Dan Andrews’ Response To Melbourne’s Nazi Rallies Doesn’t Go Far Enough

When it comes to Nazis, we're going to need a bit more from our 'leaders' than a few tepid tweets.

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Premier Dan Andrews’ response to Melbourne’s Nazi rallies is limp to the point of indifference. When it comes to fascism, we need politicians who are actually willing to fight, writes Reena Gupta.

Over the weekend, about 30 Nazis congregated on the steps of Victorian parliament to rage against trans people and perform the Hitler salute. Also present was Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull (also known as Posie Parker), a British anti-trans activist who flew in all the way from the UK to deliver a transphobic speech.

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews has responded to the events yesterday, albeit on Twitter and Facebook. “I won’t share a photo because they simply don’t deserve the attention. But yesterday, some anti-trans activists gathered to spread hate,” he said. “And on the steps of our Parliament, some of them performed a Nazi salute.”

“I wish it didn’t have to be said, but clearly it does: Nazis aren’t welcome. Not on Parliament’s steps. Not anywhere.”

“They were there to say the trans community don’t deserve rights, safety or dignity. That’s what Nazis do. Their evil ideology is to scapegoat minorities — and it’s got no place here. And those who stand with them don’t, either.”

Cool, I guess. He condemned the whole Nazi situation, indicated that this wasn’t the kind of thing that we wanted to be aiming for. Job done, apparently.

But as is often the case with Australian politicians, there was something so tepid, so unconvincing, about his response. Here we have a bunch of people performing literal Nazi salutes, an act that in many European countries will land you behind bars, and our Premier has basically responded with a virtual slap on the wrist.

I can see what he’s going for. My guess is that Andrews, in responding to incidents like this, doesn’t want to give these extremists too much attention. That’s what they want, after all, and he doesn’t want other people following suit.

At the same time, there’s a self-satisfied quality to his response that I just can’t stomach. Why, for example, was his response limited to social media? Was a congregation of literal Nazis not enough to call a press conference or at least bash out a press release? Exactly what was the point of giving us his take on Nazi ideology? Was this him telling minorities to not take it personally?

Also implicit in Andrews’ response to the protest is the idea that these are just some bad apples, a few unsavoury followers of an “evil” ideology who aren’t deserving of his full attention. But what if we for once considered that they were indicative of a much more entrenched problem?

Anyone who lives in Melbourne will know that Nazi gatherings are a recurring feature of the city. Things are getting so bad that after a bunch of recent instances where the salute was performed in public, a group of Holocaust survivors had met with the Andrews government to suggest they ban it.

“My blood starts to boil when I see the Nazi salute, and it brings back the memory of six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis,” Abram Goldberg, a Holocaust survivor, told The Age in January. “It should be banned. No question.”

Thankfully, after what happened on the weekend, we’re hearing that the Attorney General will finally take steps to ensure that the Victorian legislation which recently banned the swastika will be expanded to include the Nazi salute.

It’s an undeniably positive step. But what would also be a positive step is having a Premier do more than fire off a couple of tweets amid the resurgence of a gesture that harks back to one of the most devastating genocides of all time.

This is an opinion piece written by Junkee’s Deputy Editor, Reena Gupta. You can follow her on Twitter at @purpletank.

Image credit: Julian Smith / AAP Images