The cartoon shows a man dressed in an SS uniform giving a Nazi salute. As well as Hitler’s moustache, the caricature has a goatee beard that has been likened to the one worn by Shire of York chief executive Ray Hooper.
The Jewish Community Council of WA said there could never be any justifiable purpose for using an image of Hitler or Nazis, who were responsible for the mass murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust during World War II.
Director of public affairs Steve Lieblich described the cartoon as crass and offensive.
‘To compare this to a political issue in York is a gross disservice to the education of uninformed Australians, especially the young. It is also offensive to Australian Holocaust survivors, their relatives and all Jews who have been personally affected by the Nazi regime,’ he said.
The cartoon also featured road workers with ‘SOY’ emblazoned on their uniforms painting a crooked line down the middle of a roadway and a SITA truck dumping rubbish over a town hall.
The image appeared on page 10 of the July edition of the York and Districts Community Matters. It was headlined with a quote taken from a Shire council meeting on June 10 saying: ‘Signs must be located a minimum distance of 15 metres from the centreline of a road’.
The council voted at that meeting that protest signs opposing a proposed landfill site near the town that did not comply with local regulations be removed.
Mr Hooper described the cartoon as insulting and unnecessary and had the potential to offend many people.
‘It was very small-minded. Anything that brings up the Hitler image is not appropriate under any circumstances,’ he said.
Mr Hooper said he had received support from the local community after the newspaper was published.
‘Most of them didn’t understand why they would put that cartoon in the paper,’ Mr Hooper said.
‘I don’t want to get down to their level; they got their reaction and that is what they wanted.’
Although the cartoon has the potential to be defamatory to Mr Hooper, he said he was unlikely to take legal action against the newspaper’s proprietor.
Independent legal opinion has suggested the cartoon may be in breach of the offensive behaviour provisions of the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act 1975.
Section 18C of the Act states it is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
(a) the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people;
(b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.
A Perth lawyer, who asked not to be named, said it was arguable that publication of the cartoon might ‘offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate’ a viewer or reader under the terms of the Act.
The York newspaper’s editor Mark Lloyd said it had been his decision to publish the cartoon.
He declined to make any further comment.