Anti-Semitic slurs pasted on two corflutes promoting Independent Senate candidate Kim Rubenstein have been referred to police.
The two printed pieces of paper say “Vote 1 Kosher Kim” with two yellow stars and “Shoah Your Support”.
The Jewish lawyer and academic said the words and images were hurtful to see.
“For those unaware, ‘Shoah’ is the Hebrew word for the Holocaust, and Jews were forced to wear yellow stars in Germany under the Nazis,” Professor Rubenstein said.
But it came as no surprise to Professor Rubenstein, who had been warned this could happen.
She said she had a thick skin but warned that Australians must be vigilant against any behaviour that seeks to vilify people for their religion, race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality.
“I will always defend freedom of speech and people’s right to their own opinion. But free speech can’t be a free pass for hatred. And with that freedom comes a responsibility to do so peacefully and respectfully,” she said.
“We can disagree without harming or belittling each other, and we can have our say without racist, bigoted attacks.”
The slurs come after right-wing lobby group Advance Australia faced criticism for its election signs suggesting another Senate Independent candidate, David Pocock, is a closet Green.
Professor Rubenstein said candidates should be able to make their points without resorting to misinformation and misleading political advertising – something there had been far too much of already this election campaign.
“Our multicultural democracy is only as strong as its defenders – its citizens. It is precious, but it is also fragile and we should never take it for granted,” she said.
“I’ll be out campaigning again today, fighting for unity over division and hope over fear.”
Greens candidate for Canberra, Tim Hollo, who is also Jewish and the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, said the defaced corflute reflected a deterioration in the political discourse.
“We should be appalled but should not pretend to be surprised by the disgusting anti-Semitic defacing of Kim Rubenstein’s signs,” Mr Hollo said.
“Racism has always infested our politics, of course, but in recent years the dog whistle has turned into a yell.
“When white supremacist slurs are used in parliament and hatred becomes an expected part of the discourse, we can’t be surprised that people feel empowered to do things like this.
“I know how much this hurts, and my heart goes out to Kim and her family, the whole Jewish community, and all others in our beautiful, diverse community whose lives are darkened by racism.”
Labor Member for Fenner Andrew Leigh and Senator Katy Gallagher condemned the defacing of the corflutes.
“There’s no place for hate in our community and I condemn the vile targeting of Kim Rubenstein’s corflutes,” Senator Gallagher said.
“Elections are about a contest of ideas — not personal attacks on those who put themselves forward.”
An ACT Policing spokesperson said that while the matter was reported to police, Professor Ms Rubenstein did not request for an investigation to proceed.
But the police spokesperson warned that racial vilification was a crime and the ACT’s laws sent a very clear message that such behaviour is not tolerated.
Those found guilty of the offence faced fines of up to $8,000.
“The AFP (including ACT Policing) continues to collaborate with candidates and the community to support a safe and secure 2022 Federal Election for all Parliamentarians and candidates,” the spokesperson said.
Police urge anyone who witnesses the defacing of election material to contact ACT Policing on 131 444.