The Australian State of New South Wales introduced a bill into Parliament on Tuesday to ban the public displays of Nazi symbols and to provide further safeguards against hate speech and vilification.
Attorney General Mark Speakman said the Government’s Bill will amend the Crimes Act 1900 to create a new offence of knowingly displaying, by public act and without reasonable excuse, a Nazi symbol.
“Hateful and vilifying conduct is completely unacceptable in our community,” Mr Speakman said.
“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.
“Under the proposed amendments, the maximum penalty for the new offence will be 12 months’ imprisonment or a $11,000 fine or both for an individual; or a fine of $55,000 for a corporation.”
NSW Minister for Multiculturalism Mark Coure said the Bill expressly states that the display of a swastika in connection with Buddhism, Hinduism or Jainism will not constitute the display of a Nazi symbol.
“The swastika has been an ancient symbol of peace, prosperity and auspiciousness for these spiritual groups for thousands of years. This Bill reflects stakeholder feedback that the offence should not apply to a swastika displayed in connection with Buddhism, Hinduism or Jainism,” Mr 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.”
In addition, the Bill provides that it is not an offence to display of a Nazi symbol where there is a reasonable excuse, including artistic, academic or educational purposes or any other purpose in the public interest.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier and Member for Vaucluse, Gabrielle Upton said the Government Bill will respond to reports of rising incidents of unacceptable anti-Semitic and far-right extremist activities in NSW.
“I have long advocated to the NSW Government that we take divisive action to stop such incidents and now, gratifyingly, the NSW Government has acted, Ms Upton said.
“Importantly, the Bill strikes a careful balance between protecting free speech in a robust democracy and the need to shield individuals and the community from hateful vilification and violent ideology.”
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Darren Bark said Nazi symbols “are a threat to the entire NSW community” and represent a “sinister underbelly” in our state.
“In recent years we have seen a surge in the use of these symbols by right-wing extremists and for other faith-based attacks, both in-person and online,” Mr Bark said.
“Hate has no place in our tolerant multicultural society.
“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.
“The Jewish Board of Deputies was incredibly proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Hindu community to ensure this important legislation is passed.”
The news comes after Victoria became the first Australian state or territory to ban the public display of the Nazi symbol in recognition of its role in inciting antisemitism and hate.
The Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022 was passed yesterday and makes it a criminal offence for a person to intentionally display the Nazi symbol (the Hakenkreuz, often referred to as the Nazi swastika) in public.