Banning of the swastika in NSW a step closer

February 22, 2022 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Shadow Minister for Police and Counter-Terrorism and deputy chair of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel Walt Secord has welcomed the report of the parliamentary inquiry into his bill which bans the display of Nazi symbols – saying the legislation moved a step closer to becoming law in NSW.

The report was tabled this afternoon (February 22, 2022)  and it recommended that the bill proceed – with several amendments.

Mr Secord issued a direct appeal to NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman to now support the legislation and ensure that it is passed during this session of parliament.

Walt Secord said: “I am frustrated by the Attorney-General’s delays and excuses. The evidence was overwhelming and unanimous in asking for the NSW Parliament to ban the display of Nazi symbols in NSW. We community has spoken. They want to see the public display of Nazi symbols banned in NSW.”

While it is still the first such bill in Australia and the most advanced, since its introduction in October, Victoria and Queensland are now considering similar laws on Nazi symbols.  On October 13, 2021, Mr Secord introduced to the NSW Parliament the Crimes Amendment (Display of Nazi Symbols) Bill 2021 – which the Perrottet government referred to the Social Issues Committee to take public evidence on the bill.

“The ball is now firmly in the Perrottet Government’s court. They can pass this bill and turn it into a law,” Mr Secord said.

“I sincerely hope that Mr Speakman and the Perrottet Government must aside petty politics and ban the public display of Nazi and Neo‑Nazi symbols and flags in NSW. “

Mr Secord said surprisingly in Australia, the public display of Nazi symbols is not presently prohibited. However, for decades, many European nations, such as Germany, Austria and France have had similar laws.

Sadly, there has been a steady increase in the use of Nazi symbols to intimidate the Jewish community and to incite hatred and violence.  There was a 35 per cent increase in the prevalence of antisemitic attacks in Australia in the 2020-2021 period. From October 2020 to September 2021, there were 477 antisemitic incidents reported to Jewish organisations.

“I am very pleased that the social issues committee found that debate on the bill should proceed. However, it has suggested several amendments in relation to a schedule of lawful excuses and the issue of intent.”

The inquiry received eight formal written submissions and held one public hearing on February 3 at State Parliament.  All witnesses supported the aims of the bill including the NSW Police, the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW, and the federal eSafety Commissioner.  In fact, NSW Police deputy commissioner for counter-terrorism David Hudson told the inquiry: “I think I speak for our entire organisation when I say that we have no tolerance for Nazi symbols and that the majority of mainstream Australia find it abhorrent and disgraceful. This not only relates to their historical use but also their current use by some of the pathologically violent extremist groups, which are used to spread hate and incite hate crimes.”

Furthermore, there was an historic joint submission from the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the Hindu Council of Australia supporting the ban on Nazi symbols and at the same time protecting the religious symbol for the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist communities.  Mr Secord paid tribute to NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Lesli Berger; Board of Deputies chief executive officer Darren Bark and Hindu Council of Australia national vice-president Mr Surinder Jain for working together on the submission.

In addition, there was oral and written evidence from the

Executive Council of Australian Jewry;

The NSW Association of Jewish Service and ex-servicemen and women;

Australia-Israel Affairs Council,

The Australian Jewish Association;

The Anti-Defamation Commission; and

The Australian Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants.

The most moving and emotional evidence came from Mr Joseph Symon, a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor who explained how he and other Jewish people feel when they see Nazi symbols on Australian streets.

He told  the inquiry: “It’s about hatred, a hatred by the Nazis not only of the Jews … but anybody who was against them, and for that reason, still today, the sight of any Nazi flag with the swastika is very disturbing to me”

He added: “As a Holocaust survivor I am committed to doing everything I can to communicate, educate and increase awareness of the Holocaust and the murder of six million Jews, including a large number of my family—including my father. Among those six million Jews there were 1½ million children. It was all driven by hate, discrimination and social injustice and reinforced by Nazi symbols, particularly the swastika—the most recognisable symbol of the Nazi regime. The strong and enduring message: Never again.”

Mr Symon, who was born in 1925 in Hungary, escaped forced labour as a 19-year-old and went on to join the underground anti-Nazi resistance, helping to sabotage German targets and smuggle other Jewish people to safety. He moved to Australia in 1959.

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies said that under the proposed legislation, the maximum penalty for an individual flouting the ban would be a $5500 fine or imprisonment for six months or both. There are specific exceptions for the Hindu swastika and for using the Nazi swastika, or Hakenkreuz, for educational purposes.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Darren Bark commented, “NSW is today one step closer to banning the Nazi swastika and we commend the Committee for its historic recommendation that Nazi symbols unless used in a historical or educational sense, have no place in our state.

The Nazi swastika is an emblem of pure evil. It represents the dehumanisation of millions of people; the death of our Australian servicemen and women; and one of the most inhumane, hate-based and murderous regimes and ideologies to ever exist.

It is a symbol of immense pain and suffering for many in the Jewish community. Those who intentionally intimidate or cause fear by displaying the Nazi flag, or use it as a tool to recruit young people to right-wing extremist groups, should be accountable for their actions by law.

We now look forward to the bill being debated in Parliament. Fighting hate, racism, intimidation and provocation of NSW citizens is our collective responsibility, and we must counter those who wish to cause us harm and to undermine our multicultural, inclusive state. The time to act is now.”

Hindu Council of Australia National Vice-President Surinder Jain said, “The Hindu Council of Australia fully supports the ban on displaying the evil symbol of Hakenkreuz.

“Jews were persecuted in Europe and this symbol raises fear and hate. Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists have also suffered then and since. Our sacred symbol of the Swastika representing peace and prosperity is often confused with the evil Hakenkreuz. Since the second world war, we are not able to display our symbol in public without raising scorn.

The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council welcomes the NSW Parliament’s Standing Committee on Social Issues’ consideration of the Crimes Amendment (Display of Nazi Symbols) Bill 2021.

“Displaying or disseminating symbols that were used by the Nazis is a red line in public discourse,” Dr Colin Rubenstein, AIJAC’s Executive Director, said.

“The Standing Committee on Social Issues, in   in its welcome bipartisan recommendation to continue consideration on the ban of the public display of Nazi symbols in NSW, has given this amendment significant thought and its report reflects the challenges raised by AIJAC in our submission and testimony to the committee. AIJAC supports the Committee’s recommendation that careful consideration needs to be given to two aspects of the amendment: namely how exemptions are applied and the implications of this proposed law on social media.”

“AIJAC commends the committee  for facilitating an important discussion on this sensitive matter   and in particular Walt Secord for his vision in progressing the issue,” Dr Rubenstein concluded.

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