Jewish groups are urging the NSW Parliament to pass a bill to ban Nazi symbols being publicly displayed amid a rise in right-wing extremist activity.

February 3, 2022

A parliamentary inquiry is hearing evidence from religious organisations and community groups about proposed legislation that would ban all public displays of Nazi symbols.

Exceptions would be made for educational or historical purposes as well as other legitimate uses.

Labor’s Walt Secord who introduced the bill, said 31 incidents of displays of Nazi flags were reported to the police in 2020, including one in a home close to a synagogue in the inner-western Sydney suburb of Newtown.

The hearing comes a week after a survey found nearly a quarter of Australians had little to no knowledge about the Holocaust, the genocide perpetrated by the Nazi regime that killed six million Jews during World War II.

That’s despite Australia having one of the largest per capita number of Holocaust survivors in the world.

Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor Joseph Symond, 97, explained how the flagrant exhibition of swastikas in Australi a in recent years had been “very disturbing” for Jews and others killed in concentration camps, including homosexuals, black people, the physically and mentally disabled as well as the Roma people.

“It ultimately brings back very vivid memories … of the horror and suffering of my people … and many others,” he said.

“We are talking strictly about hate … and that’s what I’m fighting against.”

Deputy NSW Police Commissioner David Hudson noted the “increased behaviour” of people espousing right-wing extremist ideology that extended to online activity, especially in regional areas, pointing specifically to Albury, Orange and the south coast.

He cited the example of a NSW man arrested in September in possession of a Nazi flag and a map of the state on his bedroom wall by counter-terrorism police over a plan to make a 3D-printed gun.

The federal government listed neo-Nazi, US-based group The Base as a terrorist organisation in November, making it a criminal offence to join it.

Darren Bark, CEO of The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies said: “Just last week, we commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, marking 77 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the beginning of the end of the Holocaust during which six million Jews and millions of others were targeted and murdered by the Nazi regime.

A symbol of peace for thousands of years, the Nazi regime manipulated the Hindu Swastika into the Hakenkruez – the hooked cross – which resembles the Hindu Swastika, and used it as a propaganda tool across the world to intimidate, train and enlist followers and impose hate, suffering and death on millions of people.

And now we see the re-emergence of these symbols for the same purposes.

In 2020 alone, the Nazi flag was displayed 31 times in NSW.

Normalising these symbols is the first step to forgetting. A critical step to history repeating itself. A dark time in history that broke humanity and caused immense suffering across the world.

The use of Nazi symbols is a gateway to something a lot more sinister. To something a lot more dangerous. This legislation has to address these issues before they manifest into something more.

These symbols hide so much more behind them – as the tip of the iceberg, early intervention, alongside education, empowers both government and society to act to do something before that view manifests into something that results in violence or loss of life.

There is a growing threat to the entire Australian community by extremist racist groups. These groups hold recruitment and training sessions. Fly flags with Nazi symbols.

Engage in Nazi-style group rituals, including the Hitler salute inciting and encouraging physical and verbal attacks against Australians, particularly minority groups within our society.

History is teaching us that now is the time to act.

Let us join the 12 countries and nations around the world that have taken this action.

We welcome the amendment to the Crimes Act to offer further protections in the form of a ban on hate symbols. A ban on Nazi symbols demonstrates that NSW is taking a strong stance against extremism, Neo-Nazi groups and against radicalisation.

Let’s curtail the recruitment. Let’s learn the lessons of history.”

In Queensland, the Parliament’s Legal Affairs and Safety Committee has stated that ‘the committee recommends that the Queensland Government establish a criminal offence that prohibits the display of hate symbols, including those relating to Nazi and ISIS ideology, with considered exceptions to the prohibition’.