Waving the Australia flag is normally considered patriotic and a way of celebrating our nation. But now this act can be considered hate speech, this is according to a new not-for-profit organisation called ‘Don’t Hate Mate‘.

This organisation is based in Central Victoria, centered in Bendigo and made up of residents who are ‘concerned about the impact of hate speech in our community’. More specifically it is aimed at sidelining opposition to the construction of the Bendigo Islamic Mosque which broke ground two weeks ago, five years after the plans were announced.

Premier Daniel Andrews contributed $400,000 of Victorian taxpayers’ money to the construction of the Mosque which will cater for the roughly 300 Muslims who live in Bendigo. Victoria Police have been patrolling the construction site to guard against “hate crimes”.

The ‘Don’t Hate Mate’ website contains an about section where it provides the group’s definition of hate speech as ‘speech or expression which is capable of instilling or inciting hatred of, or prejudice towards, a person or group of people on a specified ground’.

So even if your speech is in no way motivated by hate, if another deems it capable of hate then it’s hate speech?

Examples provided of hateful acts include those ‘intended to instill or incite hatred, without involving spoken or written speech. An example of this would be protestors sporting hateful slogans and waving Australian Flags.’

You read that right, we should be alarmed at the threat to Australian community cohesion of people waving the official flag of Australia. If we see it being waved by people in a public place should we automatically be fearful or threatened?

‘Don’t Hate Mate’ warns: ‘We will be monitoring hate driven protests against the Mosque that occur in the community, collecting donations each time they happen and using the funds to make a kindness donation towards the Bendigo Islamic Community Centre building fund’.

‘Don’t Hate Mate’ refers to ‘The Bendigo Faithful‘, a group of local residents who came together to oppose the Mosque in 2015. Since 2017, every Thursday at noon they stand roadside in the centre of Bendigo and patriotically wave Australian flags. Their weekly event is well received from passers by in the forms of thumbs ups and car horn toots.

Premier Daniel Andrews, when he was present in Bendigo to turn the first shovel on the Mosque site, declared that “People have a right to protest peacefully, but there are limits. Bigotry is not an acceptable form of protest.” In 2015 Andrews claimed that opposition to the Mosque was from outsiders who he claimed ‘wouldn’t be able to spell Bendigo‘.

‘Don’t Hate Mate’ also pledges support for the Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act, 2002, since hate speech is prohibited under the ‘International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’.

The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act was used against opponents of the Bendigo Mosque in 2015 as this became the main focus of the then newly created nationalist activist group, the United Patriots Front who held multiple rallies in the city against the Mosque.

Three UPF members, Blair Cottrell, Neil Erikson and Christopher Shortis, were charged and found guilty under the Act in September 2017 for offending Muslims when they posted to Facebook a mock beheading video to protest against its practice under the name of Islam in other nations.

Spokesperson for ‘Don’t Hate Mate’ Elsie L’Hullier spoke with local radio station Gold Central Victoria about the new organisation. L’Hullier claimed part of their motivation for forming was to counter the alleged damage to Bendigo’s reputation due to opposition to the Mosque.

The Bendigo Faithful plan to continue their weekly display of patriotism every Thursday and are not intimated by this new opposition group. Later this month they will celebrate two years of their weekly tradition.

UPDATE:

Don’t Hate Mate have edited their about section to delete their mention of waving Australian flags in their example of hate speech. You can see in their new edit the deletion.

Still published on their website is Don’t Hate Mate’s initial press release dated July 26 decrying the Bendigo Faithful’s weekly gathering “Knowing that a small group of people continues to protest weekly at the site of the mosque is disturbing; more so since the violent terrorist attacks in Christchurch”.

This wording of this appears to make the implication that protesting against a Mosque for any reason can incite violent terrorism against Muslims.

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