Banning swastikas: Victoria leads the way

September 2, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Victoria will become the first state or territory in Australia to make the public display of Nazi symbols illegal – in a landmark reform to help stamp out hateful behaviour and boost human rights protections.

The Andrews Labor Government will also extend the state’s anti-vilification protections beyond race and religion to cover areas such as sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and HIV/AIDS status.

To help people subjected to vilification seek justice through the courts, the Government will make civil and criminal vilification easier to prove.

Earlier this year the Victorian Parliament’s Legal and Social Issues Committee delivered its report on the effectiveness of the state’s anti-vilification laws – which had bipartisan support from the committee.

The report found that sadly, vilification is all too common for many Victorians – including people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, particular faith groups, those who identify as LGBTIQ+ and people with a disability.

The harm caused by hate conduct and vilification can be profound, affecting the physical and psychological wellbeing of individuals and often preventing them from feeling comfortable participating in their community.

The Government’s response to the report vows to better protect the community from vilification and discriminatory practices, and boost human rights and equal opportunity for all.

Planning is underway on the best way to make these changes, with some recommendations requiring the government to change laws and others needing input from the Victorian community – such as community groups that experience vilification.

The Government will also legislate a ban on the public display of Nazi symbols, expected in the first half of 2022, in recognition of the rise in neo-Nazi activity and its role in inciting hate behaviour.

Extensive consultation will be undertaken on how the Nazi symbol ban is crafted, to ensure appropriate exceptions are in place, such as for educational or historical purposes, or for other uses of the symbol.

The Government’s Anti-Racism Taskforce is also developing Victoria’s new Anti-Racism Strategy, which will complement the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations.

Victoria’s Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said: “All forms of hate are unacceptable and have no place in Victoria – expanding our anti-vilification laws to protect more Victorians sends a clear message that this vile behaviour will not be tolerated.”

“I thank the committee and all those who participated in the inquiry for their work on these complex issues. Our new laws will build upon their efforts and we will make sure we consult widely with the community and impacted groups to get the settings right before making legislative changes.”

Minister for Multicultural Affairs Ros Spence added:  “Nazi symbols glorify one of the most hateful ideologies in human history. We must confront hate, prevent it, and give it no space to grow.”

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry would like to see Victoria’s initiative copies federally. Co-CEO Peter Wertheim told J-Wire: “Well done to the Victorian government for taking this initiative, and for seeking input into the design of the proposed legislation from community groups who experience vilification. Social media has encouraged an unprecedented proliferation of Nazi hate symbols, old and new, which are a blight on contemporary life.  New codes and symbols are continually being developed by hate groups, and the legislation will need to be flexible enough to capture this.  We hope that the Federal government will follow suit and enact legislation to ban the display of hate symbols across Australia, as recommended by the ECAJ to the parliamentary Inquiry into matters relating to extremist movements and radicalism in Australia.”

The Victorian Liberal Nationals welcome the Andrews Labor Government’s commitment to ban the Nazi swastika in Victoria.

In February 2020, the Liberal Nationals announced a policy position to ban the public display of the Nazi swastika as an important step against racial and religious intolerance.

In recent times, Victorians have witnessed a deeply concerning rise in the use of the Nazi swastika to strike fear into a range of community groups, including in Beulah, Kyabram, Cranbourne and the Grampians.

Once this legislation is passed, Victoria will become the first jurisdiction in Australia to have an explicit ban on the ultimate symbol of hate.

Today’s commitment is an important step towards a safer, more tolerant future.

The Victorian Liberal Nationals remain committed to working with the Andrews Government to ensure this legislation is effectively implemented in a timely manner.

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Neil Angus:

“The Victorian Liberal Nationals welcome today’s commitment to ban the Nazi swastika.

“This reform is an important step to ensuring a safer, more tolerate community and demonstrating that intolerance has no place in Victoria.”

Shadow Minister for Police & Crime Prevention, David Southwick said: “Today is an important step forward for all those who have been victims of the ultimate symbol of hate – the Nazi Swastika.

For too long, frontline police and local communities have been powerless to stop the Nazi swastika being used as a tool to spread hate.

More recently we have seen a rise extremist nationalist and racist individuals and groups and this ban will go a long way to take away the symbol that they hide behind.”

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria welcomedthe Government response to the Inquiry into Anti Vilification Protections.

Our community comprises a large number of Holocaust survivors and their descendants, and this recognition to finally ban the swastika and all Nazi symbols is of particular significance to us. This process has taken years to achieve. We applaud the Government, acting with bipartisan support, for enabling these hate symbols to be banned and for police to have the tools to respond when needed.

The Government response states that hate conduct appears to be more prevalent for some people, including those from culturally diverse backgrounds and from particular faiths – sadly, this is something the Jewish community knows all too well. Safeguarding the vulnerable and raising awareness about different forms of discrimination and racism is a core focus of the JCCV.

Most recently, Nazi symbolism and racist messaging has become more overt during the Covid pandemic and the impact on the Jewish community has been quite profound. The timing of this statement to ban such symbols of hate is a clear message to all Victorians that these forms of behaviour and symbols are unacceptable, unlawful and have no place in our society.

JCCV’s president Daniel Aghion commented: “The JCCV agrees with the Victorian Government that vilification has no place in our community. As the Premier recently said, antisemitism is pure evil. We welcome the ban on Nazi symbols and look forward to consulting with the Government on the final form of the legislation.”

Zionism Victoria stated the Nazi swastika, a symbol of hatred and oppression, has been used in recent months by neo-Nazi groups in Geelong, Beulah, the Grampians, Cranbourne, Kyabram and, most recently, at anti-lockdown rallies in Melbourne’s CBD.

With the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) finding year-on-year increases in cases of antisemitic incidents, banning these symbols will help curb the emergence of neo-Nazism in Victoria, and support people subjected to vilification seek justice through the courts.

Following a discussion earlier today with Victoria’s Minister for Multicultural Affairs Ros Spence, Zionism Victoria president Yossi Goldfarb noted that “… we welcome the decision by the government, and look forward to working with them as it consults and then implements this new legislation. Consultation with the Jewish community is vitally important. The government must get the balance right between banning these symbols – especially when they are used in the form of attack – while also preserving the values of freedom of speech. Sanctions on swastika use have been discussed before, and we look forward to continuing those discussions in future.”

Mr Goldfarb also called for bipartisan support for this reform, acknowledging that the opposition in general, and local member and shadow minister David Southwick in particular, have also been strong advocates for this change.

A recent poll indicated that the majority of Australians want the swastika banned. It highlighted a collective belief that doing so will help protect Jewish people from antisemitism and other communities, including the LGBTQI community and communities of different races and religions from vilification, hatred and discrimination.

“Today’s announcement is one that our community has been seeking for quite some time, and we look forward to working closely with the state government in both the further development and implementation of these new protections”, Mr Goldfarb concluded.

National Chairman of The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council Mark Leibler commented: “We are pleased to see the Victorian Government has accepted recommendations by that inquiry to make it easier for victims of vilification to seek legal redress in both criminal and civil processes. AIJAC is also pleased the Victorian Government has accepted the Inquiry’s recommendation to establish a criminal offence prohibiting the display of Nazi symbols, including the swastika.”

“While the statement today does not specify exactly which of the 36 recommendations the Victorian Government has accepted, AIJAC looks forward to consulting with the Government on its progress towards further combating racism and vilification,” Dr Colin Rubenstein, AIJAC’s Executive Director, added.

“2021 has been a year of heightened antisemitism for Australian Jews and the perpetrators of antisemitism in Australia come from the extremes of our community – neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups, extreme Islamists, and the far-left, who often use Israel or Zionism as a proxy for Jews,” Dr Rubenstein noted.

“AIJAC is pleased that the Victorian Government’s response seeks to not only improve protections, through mechanisms like the swastika ban, but to also improve opportunities for recourse for those who are abused and attacked,” AIJAC’s Director of International and of Community Affairs, Jeremy Jones said.

“We urge the Victorian Government to consider adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism as a guide to understanding, identifying and formulating appropriate responses to antisemitism,” Mr Jones added.

“The Victorian Department of Education and Training has already adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism in its attempt to combat anti-Jewish hate at Victorian schools. Now it is time for the Andrews Government to lead by example and endorse the IHRA definition of antisemitism as a tool for use by the whole of the Government and by relevant community groups, such as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and the Victorian Multicultural Commission”, Mr Jones argued.

Comments

One Response to “Banning swastikas: Victoria leads the way”
  1. michael Burd says:

    Hopefully Palestinian , Arab , Muslim and Socialist Alternative activists at their Rally’s in Sydney Melbourne, Brisbane etc will not be able to display Swastikas on their Placards referring to Israelis and Jews , although I suspect they will be able to get away with it .

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