Max Brenner protesters reappear in court

Ted_Baillieu_web

FOUR of the 19 pro-Palestinian activists arrested at the protest outside Max Brenner in Melbourne on July 1 were arrested again on Tuesday for breach of bail conditions.

This latest development comes amid Jewish community groups applauding the Victorian government for asking the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to investigate if the recent anti-Israel Max Brenner protests are in breach of Australian competition law.

A spokesperson for Victoria Police confirmed the four arrested appeared in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday afternoon, and The AJN understands at least two face further hearings.

Jewish Community Council of Victoria president John Searle congratulated Victoria Police for their action.

“They have sent a strong message to the public that this type of thuggery will not be tolerated in our society and that those who break the law will be held accountable,” he said.

In announcing the decision to refer the protests to the ACCC, Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said his government would not stand by and allow what he termed a “deeply offensive and unacceptable campaign” of intimidation and bullying to continue.

“The targeting of businesses because of their religious or cultural association offends the whole community and undermines our multicultural society,” he said.

Standing with his Victorian colleagues, NSW Minister for Fair Trading Anthony Roberts said he would also be asking the ACCC if the BDS protests were in breach of commonwealth law.

In his letter to ACCC chairman Rod Sims, Victorian Minister for Consumer Affairs Michael O’Brien wrote the actions of BDS protesters in preventing customers from entering Max Brenner’s premises may have breached Section 45D of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Commonwealth), which forbids engaging in conduct that hinders or prevents the transfer of goods or services with the intent to cause substantial loss or damage to one’s business.

The letter drew praise from Searle, Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubinstein, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff and Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Dr Danny Lamm, who encouraged the federal and state governments to follow suit.

“A strong bipartisan voice saying ‘No’ to BDS will reflect the basic sentiment of most Australians that the bitterness and complexity of foreign conflicts should be kept out of our peaceful country,” Dr Lamm said.

But Jewish federal MP Michael Danby, who has been staging a series of anti-boycott solidarity meetings at Max Brenner outlets in Melbourne and Sydney, said while well intentioned, he doubted whether the attempts to involve the ACCC would be successful on free speech grounds.

“While legalised moves by the Liberals to counter the boycott may be well intentioned, the conservatives are playing catch up with the hot chocolate manifestations I have been organising with government ministers and other public figures,” Danby said.

GARETH NARUNSKY

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu