THE CEO of the council at the centre of the Nazi flag controversy earlier in the year has said a “clear piece of legislation would have made it a heck of a lot easier” in ensuring its removal.
When the swastika-emblazoned flag was raised in the backyard of a home in the north-west Victorian town of Beulah in January, it attracted the ire of many, thrusting the small community into the spotlight of national media. Offering testimony at a public hearing of the Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protections last week, Yarriambiack Shire Council CEO Jessie Holmes said the act was not in line with the community’s values and locals were appalled.
But in the absence of legislation that bans the public display of the swastika or Nazi symbols, the council were forced to look for loopholes in other acts to administer its removal – to no avail.
“If we had a law, we obviously would have exercised it,” said Holmes.
Eventually, it was the skilled negotiation of Beulah’s police officer that convinced the property owners to remove the flag.
It was a fortunate outcome given the council’s entire annual legal budget is $12,000, and the estimated legal costs associated with running the case would reach around $20,000, shared Holmes.
When asked by committee member Caulfield MP David Southwick if a simple mechanism banning the public display of Nazi symbols would have been beneficial, council director of community development and wellbeing Gavin Blinman said, “That would be black and white for us.”
Holmes continued, “I think everyone agrees there needs to be a mechanism.
“Everybody agreed, with that particular flag, you should be able to just go in and deal with it. Never once was [there a] conversation around [its removal] impinging on people’s political or religious rights.
“Everybody was [saying], we all know what that flag is, and what it stands for.
“It had to come down.”
Since the Beulah incident, Nazi flags have also been publicly displayed in Wagga Wagga and Kyabram.
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