Call to ban public display of Nazi flags in NSW

April 19, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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NSW Shadow Treasurer and NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel deputy chair Walt Secord has called on the NSW Berejiklian Government to undertake a formal investigation into ways to ban the public display of Nazi flags in NSW.

Nazi flag in Sydney suburb of Newton

Mr Secord said he would like to see NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the Attorney-General Mark Speakman undertake a proper examination of the matter.

He proposed a referral to the NSW Law Reform Commission or the Attorney-General’s department as a “way forward” to properly focus on the recent spate of Nazi flag incidents in eastern Australia.

Mr Secord’s call was prompted after the fourth known incident since January in NSW and Victoria – two in each State.

The most recent incident – this week – involved a Nazi flag was hung in a backyard of a Newtown home’s veranda in the city’s inner-west.  It is understood that Inner West Police Area Command are now investigating – and it was believed to have been erected on April 12.

The other known incidents were:

  • On April 13, a Nazi flag tied to two Chinese flags was hoisted on a Telstra tower in the Victoria Goulburn Valley town of Kyabram for 48 hours – with graffiti linked to the COVID-19 crisis;
  • In mid-February, there was an incident in Wagga Wagga where a Nazi flag was spotted by a war veteran flying from the top of a light tower at Robertson Oval; and
  • In January, a couple refused to take down a Nazi flag in the tiny Victorian town of Beulah, four hours northwest of Melbourne –sparking condemnation from many corners including the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

“Put simply, I believe flying a Nazi flag should be banned in NSW, but I would like to go through the proper process – with a referral to the NSW Law Reform Commission.

“The Nazi flag is deeply offensive to veterans who fought against fascism and was an affront to survivors of the Holocaust and their descendants.

“The Nazi flag is an emblem of genocide and racism.”

“Physical attacks on a person on the way to prayer, painted swastikas at Bondi Beach and a Nazi flag flying in Wagga Wagga and Newtown are all symbols of a despicable shift in our community.

“The decision to fly a Nazi flag is a simple expression of hatred.”

Mr Secord said there are laws in some European countries including Germany, Austria, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and the Ukraine – where it is unlawful to publicly fly Nazi flags. It is not illegal in Australia to display the Nazi swastika symbol.

However, in the United States, the public display of Nazi flags is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which, affirmed by the Supreme Court case Texas v. Johnson, guarantees the right to freedom of speech.

Mr Secord said he believed that there could be rare occasions for exemptions such as historical film production or for theatrical purposes such as a performance of Anne Frank – but he could not see any other reason to display a Nazi flag in NSW.

Mr Secord added that he had recognised that the Executive Council of Australian Jewry [ECAJ] had logged 368 anti-Semitic incidents nationally in 2019 and that there had been a rise in antisemitism in North America and Europe.

The Victorian Parliament is currently holding an inquiry into legislative protections against vilification.  In its submission to this Inquiry, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) argued that that current legislative protections in Victoria are not sufficient to protect the community against vilification and should be broadened and strengthened.

 JCCV President Jennifer Huppert said “one of the legislative changes the JCCV would welcome is a ban on material which is likely to incite hatred.  This would include the swastika and other Nazi symbols.”

Victorian State Liberal MP for Caulfield David Southwick told J-Wire: “This is outrageous and comes days before Yom Hashoah, where the community will pause to commemorate the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

This is another example of why we need to ban this evil symbol of hate, the Nazi Swastika.

I am pleased NSW Labor are supporting a ban and would hope Daniel Andrews would follow in Victoria.

I would happily work with any Government or Opposition from any party in any State to see the Nazi Swastika banned in Australia.”

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Lesli Berger added: “Public displays of the Nazi swastika in this country have become an increasingly concerning phenomenon in recent months, which means there is a growing argument for it to be banned.

Thousands of Australians lost their lives fighting the fascism which the Nazi swastika represented, while six million Jews were murdered by that regime for no reason other than their Jewish identity. To flaunt the emblem in today’s Australia is a sickening promotion of what the Nazis stood for and should be outlawed.

“That said, allowances should be made for legitimate reasons of scholarship, art, academic or historical pursuit. But there is an imperative to explore the possibility of outlawing the promotion of this symbol, and the Board of Deputies is to embark on such a pursuit.”

Gabrielle Upton, State Liberal member for Vaucluse has taken up the issue. She told J-Wire: “I’ve spoken with the NSW Attorney-General about these concerning events asked him to identify the best way the NSW Government can end this totally offensive and deplorable use of the Nazi flag.”

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