Queensland’s Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman has categorically made the distinction between the sacred Swastika and the Nazi Hooked Cross (Hakenkreuz) as she introduced the Criminal Code (Serious Vilification and Hate Crimes) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 in the Queensland Parliament to ban hate symbols in the state.
“The bill also makes it an offence to publicly display, distribute or publish a prohibited symbol in a way that could menace, harass or offend someone. The offence will carry a maximum penalty of 70 penalty units or six months imprisonment. Unlike other jurisdictions that have specified prohibited symbols in legislation, our framework will prescribe symbols by regulation. This will mean our laws will cover a broader range of hate symbols and we will be able to respond to new symbols or hate movements that may unfortunately emerge.”
“While the bill does not prescribe a prohibited symbol, we have announced our intention to ban symbols related to Nazi and ISIS ideology. When referring to Nazi symbols, it is important to note that the Nazi hooked cross is the correct terminology for the most widely known symbol. The hooked cross closely resembles the swastika, which has peaceful and profound meaning in some religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. I want to especially thank Ms Akashika Mohla from the Hindu Community of Australia for her advocacy on this important distinction,” said Ms Fentiman who is also the Minister for Justice, Minister for Women, and Minister for the Prvention of Domestic and Family Violence.
The Criminal Code (Serious Vilification and Hate Crimes) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 was introduced in the Queensland Parliament on 29th March 2023. Explanatory notes on this bill state,
“…a person will not commit the offence if they engaged in conduct for a genuine artistic, religious, educational, historical, legal, law enforcement purpose; a public interest purpose; or to oppose the ideology represented by the prohibited symbol. The purpose relied on must be showed to have been reasonable in the circumstances.”
It is intended that an excuse might be available where the public display is made in books, body art, plays, satire, film and documentaries, museums and universities, on historical models, during historical re-enactments, and for religious or scientific and research purposes.
Although the Bill does not prescribe a prohibited symbol, the Nazi Hakenkreuz (or Hooked Cross) significantly resembles the swastika, which has peaceful and profound meaning in some religions including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The ‘religious’ excuse is intended to ensure that the display of symbols, such as the swastika, in these contexts is not captured by the offence.”
Ms Fentiman while speaking about the bill also said that the bill requires that before prescribing a symbol, the minister must consult with the CCC, the Queensland Human Rights Commission and the Police Service. The minister must also be satisfied that the symbol is widely known by the public or by members of a ‘relevant group’ as representing an ideology of extreme prejudice. In this case, a ‘relevant group’ is a group of people who identify with each other because of, or based on, their race, religion, sexuality, sex characteristics or gender identity. She added that of course, the government will also undertake extensive consultation with appropriate community and multicultural groups during the process of prescribing prohibited symbols.
Tweeting about the bill, Premier Palaszczuk stated that there was no place for hateful ideologies in Queensland.
Premier Palaszczuk had faced social media backlash last year in May after she tweeted a tweet in which she referred to the Nazi hate symbol Hakenkreuz (“hooked cross”) as the Swastika. The Premier deleted her tweet after hundreds of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist community members expressed their disappointment over her misrepresentation.
Sharing her feelings about this legislation which was introduced on 29th March, Ms Mohla tweeted,