NSW to introduce legislation banning Nazi symbols

April 3, 2022 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman has advised the Clerk of the Legislative Council that the NSW Government is to introduce a new Bill to criminalise the public display of Nazi symbols without a reasonable excuse.

In his letter Mark Speakman wrote: “Hateful and vilifying conduct is completely unacceptabfle in our  cfommunity. The NSW Government recognises that the public display of Nazi symbols is generally considered abhorrent, except in very imited circumstances such as for religious purposes, and causes profound offence and distress.”

Shadow Minister for Police and Counter Terrorism Walt Secord welcomed the Perrottet Government’s announcement.

Mr Secord, who is also the deputy chair of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel has been campaigning to criminalise the display of Nazi symbols and last October, he introduced Crimes Amendment (Display of Nazi Symbols) Bill 2021.

Shortly afterwards, the Perrottet Government referred the bill to the Standing Committee on Social Issues for further examination. Its report on the bill was released in February – recommending the bill proceed with amendments.  Report (nsw.gov.au)

Mr Secord said: “I cautiously welcome the announcement that the Perrottet Government will introduce its own bill. I accept – in good faith – their assurances – that they genuinely want to proceed with the aims of the bill.

This month, we moved another step closer to banning the public display of Nazi symbols.”

However, Mr Secord warns that if this was a delaying tactic, he would put his bill to the Parliament. “If the Attorney-General Mark Speakman does not act by June, I will put my bill to the Legislative Council for a vote – and proceed. I note that there is strong support from the cross-bench.

Sadly, we are seeing a surge in far right-wing activity in Australia and overseas. Put simply, I want to see the public display of Nazi symbols banned in NSW.

It is a symbol of hate and genocide – and to see it on NSW streets in marches or flying from a flag pole is deeply offensive.”

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has reported a 35 per cent increase in antisemitic activity in Australia in its annual report.

In 2020, there are 31 documented cases of Nazi flags being flown across NSW, including across the street from Newtown Synagogue and from a water tower in Wagga Wagga.

Under the proposed Secord 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 symbol and for using the Nazi swastika, or Hakenkreuz, for artistic or academic purposes.

Mr Secord praised the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the Hindu Council of Australia for working together to protect both communities and making a “landmark” joint submission to the inquiry.

The NSWJBD and the Hindu Council of Australia also welcomed NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman’s commitment to introducing new legislation to criminalise the display of Nazi symbols.

The announcement follows a unanimous recommendation by the NSW Parliament’s bipartisan Standing Committee on Social Issues in February, which “expressed strong support for the bill’s protective objectives, including for individuals and groups in our community who are hurt,

The Bill provides specific exceptions for using the Nazi Hakenkreuz for educational purposes. The Bill also recognises that the Sacred Swastika (also known as the Hindu Swastika) is an icon of faith for Hindus, Jains and Buddhists and specifically exempts any restrictions on its use for those religious purposes.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Darren Bark commented, “This is an important next step in ensuring symbols of hate, genocide and vilification can no longer be used to torment the public and propagate hate whether in-person or online.

We commend the NSW Government for its commitment to introducing the Government Bill into Parliament. Unless used in a historical or educational sense, Nazi symbols do not belong in NSW.

For the Australian ex-servicemen and women who fought to defeat the Nazi regime, and the remaining Holocaust survivors and their descendants living in Australia, seeing these symbols on our shores are disturbing and vivid reminders of the atrocities they endured at the hands of the Nazis.

Nazi symbols are also being used by right-wing extremists both in-person and online, to embolden and recruit those to their cause.

This legislation will ensure there is a clear distinction between legitimate and unlawful use of Nazi symbols. It is a much-needed law in our state.

We thank our submission partner, the Hindu Council of Australia; Labor MLC Walt Secord for introducing the original Bill that was considered by the Committee; and the NSW Government and Attorney-General Mark Speakman for committing to introduce the Government Bill.

We look forward to this legislation coming into effect as soon as possible.”

Hindu Council of Australia National Vice-President Surinder Jain added, “Due to a superficial resemblance between the Sacred Swastika and the Nazi hate symbol of Hakenkreuz, faith communities have not been able to display their Sacred icon in public for fear of persecution.

“This important legislation exempts the use of the sacred icon of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist Swastika and it is hoped that community education on the differences between the Swastika and Hakenkreuz will help release the sacred icon of Swastika from its self-imposed indoor prison.”

The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council welcomed the announcement.

The executive director Dr Colin Rubenstein told J-Wire: “We also acknowledge the work of Shadow Minister for Police and Counterterrorism Walt Secord in bringing this matter to the parliamentary agenda, and are pleased this matter has bipartisan support.

As AIJAC  argued in our submission to the NSW Parliament’s committee inquiry on the subject, which recommended the ban, the display of Nazi symbols is a red line in public discourse, and the banning of these hateful symbols will be a step towards creating a safer and more cohesive and harmonious society. We look forward to similar legislation being introduced to the Victorian Parliament in the first half of this year, as has been foreshadowed, and to seeing other states follow suit, so that such racist and offensive displays become a thing of the past.”


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