‘Historic’ Laws to Ban Nazi Symbol in Vic | Western magazine

Victoria is set to become the first Australian state or territory to ban the public display of the Nazi swastika in a “thunderbolt” for white supremacists.

The Victorian government introduced legislation in parliament on Wednesday banning intentional public displays of the symbol across the state.

The Summary Offenses (Nazi Symbol Ban) Bill is expected to pass both houses with bipartisan support and only applies to the Nazi swastika, also known as the Hakenkreuz.

Religious versions of the symbol related to Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religions will remain legal.

There will also be exemptions for historical, educational and artistic purposes, while memorabilia bearing the Nazi swastika can still be traded as long as the symbol is covered when on public display.

Attorney General Jaclyn Symes described the legislation, which does not cover online displays of hate badges, as a milestone in the fight against hate.

“We know it’s a symbol of hate and it promotes anti-Semitism,” she told reporters.

Those who break the law face up to a year in prison and a $22,000 fine, although people will only be charged if they fail to comply with a police directive to remove the symbol.

Ms Symes said it was possible to add other Nazi and hateful symbols, such as the SS Bolts.

“If people start turning to other hate symbols to get around the law…that’s something we’re definitely going to look at,” she said.

Nazi symbols were spray-painted on placards of political candidates in Victoria during the federal election campaign, while a group of neo-Nazis were recently kicked out of a Melbourne venue for celebrating Adolf Hitler’s birthday with a cake swastika.

Police were also powerless to arrest a neo-Nazi music festival in 2019, as well as a couple displaying a red and black Nazi flag at their Beulah property the following year.

In early 2021, a parliamentary inquiry recommended the ban as well as the extension of state anti-defamation laws beyond race and religion – the latter of which the government has vowed to review.

Anti-Defamation Commission Chairman Dvir Abramovich said Victoria was facing an “epidemic” of Nazi swastikas orchestrated by the neo-Nazi movement.

“It is an uplifting and triumphant moment for every Victorian,” he said of Bill.

“It’s a thunderbolt to the solar plexus of the neo-Nazi movement here in Victoria, who would love nothing more than to put people like me in the gas chambers and dream of an Australian Hitler and ‘a Fourth Reich.’

Chairman of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, Daniel Aghion, said there had been a 37% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Australia over the past year.

He acknowledged that maximum sentences were unlikely to stop “malicious” actors, but said the ban sent a strong message.

Once passed, the ban on Nazi symbols will only come into effect after a 12-month education campaign to raise awareness of the religious and cultural origins of the swastika.

Victoria Deputy Liberal Leader David Southwick, a member of the Jewish community, wants the government to pass the laws more quickly.

“Now is the time to act,” he said.

NSW is preparing its own laws to ban the public display of Nazi symbols after it was unanimously recommended by a parliamentary inquiry in February.

Australian Associated Press