Nazi symbols banned in Victoria, NSW soon to follow

28 June 2022 By Adrian Suljanovic

The public display of Nazi symbols has been banned in Victoria, making it the first state or territory in Australia to do so. The decision comes with the recognition of the role that Nazi symbolism plays in terms of inciting violence, hate and antisemitism.

Intentionally displaying the Hakenkreuz (commonly known as the Nazi swastika) in public is now a criminal offence in Victoria after the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022 was passed on 21 June 2022, with penalties reaching almost $22,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment.

The Victorian government aimed to send a clear message to the public the Nazi and Neo-Nazi ideologies being displayed through symbolism have no place in the state.

Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes commented on the matter: “The Nazi symbol glorifies one of the most hateful ideologies in history – its public display does nothing but cause further pain and division.

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“It’s a proud moment to see these important laws pass with bipartisan support – I’m glad to see that no matter what side of politics, we can agree that this vile behaviour will not be tolerated in Victoria.”

The bill makes the distinction between displays of the swastika in a Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain contexts (including other faith communities that use the symbol), as the symbol has vast cultural and historical significance as a sacred and ancient symbol of good fortune and peace. A community education campaign aimed at raising awareness about the swastika’s origins will be launched in support of this ban.

The Victorian government conducted extensive consultations with religious, legal and community groups on the offence for the purpose of understanding the religious use of the swastika and creating exceptions for the law, such as displaying Nazi symbols for the sake of education and art.

On the same day, the NSW government introduced a similar bill to also ban the public displays of Nazi symbolism.

Attorney-General Mark Speakman stated that the new bill would amend the Crimes Act 1900 to create a new offence of displaying Nazi symbols in public knowingly and without a reasonable excuse.

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The penalties in NSW under the proposed amendments carry a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison, an $11,000 fine (or both) for individuals and a $55,000 fine for corporations.

“Hateful and vilifying conduct is completely unacceptable in our community,” Mr Speakman said.

The NSW government will make the same distinction as Victoria in regards to displays of the swastika for religious purposes, along with exceptions to displaying Nazi symbols where there are reasonable excuses such as for artistic, academic or educational reasons.

“This bill recognises that the public display of Nazi symbols is generally considered abhorrent, except in very limited circumstances such as for education purposes, and causes profound offence and distress,” Mr Speakman said.

NSW Minister for Multiculturalism Mark Coure said: “Symbols that incite hate and are used to deliberately rally people to follow evil ideologies have no place in our multicultural society, or anywhere for that matter, and that is why this bill will criminalise the displaying of Nazi symbols.”

Gabrielle Upton, member for Vaucluse and parliamentary secretary to the Premier, said that this new bill is a response to the increased incidents of “unacceptable” anti-Semitic and extremist far-right activities in the state.

Chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Darren Bark referred to Nazi symbols as a “threat to the entire NSW community” representing a “sinister underbelly” within the state. Mr Bark also commented that there has been a rise in the use of Nazi symbolism by the far-right in “faith-based attacks, both in-person and online”.

“Nazi symbols are a gateway to violence and vilification, and this historic legislation will ensure those who are here to cause harm in our community are dealt with under the law.”

“Hate has no place in our tolerant multicultural society,” Mr Bark said.

Nazi symbols banned in Victoria, NSW soon to follow
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