Lobo censured

Glen Eira Town Hall.

A GLEN Eira councillor has been censured by fellow councillors for making disparaging remarks in the council chamber about the Jewish community.

In a tense council meeting on Tuesday night, Oscar Lobo’s eight fellow councillors unanimously voted to censure him for comments that, in the words of the motion, were “racist and anti-Semitic”.

During a debate on community security at Glen Eira Council’s December 15 meeting, Lobo, who has served as Glen Eira’s deputy mayor, caused outrage by remarking that maybe the Jewish community “wouldn’t have to worry about being attacked if they didn’t draw attention to themselves”.

Despite being seen at the Town Hall shortly before Tuesday night’s meeting, Lobo was absent as all eight of his colleagues rose one by one to condemn his conduct.

In a rare move for a mayor, Councillor Neil Pilling moved the censure motion himself, and it was seconded by Deputy Mayor Karina Okotel. Noting it was the first censure motion in his seven years on council, Pilling said Lobo’s outburst “goes against all our values”.

Councillor Michael Lipshutz stated: “There is no place for racism, there is no place for bigotry in this council.” Lobo “had been given every opportunity” to apologise and had been urged by other councillors to mend fences, he added. “He won’t say it, he refuses to say it, he doesn’t turn up here.”

Councillor Jamie Hyams said: “We as community leaders have a duty to stand against racism wherever it appears and especially when it occurs in our own council chamber. There is no question in my mind that Councillor Lobo’s comments were racist.”

A statement from B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission chair Dr Dvir Abramovich was read to the council, in which he said blaming Jews for anti-Semitism “is one of the oldest and most pernicious anti-Semitic myths”.

Councillors also voted unanimously to adopt a second motion censuring Lobo for remarks he made “that he has been the subject of racism” in the council chamber and urging Lobo “to undertake counselling” which the council was prepared to facilitate.

Earlier in the meeting, councillors disagreed over a council report into community security in public spaces, with Lipshutz, Hyams, Okotel and Councillor Margaret Esakoff saying it was too narrowly focused on the Jewish community and should address concerns by all groups in Glen Eira.

Councillors were also at odds over the value of a proposed public forum that would discuss policing and security at public events.

PETER KOHN