An anti-transgender rally is slated to go ahead outside Tasmania’s parliament house, three days after an equivalent event in Melbourne attracted neo-Nazis.
Rights groups and politicians have called for the Hobart leg of UK anti-transgender rights activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull’s speaking tour to be stopped after scenes outside Victoria’s parliament house on Saturday.
About 30 men dressed in black repeatedly performed the Nazi salute and held signs calling transgender people offensive names.
Equality Tasmania and the state’s Greens have urged decision makers in the state’s parliament to prevent Tuesday’s planned event from going ahead.
But Tasmania’s lower house Speaker Mark Shelton and upper house president Craig Farrell on Monday ruled out intervention.
“The lawns at parliament have always been a gathering place for democratic activity including protests of all persuasions,” they said in a joint statement.
“While there may at times be opposing views to the protests occurring, censoring free speech is not in the interest of a democratic society.
“All protests are expected to be conducted peacefully and lawfully.”
Equality Tasmania has planned a concurrent sit-in outside parliament house, with more than 600 people registering their attendance on Facebook.
Victoria’s Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes confirmed on Monday the state government would expand legislation banning the Nazi swastika to include the salute.
Ms Symes described the behaviour as disgraceful and cowardly, noting the salute was being used to incite hatred.
“We’ll look at how this can be done carefully, with considered consultation with a variety of groups, and will have more to say on the details of this legislation as we undertake that,” she said.
Tasmania’s parliament is coincidentally expected to debate proposed laws to ban the public display of Nazi symbols this week.
The state Liberal government has indicated it is “open to stakeholder feedback” about widening the ban to include the salute.
It comes as Victorian MP Moira Deeming plans to fight her proposed expulsion from the parliamentary Liberal Party after she spoke at the anti-transgender event in Melbourne.
State Liberal leader John Pesutto is seeking to expel Ms Deeming, who said she condemned “the actions of the men in black who were later identified as neo-Nazis”.
“I completely reject the beliefs of National Socialists (Nazis) and I have seen first-hand the impact that the Holocaust had on a family member,” she said in a statement.
Ms Deeming also said she and those who organised the event had done nothing wrong and she was being condemned unjustly by a select few in the Liberal leadership team.