender rights rally.
It comes as the Victorian Liberal Party moves to expel outspoken MP Moira Deeming from the parliamentary party over her role in the rally.
Ms Symes described the behaviour at Saturday’s protest as disgraceful and cowardly, noting the salute was being used to incite hatred.
She said the expanded legislation would ensure Victorians feel 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 in a statement on Monday.
Opposition Leader John Pesutto said the Coalition would work constructively with the government if it moved to ban the Nazi salute.
“We support free speech but every sensible and reasonable person will know there have to be some limits on free speech,” he told ABC News Breakfast on Monday.
“People who engage in actions and gestures which incite hate and violence will never be acceptable in our state.”
Anti-Defamation Commission chair Dvir Abramovich welcomed the ban, saying a terrible wrong had been made right.
“There is no perfect cure for the disease of extremism but this law is a first good step,” he said.
“Now law enforcement will have the tools they have been asking for.”
Mr Pesutto said on Sunday the scenes of black-clad white supremacists marching along Spring Street were an “abomination” and “affront” to values all Victorians should hold dear.
He said he met Ms Deeming on Sunday afternoon and discussed her involvement in organising, promoting and participating in the rally.
Mr Pesutto said Ms Deeming’s position was “untenable” and he would move a motion at the next party room meeting to expel her as a member of the parliamentary Liberal Party.
“This is not an issue about free speech but a member of the parliamentary party associating with people whose views are abhorrent to my values, the values of the Liberal Party and the wider community,” Mr Pesutto said in a statement.
“Regardless of religious faith, race, sexual preference and identity, Victorians everywhere should know that the Liberal Party is inclusive and can be a voice for them.”
In December last year, Victoria became the first state to ban the Nazi swastika.
It is currently a criminal offence to display the symbol in public with penalties of up to nearly $22,000, 12 months in jail or both.