In Parliament

Matter of Public Importance - Caulfield and Move On Laws



Wednesday, 15 November 2023.

Mr NEWBURY (Brighton) (17:30)

I rise to speak on the member for Malvern’s Matter of Public Importance:

That this house reaffirms that no Victorian should face harassment on account of their faith, and therefore:

(1) Condemns the intimidatory protest held in close proximity to a Caulfield synagogue on 10 November 2023; and

(2) Supports the reinstatement of Victoria Police’s full range of move-on and arrest powers.

I rise to speak knowing that over the last 38 days this Chamber, this State, this Nation and the world have been seeing a level of evil we thought no longer existed, and that at its heart is what has been so difficult to live through for the last 38 days.

We have witnessed a level of evil we thought we would only read about in books and learn of from people who have lived through those times. In many cases in this Chamber we have had the great fortune to speak to people who have lived through those atrocities and who have passed on those experiences in a way to ensure that we understand what they lived through and that never again anyone should. But we are seeing those evil times again.

On Saturday, after the events in Caulfield occurred, I said that people of good conscience must not remain silent, and that is what this Matter of Public Importance and what the Bill that the member for Malvern moved today are actually about.

We are seeing a level of evil pervade our way of life in a way that we cannot sit and watch occur. The line that we tolerate in behaviour, the line that we accept in behaviour around us, has moved every day of those 38 days. And that is what occurred before the atrocities of the Second World War – the line of what was acceptable was moved, the line of behaviour where someone was dismissed in passing, where businesses were boycotted, where violence erupted, where people were killed, where millions were killed. Sadly, every day over the last 38 days we have seen that line move, and we are no longer the Victoria, the Nation and the world that we were before that time.

So, we as a Coalition and the Member for Malvern are saying we must stand up and say that we will not tolerate the line of behaviour being moved. We will not tolerate it. That is what this Matter of Public Importance is about. That is what the bill moved by the member for Malvern this morning was about.

This speech that I am giving now on the Matter of Public Importance, though to the Chamber, is as much a speech to the Premier as it is to anybody else, and I would say to the Premier: Premier – and if I can use the words that the Member for Caulfield used earlier – can I plead to you that people of good conscience cannot remain silent. We are seeing incidents in our community that we cannot tolerate and be silent about – we cannot. We must do something, and sadly, at its core much of what we are seeing is genuine hatred towards Jews. Yes, antisemitism is a disease, and it is a growing disease, but this stems from a genuine hatred towards Jews.

There have been a number of speakers who have spoken on this matter on both sides of the Chamber who will have been talking to the Jewish community and know what the Jewish people are going through. We cannot talk about the incidents that the Jewish community are experiencing all day, every day – hundreds of occurrences of behaviour that is hate filled, that is calling for the
absolute eradication of a people – because those experiences and those incidents are so vile, are so violent. They are occurring to adults, but also to children, and they are so vile they cannot be repeated in public and in this place.

I was recently at one of the shules in my community praying with the congregants. One of the mothers came over to me after we had prayed and talked about an incident that had happened to her young daughter, and I cannot bring myself to talk about what she experienced only a week ago.

There are a number of members in this place and the Jewish community outside this place who are experiencing this, and the community are saying, ‘Please, Victoria, please, Victorian government, do something. Do something to ensure that Jewish people are safe.’

At a time when the community have experienced what they have experienced, they suffered through something that I never thought that I would live to see, and they were the events of last Friday night in Caulfield, which is one block from my electorate and my community – one block away. A level of hate in a good community towards good people, a level of hate that I never thought I would have to see, which I had read about or seen in black-and-white photographs learning as a child – it happened down the road from my community, to friends. People were hiding in their homes. We cannot remain silent. We must not remain silent.

Premier, you have the power – through you, Deputy Speaker – to do something about it. We, on behalf of the community, are calling for a modest amendment to the law to ensure that police have power to keep the community safe before an event occurs. One of the differences, something that was removed from the previous law, is that police no longer have the power to move on someone, a person, that is causing a reasonable apprehension of violence. That power no longer exists.

So, I would say to the Premier: as you look at the line of behaviour that has been moved both here and around the world, do not accept what you are seeing. We need to acknowledge that much of this hate is being directed at the Jewish community, and that is a fact. There is no equivalence. This hate is being directed by overwhelming majority to the Jewish community, and one small thing we can do is ensure that when that hate manifests itself in a group of people, the police can do something before that hate becomes violence, and that is such a small thing.

So, I would finish by saying: Premier, please hear my pleas. Please hear the community’s pleas. Please hear the coalition’s pleas. It is a small amendment, and I ask in your good conscience that you hear it.