The federal government will introduce legislation next week criminalising public displays of key Nazi symbols and banning trade in memorabilia featuring them.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus stated, “There is no place in Australia for symbols that glorify the horrors of the Holocaust, and there is no place for those who seek to profit from the trade in these evil symbols or use them to promote their hatred.”
The bans, carrying penalties of up to 12 months’ imprisonment, outlaw displays of flags, armbands, T-shirts and insignias and online use of these symbols. Exemptions apply for artistic and academic usage.
The legislation “is a product of careful consideration and consultation, including with law enforcement and with those targeted by this hatred”, said Dreyfus.
On how the federal law would integrate with legislation in Victoria, NSW and potentially other jurisdictions, Dreyfus told The AJN it would mesh with those laws, “but with two important differences”.
The federal law will include online posting of symbols due to the federal government having power “to make legislation dealing with online activity”, he said. And it will ban trade in items bearing the symbols, “because the Commonwealth has power over import and export.”
Asked why the bill specifies only the Hakenkreuz and SS symbols, Dreyfus said, “They are the most widely recognised … You create uncertainty in the law if you don’t specify particular symbols.” But he emphasised the bill “should be viewed as a start rather than the end of a process”.
The legislation does not deal with Nazi salutes, as “state and territory criminal law is the best place to deal with what is essentially street activity”, he said.
Macnamara MP Josh Burns told The AJN, “The recent neo-Nazi rallies in Melbourne have resulted in governments working together to strengthen our legislative protections against Nazi hate and glorification … There’s no place for Nazis.”
Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) co-CEO Peter Wertheim welcomed the bill but urged the government to review the legislation periodically, stating ECAJ “placed on record our concern that the prohibitions will be limited only to the Hakenkreuz and Schutzstaffel symbols”, and fears neo-Nazis will simply use other symbols. And not prohibiting salutes “will leave a gap that will need to be filled by state and territory legislation”.
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) director of community & international affairs Jeremy Jones described the new laws as “welcome steps in line with the recommendations of AIJAC and other Jewish community groups”.
The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) welcomed the Government’s decision to introduce legislation to ban the Nazi symbol. ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said, “The Hakenkreuz is a universal symbol of murder and hatred, and it’s used by extremist organisations to intimidate minorities and recruit members. Violent right-wing extremism is rising in Australia. Banning the symbol sends the message that Australia rejects this hatred, and will help prevent the growth of extremist organisations and future violence.”
Anti-Defamation Commission chair Dvir Abramovich called it “a resounding triumph for justice”.
Melbourne Holocaust Museum CEO Jayne Josem welcomed “the clear message the banning of Nazi symbols is setting. Survivors and their descendants take heart that our federal government appreciates the messaging of hate that those symbols deliver”.
Sydney Jewish Museum CEO Kevin Sumption saw it as “an important step forward in ensuring the safety of all Australians”.