Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has condemned a Nazi flag being flown over a home in the state’s north-west as “disgusting”, amid calls to stop the symbol from being publicly displayed.
The flag, which features the swastika and other Nazi symbols, is still flying over the home in Beulah, a town which is along Victoria’s famous Silo Art Trail in the state’s Mallee region.
News that the symbol was on public display prompted widespread condemnation and renewed calls for displaying Nazi symbols to be made illegal.
“The people who are displaying that despicable flag … it’s just disgusting,” Mr Andrews said.
“It is absolutely disgusting behaviour and if there’s any decency in that household they will take that flag down immediately.”
Independent MP for Mildura Ali Cupper said she was disgusted the flag was flying in her electorate.
“It’s shocking and it’s awful. It’s desperately sad and it’s such an insult to all of us who are democratic citizens who believe in inclusion and equality,” she said.
Victoria Police said in a statement it had received complaints about the flag and was investigating whether any offences had been committed.
Police were working with the Yarriambiack Shire Council to resolve the matter, the statement said.
The council sought legal advice about how the flag could be taken down, but chief executive Jessie Holmes said beyond asking the residents to remove it, there was little the council or police could do.
“We’ll keep working with any statutory authority that might have the power to remove the flag,” Ms Holmes said.
Ms Holmes said the incident had shocked residents in Beulah, which she described as a kind and welcoming community.
“We would also hope that the people who are flying the flag would see that it’s caused offence and it’s making a lot of people quite distressed and they would take it upon themselves to remove the flag, which would be the best-case scenario,” she said.
The red and black flag resembles a Wehrmacht flag, which was used between 1935 and 1938 to represent the armed forces of Nazi Germany.
It was replaced by another flag when Adolf Hitler became the commander-in-chief of the armed forces in 1938.
The ABC has attempted to contact the residents of the house, but has not received a response.
However, The Age newspaper reported one of the residents defended flying the flag above the home, citing her German ancestry.
Residents slam ‘disgrace’
Beulah is a small town in Victoria’s wheatbelt region with a population of just a few hundred.
Resident Leanne Shanks called the flag a “disgrace” and said it was an insult to both Jewish people and Australian war veterans.
“You can get other German flags without the Nazi swastika on it,” she said.
“It’s not right, it’s disgusting.”
A Beulah resident with Jewish ancestry, who did not want to be named, said she was angry about the flag being flown and would complain to police.
“If it’s about ancestry, fly the German flag. Don’t fly the Nazi flag,” she said.
“I’ve never come across this and need to think about how I deal with it now. Do I confront them?”
Government reviewing ‘gaps’ in vilification laws
A parliamentary inquiry is reviewing Victoria’s anti-vilification laws after Reason Party MP Fiona Patten proposed amendments to extend the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.
The issues in the bill have been referred to the Legal and Social Issues Committee.
Australian Anti-Defamation Commission chair Dvir Abramovich has been calling on the Victorian Government to ban the display of Nazi memorabilia and flags.
“It’s not illegal and that’s where the problem lies,” Dr Abramovich told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“They are using the swastika as a rallying cry to celebrate the murderous legacy of the Third Reich, and they have the law on their side.
“Anyone who loves this country and believes in the core values that binds us together, of respect and freedoms, would be horrified.”
Mr Andrews said the Government had met with Jewish groups and would make a submission to the inquiry focused on a recent increase in anti-Semitic behaviour.
“Anti-Semitism is on the rise. That is a fact,” he said.
“It is completely unacceptable for anyone to be flying what is perhaps the ultimate symbol of hate and that is that flag. It is just disgusting behaviour. Nothing justifies that behaviour whatsoever.”
He said he hoped the inquiry would give the Government a path forward to deal with any “gaps” in the law.