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State Attorney-General says laws need to change to give police power to take down Nazi flag

3AW Mornings

A flag bearing a swastika and other Nazi symbols has been flying for several weeks in the state’s west, but police can’t take it down.

Residents of the Mallee town of Beulah have made several complaints to police and the council about a couple in the town who are displaying the offensive flag above their home.

However, State Attorney-General Jill Hennessy told 3AW Morning’s Heidi Murphy current laws do not give any state agency the power to take proactive action against the flying of a Nazi flag.

Currently, The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 only applies to engaging in serious racial vilification, such as inciting hatred or physical harm against another person or group.

Ms Hennessy says the issue will be front and centre of the state parliamentary committee’s discussions around reforming the laws, which are currently underway.

“We do think [the laws] fall short of enabling us to respond to some of the current challenges we see in this space,” she said.

But Ms Hennessey stopped short of saying whether there would be a direct ban on displaying Nazi paraphernalia.

“I’m going to wait for the committee to do its work,” she said.

“People argue there is a right for freedom of communication, but people also have a right to enjoy their lives free of racial and religious vilification.

“Then the next question is: how do you best regulate that and whose job is it to go and enforce that?”

The State Attorney-General told Heidi Murphy proposed changes to the racial and religious vilification laws should be presented to State Parliament by early next year.

“We want to get this done as soon as possible,” she said.

Ms Hennessey said she’s confident the parliament will be able to have a sensible discussion on the issue.

“There is a pretty strong unified view across the parliament. It is time for us to improve our ability to respond to acts of religious and cultural hatred.”

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3AW Mornings