Racist Graffiti – Secord releases Private Members Bill
NSW State Labor MLC, Walt Secord has released for public consultation for his Private Members Bill to create a specific offence of ‘racist graffiti’ in NSW.
The Graffiti Control Amendment (Racist Graffiti) Bill 2012 proposes the creation of a specific offence of racist graffiti by amending the Graffiti Control Act 2008.
If passed, it would be an Australian first.
Mr Secord said he would be sending the Bill to various community groups and experts for consultation.
“Racist graffiti differs from other forms of graffiti as it is about intimidation and the promotion of hate and vilification. As such, it deserves to be distinguished under NSW law,” Mr Secord said.
Mr Secord pointed to recent attacks on the Aboriginal community. He also said the Australian Jewish Community reports that there are between 15 to 20 serious anti-Semitic graffiti incidents a year on Jewish places of worships.
“Earlier this year (March 6), vandals desecrated Aboriginal tombstones and attacked a memorial with graffiti at Fingal Head on the far north coast. They drew Nazi swastikas and wrote the letters ‘KKK’, Mr Secord said.
“In doing so, they ensured that this was not an ordinary graffiti attack. These are clear and internationally known symbols of racial oppression, violence and genocide.
“This was an attack with the calculated purpose of causing maximum offence and pain to and intimidation of the Aboriginal community.”
Mr Secord said he was not proposing increasing penalties for graffiti offences as the existing penalties are adequate. Under the Summary Offences Act, current penalties are fines up to $2,200, six months imprisonment or community service.
“This specific offence will send a clear message to perpetrators of hate that such attacks will be distinctly prosecuted and punished. This offence also will tell our communities that NSW remains committed to leadership against racial vilification,” Mr Secord said.
This is what Secord had to say to the NSW Parliament at the end of last month:
I speak tonight about the need to create a specific offence of racist graffiti. I stress these comments are not a reflection on the Graffiti Legislation Amendment Bill 2011, which was the subject of considerable debate last August. This is a separate matter.
Members will recall a disgusting attack on an Aboriginal burial site and memorial at Fingal Head on 6 March. Vandals desecrated Aboriginal tombstones and attacked a memorial with graffiti. They drew Nazi swastikas and wrote the letters “KKK”.
In doing so they ensured that this was not an ordinary graffiti attack. These are clear and internationally known symbols of racial oppression, violence and genocide. This was an attack with the calculated purpose of causing maximum offence and pain to and intimidation of the Aboriginal community.
Members will also recall that on 8 March I raised this matter in Parliament, asking a question without notice about the police investigation into the Fingal Head attack. At the time the NSW Government and the Opposition rightly condemned the actions of the perpetrators.
Unfortunately, racist graffiti is not an issue limited just to this attack or just to the Aboriginal community. The Jewish community reports that there are between 15 and 20 serious anti-Semitic graffiti incidents a year on Jewish places of worship nationally. Such acts go far beyond the inconvenience and damage that ordinary vandalism inflicts.
They are intimidators; they are broadcasters of vilification and hate. Such acts are distinguished by their cruel intent and egregious impact. They deserve to be distinguished by our law accordingly.
That is why later this year I will be introducing a private member’s bill, the Graffiti Control Amendment (Racist Graffiti) Bill. After further consultation with Parliamentary Counsel I plan to release a draft for public consultation and discussion.
The bill will amend the Graffiti Control Act 2008 to create a specific and new offence of racist graffiti.
This specific offence will send a clear message to perpetrators of hate that such attacks will be distinctly prosecuted and punished. This offence also will tell our communities that NSW remains committed to leadership against racial vilification in our society.
I remind the Chamber that in 1988 the then Greiner Government with the bipartisan support of the Bob Carr-led Labor Opposition created Australia’s first racial vilification laws—historic groundbreaking laws.
At the time it was deemed that in some cases racist graffiti could be addressed and came under the responsibility of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board. I stress that my proposal is no reflection on the hard work of the Anti-Discrimination Board and its president, Mr Stepan Kerkyasharian.
Rather, it will complement existing racial vilification laws and the Anti-Discrimination Board’s work in countering discrimination in our community. More importantly, it will shift responsibility for prosecuting such acts to the NSW police, which is where criminal prosecutions belong.
For clarification, I am not proposing increasing penalties for graffiti offences as the existing penalties are adequate.
Under the Summary Offences Act, current penalties are fines of up to $2,200, six months imprisonment in jail or community service. The offence of racist graffiti is about sending a clear message that it offends not only the property owner but also our community and the people of NSW who embrace tolerance and diversity.
After an appropriate consultation period I hope to introduce the bill into this Chamber for consideration. I urge the Government to seriously consider the bill and provide bipartisan support to create a specific offence of racist graffiti.
I conclude with remarks from Jewish community leader and interfaith dialogue activist, Mr Jeremy Jones, AM, Director of International and Community Affairs for the Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.
He is also former President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry—the national elected peak body of the Jewish community. Mr Jones said it is important to understand that “graffiti is vandalism of property and racism is vandalism of the moral fabric of our society”.
He also said: “When the former is used to propagate the latter, it becomes something much greater than public mischief; it becomes a challenge to basic decency and the dignity of the Australian people.”
I concur with Jeremy Jones. I thank the House for its consideration.