Opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan.
Opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan will work with the government on hate-speech penalties. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Bipartisan backing for tougher hate-speech penalties

May 27, 2024

The coalition has signalled it is willing to work alongside the government to strengthen hate-speech laws, amid rising levels of anti-Semitism.

The federal government is working through a new bill protecting people from hate speech based on attributes such as race, gender, religion, sex or sexuality.

While the laws would strengthen protections against hate speech, the final form of the laws is yet to be determined.

Opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan said the coalition was prepared to work with the government on the proposal.

He said there was a need to address anti-Semitism in the community.

“We look forward to working with the government in a bipartisan way to deal with this issue and, in particular, to deal with anti-Semitism, which we’re seeing sadly grow and grow in this nation,” Mr Tehan told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

It comes as Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said anti-Semitic incidents had reached levels in Australia not seen in his lifetime.

The comments followed the Mount Scopus Memorial College in Melbourne being vandalised, with graffiti scrawled on its perimeter fence on Saturday.

“The levels of anti-Semitism that we have seen in the past few months are more than any that I’ve seen during my lifetime,” Mr Marles told reporters at the Jewish school on Monday.

“The sorts of words that we saw written on the walls of this school have no place in our society and it is critically important that, at this moment, the nation stands up against this anti-Semitism.

“There is no place for Islamophobia either and there is no place for prejudice against communities in this country.”

Richard Marles.
 Richard Marles says it is critically important the nation stands up against anti-Semitism. Image by AP PHOTO 

This incident follows other anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents that have been inflamed by violence in the Middle East.

On October 7, designated terrorist group Hamas attacked Israel, killing 1200 people and taking more than 200 hostages, according to Tel Aviv.

Israel retaliated, launching a bombing campaign and counter-offensive in Gaza that, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, has killed nearly 36,000 Palestinians, injured more than 80,000 and displaced more than 1.7 million.

Nationals Leader David Littleproud said he understood there were pressures in the Middle East but Australian communities needed to maintain cohesion.

Never Again is Now' rally Melbourne (file)
 Mr Marles says there is there is no place for Islamophobia or anti-Semitism in Australia. Image by Con Chronis/AAP PHOTOS 

“I get there’s tension in the Middle East but it should stay in the Middle East – that needs to stay there,” Mr Littleproud told reporters in Canberra.

“What we saw on the weekend was abhorrent – I mean that sort of stuff we saw back in the 30s and 40s.”

Mr Littleproud said the coalition would need to see the contents of the bill before they offered support.

“We’re not going to rush into this,” he said.

“We need to see the detail and make sure there’s no unintended consequences and then we get the balance right between this great thing that we have called freedom of speech and democracy.”