Victoria has become the first Australian state or territory to ban the public display of the Nazi symbol in recognition of its role in inciting antisemitism and hate.
The Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022 was passed on Tuesday which 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.
Under the law, anyone who intentionally displays the Nazi symbol in public will face penalties of up to almost A$22,000, 12 months imprisonment or both.
Announcing the passing of the new bill, the Victorian Government media release said, “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 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.”
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.
Advocacy group Hindus for Human Rights – Australia and New Zealand (HfHR-ANZ) has welcomed the introduction of the legislation “as a way of countering the rise of neo-Nazism and racism.”
HfHR-ANZ spokesperson told NRI Affairs, “We note the recognition within the legislation of ‘the cultural and historical significance of the swastika for the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and other faith communities’ and welcome the measure to allow the symbol to be displayed in these religious and cultural contexts. May the measured approach of this legislation lead to greater awareness, sensitivity and understanding within the broader community as we stand together in solidarity against anti-semitism, hatred and racism.”
The legislation will come into effect in six months to allow for time to implement this campaign. This has been brought forward after consultation with affected groups and their feedback.
The Government will continue to monitor the use of hate symbols and may consider the inclusion of additional symbols at a later stage, according to the media release.
Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said, “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.”