The NSW government introduced a bill into Parliament on Tuesday to ban the public display of Nazi symbols.
Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the bill will amend the Crimes Act to create a new offence of knowingly displaying, by public act and without reasonable excuse, a Nazi symbol.
“This bill recognises that the public display of Nazi symbols is generally considered abhorrent, except in very limited circumstances such as for education purposes,” he said.
The maximum penalty for the new offence will be 12 months’ imprisonment or an $11,000 fine or both for an individual.
Minister for Multiculturalism Mark Coure said the bill expressly states displaying 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,” he said.
It will also not be an offence to display a Nazi symbol where there is a reasonable excuse, including artistic, academic or educational purposes.
Vaucluse MP Gabrielle Upton said the bill will respond to reports of rising incidents of unacceptable antisemitic and far-right extremism.
“I have long advocated that we take divisive action to stop such incidents and now, gratifyingly, the NSW government has acted,” she said.
Shadow Police Minister and NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel deputy chair Walt Secord has been calling for action since April 2020, and even introduced his own bill last October – the first in Australia.
“This historic bill would have never been introduced into Parliament and on its way to becoming law, if it were not for the efforts of NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD) and other Jewish communal organisations,” he said.
“The decision by the JBD to prepare a joint submission with the Hindu Council of Australia was inspired.”
JBD president Lesli Berger said this was the “home stretch” before Nazi symbols were outlawed across the state.
“This important legislation will send a clear and strong message that the public display of Nazi symbols and the hate they represent have no place in NSW, and that no offender will go unpunished,” Berger said.
“We commend the NSW government.”
JBD CEO Darren Bark said, “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 JBD was incredibly proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Hindu community to ensure this important legislation is passed.”