NEW South Wales is “one step closer” to banning the Nazi swastika, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) CEO Darren Bark declared today (Tuesday) after a parliamentary committee recommended a bill to outlaw the Nazi symbol proceed for debate.
The Standing Committee on Social Issues released its report into the provisions of the Crimes Amendment (Display of Nazi Symbols) Bill on Tuesday.
Under the proposed 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 swastika and for using the Nazi swastika, or Hakenkreuz, for educational purposes.
After receiving submissions and hearing evidence from both the Jewish and wider communities – including a historic joint submission from JBOD and Hindu Council of Australia (HCA), the committee recommended it proceed with several amendments.
“The committee supports the objectives of the bill to protect individuals and groups in our community who are hurt, offended or intimidated by the public display of Nazi symbols, as well as help protect the community against the rise of right-wing extremism,” chair Don Harwin said.
But he said issues of practicability and enforceability were raised in relation to the proposed exemption process and the ban’s application to social media.
“For these reasons, the committee agreed that before the Legislative Council proceeds to debate the bill, the committee comments and stakeholders’ views expressed in the report should be addressed.”
Christian Democrat leader the Rev Fred Nile has already lodged amendments to that end.
Welcoming the report, shadow minister for police and counter-terrorism Walt Secord – who introduced the bill – issued a direct appeal to NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman to support the legislation and ensure that it is passed during the current session of parliament.
“The evidence was overwhelming and unanimous in asking for the NSW Parliament to ban the display of Nazi symbols in NSW,” said Secord, who is deputy chair of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel.
“The ball is now firmly in the Perrottet government’s court. They can pass this bill and turn it into a law.”
Approached for comment by The AJN, Speakman said the government “will consider the report closely before responding to the committee’s recommendation”.
JBOD commended the committee for its recommendation that Nazi symbols, unless used in a historical or educational sense, have no place in NSW.
“We now look forward to the bill being debated in Parliament. Fighting hate, racism, intimidation and provocation of NSW citizens is our collective responsibility, and we must counter those who wish to cause us harm and to undermine our multicultural, inclusive state,” Bark said.
Hindu Council of Australia National Vice-President Surinder Jain said, “The Hindu Council of Australia fully supports the ban on displaying the evil symbol of Hakenkreuz.
“The Hindu Council of Australia fully supports this bill and hopes that it is passed in the NSW Parliament.”
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein called displaying or disseminating symbols that were used by the Nazis “a red line in public discourse”.
“The Standing Committee on Social Issues, in its welcome bipartisan recommendation to continue consideration on the ban of the public display of Nazi symbols in NSW, has given this amendment significant thought and its report reflects the challenges raised by AIJAC in our submission and testimony to the committee,” he said.
“AIJAC commends the committee for facilitating an important discussion on this sensitive matter, and in particular Walt Secord for his vision in progressing the issue.”