Bacon moves on memorial vandalism

HARSHER penalties for vandalising war memorials could finally be on the way for Tasmania, almost two years after they were announced and after two memorials were desecrated across the state in just 10 days.

State Veterans' Affairs Minister Scott Bacon confirmed yesterday that he would meet   members of the Returned and Services League to discuss ways to crack down on war memorial vandals in coming weeks.

The meeting comes after  legislation to make interfering with a war memorial a specific offence, carrying a penalty of up to 12 months' imprisonment and $1300 in fines, was tabled last November.

The House of Assembly passed the legislation, but the Legislative Council ran out of time to approve it before Christmas.

The RSL first called for vandals to be publicly named and shamed, and to have to pay for repairs and apologise to the community at a public meeting, after the wooden war memorial of Simpson and his donkey was beheaded at Scottsdale in 2011.

Attorney-General Brian Wightman said in April 2012 that he would put a proposal about the request to cabinet.

RSL Tasmania president Robert Dick said yesterday it was disappointing that it had taken so long for harsher penalties to be introduced but he was confident that   it would not take much longer.

``I know we do have a lot of support and I don't think it will have any problem going through,'' Mr Dick said.

Mr Dick said he would receive a copy of the legislation tomorrow and hoped more youth could be educated about what war memorials meant.

``People don't understand the impact it has and how upset it makes families who have names on the memorials,'' he said.

The most recent desecration of a war memorial was at Perth's Lions Park when vandals cut off the side of the soldier's slouch hat last week.

Vandals climbed the refurbished World War I statue at the Ulverstone cenotaph before Christmas and forced cigarette butts up the soldier's nose and stole the bayonet.

Liberal candidate for Lyons Guy Barnett said the vandalism showed complete disrespect for the thousands of people who sacrificed their lives for the country.

 The vandals ``should be penalised not just financially but also through community service, to ensure they understand the level of commitment our soldiers gave to the community,'' Mr Barnett said.

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