Pilling moved motion. Seconded by Okotel.

This Council censures Cr Oscar Lobo for his racist and anti-Semitic comments made by him at the Council meeting held on the 15th December 2015 which as reported online in the local Leader newspaper of the 16th December 2015 were that “Maybe people on the [Jewish] community wouldn’t have to be worried about being attacked if they didn’t draw attention to themselves’”. The Council recognises and acknowledges that Australia is a worldwide leader in multi-culturalism and all communities whether religious, national, ethnic or of whatever nature ought to be able to participate in society without fear or recrimination. The Council unreservedly condemns Cr Oscar Lobo’s comments and disassociates itself from him them as reported in the local Leader newspaper on 16 December 2015. Cr Lobo has been given the opportunity since then by the Councillor group on a number of occasions to apologise and withdraw these remarks. He has chosen not to do so. Council encourages Cr Lobo to undertake counselling and the Council is prepared to facilitate same.

This Motion is to be prominently placed on Council’s website, published in the next Glen Eira News and disseminated to

  • The Leader Newspaper;
  • The Australian Jewish News
  • The Herald-Sun
  • The Age
  • The Australian

The MOTION was put and CARRIED unanimously

PILLING: said he had requested the report and that this is something that ‘shouldn’t happen’ but ‘it did’ and even though it is ‘unfortunate’ council ‘has to deal with it’. Claimed that the motion ‘explains our reasoning and distaste for comments like this’. It also ‘encourages’ the councillor to ‘get counselling’. Pilling’s ‘proudest’ moment as mayor is to officiate at citizenship ceremonies where ‘we get to emphasise what a great country this is’ and where ‘all cultures and religions are equal’. Said that Lobo’s comments at last council meeting and the December 2015 meeting go ‘against all values’.

OKOTEL: said that’s it’s ‘important that as a council we stand together’ and ‘that no-one who makes racist comments’ whether in chamber or elsewhere should go without being accountable ‘for those actions’. ‘It is absolutely appalling’ that such comments ‘could be uttered in this council chamber’. Therefore it’s ‘important’ that council ‘take a strong stance and show the community that that will not be tolerated’. Councillors are ‘leaders in the community’ and therefore have to take a ‘leadership role and show that this is not acceptable’.

LIPSHUTZ: read out from a letter he claimed he had received from an OAM individual (Mr. Goldhammer) which included rhetorical questions about famous Jewish individuals such as Einstein, ‘or is it because they produce doctors, lawyers’ architects and musicians and ‘how do they draw attention to themselves?’ Some of them ‘wear skullcaps’ so they can be identified, like ‘buddhists or for that matter Muslims’. Maybe ‘in your mind they draw attention to themselves because you can’t figure out’ how such a small percentage of jewish people contribute so much to society. They don’t draw attention to themselves ‘but it is you Cr Lobo and people like you’. Lobo should ‘hang’ his ‘head in shame just like the perpetrators of violence’ who place blame on the people. Maybe Lobo ‘falls into that category’ of saying that ‘women who get raped’ bring it on upon themselves? ‘Shame on you’ for your ‘bigotry’. (end of letter). Lipshutz then said he had read a book on the ‘capture of the commandant of Auschwitz’ and this reminded him of Hannah Arendt’s comment ‘the banality of evil’ and ‘you can’t find anyone more banal that Cr Lobo’. Said that Lobo had received the letter and been ‘given every opportunity’ to say ‘I didn’t understand what I said’ or ‘I’m sorry for what I said’. ‘I didn’t mean what I said’ and ‘I apologise’. Claimed that other councillors had also asked him to ‘please say that’. Lobo refused – ‘he won’t say it, he refuses to say it and he won’t turn up’. ‘That is frankly disgusting’. Said that there is ‘no place for bigotry in this council’. Said that if he said that women were to blame for being raped ‘I would be pilloried’ and the same if he said that ‘victims bring it upon themselves’. Lobo ‘has said that about the Jewish community’ and that is ‘reprehensible’ and he should be ‘condemned in the loudest’ manner possible.

Lobo felt so strongly about being a councillor that when he was elected he had ‘a number plate Cr Lobo’. ‘well let his name ring loud and clear in the Australian, The Age’ etc. ‘This man is a bigot’ and Lobo is the ‘one man’ in the council ‘who is racist’. Started speaking about Lobo standing for Mayor and ‘every time’ he didn’t get elected and would say’ you didn’t vote for me because of the colour of my skin’. Said that councillors don’t vote against ‘someone because of their gender’ or their religion. Councillors vote for mayors or deputy mayors ‘because of the person who they are’. Lobo has ‘for some reason a problem about the Jewish community’. ‘Well, I have a problem about him’. Lipshutz said he will continue to have a problem with Lobo until the latter can stand up and say ‘I was wrong’.

ESAKOFF: agreed with Okotel and Lipshutz and thought it was ‘vital’ that Lobo’s comments be ‘condemned’. Said that it ‘concerns me’ that Lobo hasn’t ‘apologised’ and that he is the victim of racism. Claimed that there is an ‘expectation’ that elected people behave with ‘decorum’ and in a ‘respectful and dignified manner.’ Hoped that this was true and that she is ‘saddened’ that the standards may not be fulfilled.

SOUNNESS: said he supports the motion and is looking forward to an apology.

MAGEE: said that what is ‘disappointing’ is that for ‘so many years’ council has worked with Lobo and ignored ‘so many’ of ‘the things he has said’. His response has been ‘English is not my native tongue’ but ‘that should never be used as an excuse’. Said that ‘there’s right and wrong in every language’ and Lobo knows this. Lobo has been given the opportunity to apologise and that ‘he was here half an hour before this meeting’ and then walked out. He was asked ‘to understand that it’s not just anti-semitic but racist’. Went on that Lobo ‘is a decent man – he’s got a lot of decent qualities’ but ‘he has got a flaw that he doesn’t recognise’ in ‘how much his words can hurt’. Said that Lobo doesn’t understand that ‘this isn’t about his religion’ or his being ‘Goan or Indian’. ‘It’s about the things he says and the context’ in which ‘he says them’. Lobo needs to be the councillor that people voted for. The gallery can see that ‘we don’t always agree’ as councillors and sometimes ‘we use theatre’ and ‘language’. Said he has got great respect for the ‘councillor group’ and that when they put up their hands to vote ‘only you know why you voted for something’ but he respects their view. Lobo knows this because he is ‘a grown up’ and ‘has the intelligence to know that’. Hoped that ‘one day’ Lobo would apologise and undertake counselling.

HYAMS: ‘commended’ Pilling and Okotel for their motion especially since they are Mayor and Deputy Mayor and this shows the ‘gravity’ with which they view the situation. Multiculturism is one of the things that is so ‘great about Australia’ and ‘racism is the major threat to multiculturalism’ and is also ‘abhorrent in every way’ and is ‘ultimately responsible for’ some of the ‘greatest crimes ever committed’. As ‘community leaders’ councillors have an ‘obligation to stand against racism’ especially ‘when it occurs in our own council chamber’. ‘There is no question in my mind that Cr Lobo’s comments were racist’. Saying that a ‘minority brings attacks upon themselves’ by ‘drawing attention to themselves’ then that is ‘blaming the victims’ and is ‘therefore undeniably racist’. Quoted from a response by the chair of the Anti-Defamation League on Lobo’s comments – (reading out) that ‘Jews are being blamed for being victims of racial and religious violence’. Letter said that ‘this is one of the oldest and most pernicious anti-semitic myths’. Letter asked Lobo to apologise and that they expected an elected representative to foster ‘unity and not stoke the flames of division’. Hyams hoped that Lobo had read this. Said that multiculturalism is ‘about sharing your culture’ with the community ‘so you draw attention to it’. When Lobo said what he did, Hyams said he asked him to ‘clarify’ and Lobo said what was reported in the Leader. When asked to withdraw ‘he withdrew reluctantly’ and ‘didn’t apologise’. What’s worse is that ‘his behaviour since then has been absolutely appalling’. He has ‘run around telling members of the community that I am bullying him’. At last council meeting when Hyams or Lipshutz spoke ‘he turned his back’ and he ‘suddenly developed a very loud cough when we were discussing this matter’. Thus the ‘perpetrator of the racism showing contempt for the victims of the racism’. Said that it’s like Lobo refusing to apologise for his racism but thinking that ‘we should apologise for objecting to it’. The question then is ‘what do we do about it’. Said the report tabled was ‘general’ and in suggesting a conduct panel, that that was ‘costly and time consuming’ so the motion is better because ‘we send a quick but unequivocal message that comments like that will not be tolerated’.

DELAHUNTY: commented on Hyams use of multiculturalism and that ‘we’ should do more than ‘tolerate’ but ‘celebrate’ different cultures and ‘cooperate’. We are lucky to ‘live’ in such a ‘diverse and multicultural community’. Said that sharing cultures, and it’s important ‘for us to hear’ Lipshutz’s history which he hasn’t mentioned. This is then ‘important’ for ‘how it informs his decision making’ which ‘everyone’s cultural background does’ and that’s why he is so ‘articulate’ and ‘adamant about this particular issue’. Her relatives came ‘on her majesty’s service’ as ‘convicts because they stole stuff’ and they were the ‘first Poles to land in Australia’. ‘So how does that inform my decision making?’ Said it makes ‘her feel very lucky’ and ‘obligated’ and obligated to multiculturalism and to make sure that ‘this great country is better than Cr Lobo imagines it’. Therefore she ‘supports this motion of condemnation’.

PILLING: agreed with comments and thought that ‘ultimately we are sending a strong message to the community’ and it’s in their hands ‘whether people get re-elected’. ‘I hope this sends a strong message’.

MOTION PUT & PASSED UNANIMOUSLY

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Pilling then moved second motion. Okotel seconded.

The Council censures Cr Oscar Lobo for the remarks made by him that he has been the subject of racism in the Council Chamber. Cr Lobo has been given the opportunity by Councillors on a number of occasions to substantiate his remarks and he has chosen not to respond. Council categorically rejects such allegations as having no truth and deplores that Cr Lobo has sought to divert attention from him by making such unsubstantiated allegations. Council is colour blind and has never discriminated against any Councillors by reason of colour, religion, race, gender or background. Racism and anti-Semitic remarks will not be tolerated. Council encourages Cr Lobo to undertake counselling and the Council is prepared to facilitate same.

This Motion is to be prominently placed on Council’s website, published in the next Glen Eira News and disseminated to

  • The Leader Newspaper;
  • The Australian Jewish News
  • The Herald-Sun
  • The Age
  • The Australian

The MOTION was put and CARRIED unanimously.

PILLING: said as Mayor he was ‘very concerned’ about Lobo and that he had ‘sent him emails’ and ‘approached’ him on numerous occasions for him to ‘re-educate’ himself and ‘think back on what he had done’. ‘He chose not to do’ these things. Said that ‘initially’ councillors ‘tried to be encouraging of some further understanding’ but this is just ‘terrible behaviour’ which council ‘cannot put up with’.

OKOTEL: said that for her ‘there had never been any racism’ from councillors except for his racism. ‘As a person of colour’ she ‘believes that all my councillor colleagues’ are ‘colour blind’. Hoped that Lobo ‘does take the opportunity to re-educate himself’ about ‘what it means to make racist comments’.

LIPSHUTZ: even though he often agrees with Magee he can’t agree that Lobo ‘is a decent man’. Said that in the book on Auschwitz commander ‘he spent his days killing jews in the gas chamber’ and then ‘happily went home and played with his kids’. ‘He was a decent man’ living a ‘normal life’ then. ‘No he wasn’t. He was a monster’. So ‘when someone can stand up and blame his fellow councillors for racism’ then ‘that is not a decent man’. A year earlier Lobo ‘spoke about Australia as a racist country’ and ‘advising migrants not to come to this country’. Australia ‘welcomed him’ so ‘who is racist’?’ Referred to a Hebrew expression which means ‘Never again’. Stated that his parents were ‘concentration camp victims’ and ‘after the war my father killed Nazis’ and ‘he said never again’. As ex president of anti defamation he wanted to ‘make sure that anti-semitism’ would never be ‘tolerated’. So when Lobo can ‘defame the officers around me’ and ‘defame’ councillors by saying ‘he was the victim of racism’ then ‘how dare he’. ‘Everyone knows that he is the only racist here’. Whenever he stood for mayor and was rejected he would say ‘it is because of the colour of his skin’. ‘What nonsense!’. People in gallery who have watched him would ‘realise why he has never been the mayor’. ‘He is an embarrassment to this council’ and ‘it’s got nothing to do with racism’ or the colour of his skin. Thought that it was ‘high time that Cr Lobo understands the absolute contempt this council has of him’. Hoped that the papers publish this and that Lobo reads it so he understands that ‘he is unfit to be a councillor’.

HYAMS: said that what’s even worse is resorting to claims of racisms to ‘use against’ those you don’t like. The Leader reported Lobo’s comments that he has suffered ‘racism’ and that was because Lobo ‘didn’t like that he was being called on points of order’ and ‘because his campaign for the mayoralty wasn’t going as well’ as he had hoped. Said that he’s been ‘accused’ by people of ‘not wanting to vote for Lobo because of the colour of his skin’ and he is offended by this. Lobo ‘has confirmed to me that he does feel that way’. Said that Lobo hasn’t got any proof about racism except ‘that he wasn’t getting his way’. Said that the points of order were raised because Lobo ‘was behaving’ in an inappropriate way and ‘needed to be called to order’. Claimed that the ‘mayoralty isn’t handed around’ to anyone who ‘wants it’. ‘The person must be up to the job’ and councillors have to be confident that they can do the job. Lobo’s ‘behaviour last week shows he is not appropriate for the job’ as does his comments. Claimed he could ‘cite numerous other incidences’. ‘The fact that he blames this on racism without basis proves that he is not an appropriate person to be mayor’. Thought that it was ‘appropriate’ for council to ‘distance ourselves from these racist’ comments.

DELAHUNTY: said that she was ‘a little uncomfortable’ with the motion because Lobo has said that ‘he feels he is being treated differently because of the colour of his skin’. Said ‘I’ve not seen that’ and as Hyams has said he hasn’t provided ‘evidence to support that’. But in Australia to ‘seek redress’ and ‘speak about’ how you feel you’ve been ‘treated differently’ ‘that extends to him as well’. If Lobo feels this way then ‘he is entitled to say so’. Said she hasn’t ‘witnessed it’ nor does she think ‘I’ve done it’. But ‘to put his hand up and to say that’s how he believes he’s been treated’, then ‘that’s his right’. Said that if Lobo were present she would say to him that she’s sorry ‘you feel that way’ and that she doesn’t believe ‘it was anyone’s intent’ but ‘intent is not the test’. Therefore to ‘say he hasn’t the right’ is a ‘little bit uncomfortable for me’. Thought that ‘it was deserving of a broader consultation’ and she wishes ‘that he would have participated in that’. He might have told us ‘how’ he felt we might have ‘treated him unfairly’. There might have been conversations ‘about how that wasn’t the intent and perhaps moved on from that’. So ‘while I don’t believe it to be true’ she agrees with Okotel that the council is ‘blind’ to colour. She supports the motion because ‘factually it reads correctly’.

SOUNNESS: Lobo was elected by the community. From ‘my point of view’ Lobo does do things ‘well’ as part of his ‘service’ to the community. But other ‘parts’ that Lobo does, ‘I have grave questions’. Said the motion uses ‘strong language’ and ‘I am very uncomfortable’ with censure. Said that from the things ‘that I’ve heard – some in private, some in public’, Lobo has had opportunities to ‘substantiate how he has been treated’. Sounness said he would have liked to understand ‘what I might have done’ but ‘that was never brought forward’. He remains uncomfortable ‘from the point of view of the community that elected’ Lobo and ‘he represents that community really well’ but ‘there’s more than just representing’. So he supports the motion.

ESAKOFF: said that ‘there’s no doubt that’ this is ‘uncomfortable’ but the issue ‘is uncomfortable and is an issue we must deal with’. For Lobo ‘to accuse us of racism’ and it’s ‘unfounded’ ‘needs to be censured’. Said that Lobo ‘tries very hard’ for his constituents, ‘there’s no doubt about that’ but ‘there is certainly a problem here’ and ‘I don’t think I need to go any further’.

MAGEE: said that last year when he became mayor ‘I knew where the challenges would come from’. ‘Within a few months’ he was ‘constantly as Mayor calling points of order’ to ‘stop Cr Lobo from saying’. Lobo would ‘start’ and ‘then disappear’ and Magee had to call him back to order ‘many, many times’. Residents then asked Magee ‘why do you do that and you don’t do it for the white fellas?’ Said you ‘can stand’ in Bentleigh or elsewhere and ‘argue it out, but it’s not an argument you are going to win’. Said he ‘put up with this’ for a year. Thought that ‘there is something that we can work with’ in regards to Lobo. ‘we can’t just give up. We need to give him every opportunity’.

PILLING: agreed with speakers and said that this is ‘serious’ and is the first censure motion in his time as councillor. ‘This is a quite serious thing to do’ but it’s ‘something I think we have to do’ and ‘to show the community’.

MOTION PUT AND PASSED UNANIMOUSLY.

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