Victoria has become the first Australian state or territory to ban the public display of the Nazi symbol. This step has been taken in recognition of its role in inciting antisemitism and hate.
The Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022 which has been passed 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.
The legislation will come into effect in six months to allow for time to implement this awareness campaign.
The ban will be supported by a community education campaign to raise awareness of the origins of the religious and cultural swastika, its importance to the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain communities and its distinction from the Nazi symbol.
Victorian Hindu, Jain and Buddhist communities are concerned that reducing the education campaigns time from twelve months to six months will potentially leave them in a vulnerable position.
Makrand Bhagwat, Victorian President of the Hindu Council of Australia told The Australia Today, “It will be very challenging to educate politicians from council to parliament, 21,399 strong victoria police department, media, educators and academicians who will be the first to be targeted by education campaign.”
“Imagine just after the six months, someone complains to the Victoria police about ‘Swastika’ on a shop or home’s front door drawn on Diwali. Unknowingly police officers can treat us like criminals,”added Mr Bhagwat
In a statement Victoria’s Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said:
“The Nazi symbol glorifies one of the most hateful ideologies in history – its public display does nothing but cause further pain and division.”
Ms Symes tweeted:
Attorney-General Symes added:
“IT’S A PROUD MOMENT TO SEE THESE IMPORTANT LAWS PASS WITH BIPARTISAN SUPPORT – I’M GLAD TO SEE THAT NO MATTER WHAT SIDE OF POLITICS, WE CAN AGREE THAT THIS VILE BEHAVIOUR WILL NOT BE TOLERATED IN VICTORIA.”
This landmark passing sends a clear message that the dissemination of Nazi and Neo-nazi ideology through the public display of the Nazi symbol has no place in Victoria.
Victoria’s Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs Craig Ondarchie in a parliamentary debate said, “People use the term ‘swastika’. I want to correct that for the record to make sure we are talking about the right thing.”
“I am talking about the Nazi hate symbol, the Hakenkreuz, often referred to, which is a symbol with a cross with the arms bent at right angles in a clockwise direction or a symbol that so nearly resembles it that it is likely to be confused or mistaken for that symbol. This bill only applies to the Nazi swastika or the Hakenkreuz.”
“I say that because there are a number of elements in our community where this could be confused. I think carefully about our Hindu community, our Buddhist community and our Jain community, who use a form of this symbol that people may confuse about, and I want to get that right,” added Mr Ondarchie.
The Bill recognises the cultural and historical significance of the swastika for the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and other faith communities as an ancient and sacred symbol of peace and good fortune.
‘The Bill does not prohibit the display of the swastika in such religious and cultural contexts.’
The Victorian government undertook extensive consultation with religious, legal and community groups on the offence, including understanding the religious use of the Swastika and ensuring exceptions are in place for appropriate displays of the Nazi symbol, such as for educational or artistic purposes.
The Victorian Government has assured that it will continue to monitor the use of hate symbols and may consider the inclusion of additional symbols at a later stage. Minister for Multicultural Affairs Ros Spence said:
“These laws are part of our unwavering commitment to challenge antisemitism, hatred and racism wherever and whenever they occur.”
Anyone who intentionally displays the Nazi symbol in public will face penalties of up to almost $22,000, 12 months imprisonment or both.