Advocates and Jewish groups are calling for other states and territories to follow Victoria’s lead in moving towards the banning of Nazi symbols.

By Jarni Blakkarly
SBS News
March 5, 2021

Civil rights advocates and Jewish groups are calling for state and territory leaders across Australia to follow Victoria’s lead after the state earlier this week moved towards outlawing the public display of Nazi symbols.

A Victorian parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday recommended the state establish a criminal offence for the public display of Swastikas and other Nazi symbols.

The Victorian government is expected to act on the recommendations – making it the first jurisdiction in Australia to do so.

The inquiry’s report noted that similar laws outlawing Nazi symbols already existed in Germany, Ukraine, Russia, Austria and France.

In other states and territories in Australia there are laws banning the inciting of violence, but not laws specifically outlawing the public display of Nazi symbols.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff said he welcomed announcements by the NSW government that they would consider the recommendations of the Victorian inquiry.

“Legislation banning the public display of the swastika and other Nazi symbols would be useful in countering the surge in extremist ideologies which we are witnessing both globally and locally, but it would not solve the problem, however,” he told SBS News.

“In order to maximise the effectiveness of any legislation, it should be part of a comprehensive government approach which includes the education sector, from primary school through high school,” he added.

The alleged right-wing extremist group set fire to a cross during a visit to the Grampians National Park.

He said the swastika represented the “ultimate in race hatred” especially to the Jewish community.

“We have a right to free speech, but we do not have a right to threaten others, which is what the swastika represents, a threat to others and to our democratic way of life.”

Authorities around Australia have been on high alert as the threat posed by right-wing extremism has escalated in recent years.

In October, the spy agency ASIO confirmed that right-wing threats now made up between 30 and 40 percent of their counter-terrorism priority caseload.

Earlier this year a group of neo-Nazis gathered in Victoria’s Grampians region, where they burnt a cross and shouted Nazi slogans at witnesses.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has confirmed he is proposing to formally proscribe the neo-Nazi Sonnenkrieg Division group following a recommendation from security agency ASIO.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman has previously confirmed he is seeking advice on ensuring swastikas can no longer be displayed in the state.

“These symbols of hatred and anti-semitism are unacceptable anywhere in our community,” he said last year.

“They are deeply offensive and capable of traumatising survivors of genocide and their loved ones.”

On Friday Mr Speakman confirmed to SBS News he was looking at the Victorian inquiry’s recommendations.

“Racism and bigotry is unacceptable in our community. The NSW Government is committed to stamping out this abhorrent behaviour,”

“I have asked the Department of Communities and Justice to provide me with a briefing on the recommendations handed down by the Legal and Social Issues Committee of the Victorian Legislative Assembly,” he told SBS News.

Dr Dvir Abramovich, chair of the Anti-Defamation Commission, told SBS News that Victoria’s report was an opportunity for elected representatives around the country to “right a wrong”.

“Now is the time for action. I call on every premier and territory leader to muster the courage necessary to deal with this uncomfortable issue, to fight for our shared vision of Australia as a nation that strives for equality and justice, and to once and for all send the message that Nazism will never find a home here,” he said.

“Whatever country you came from, and whatever language you speak, seeing the visible representation of the Nazi party induces feelings of revulsion and horror. And if you are the child or the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor, it tears a hole in your heart and is as threatening as facing a gun,” he added.

“There should be no place for this symbol of genocide and hate in Australia, proud as it is of its ethnic, religious and racial diversity.”