Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022 Second Reading

7 Jun 2022

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I rise today to speak on behalf of the Greens to the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022, which the Greens wholeheartedly support. This bill will make it a criminal offence to knowingly display the Nazi symbol, the Hakenkreuz, as associated with Nazi ideology, in public. It is an important bill, an important bill to show the community that hate and antisemitism have absolutely no place in Victoria, and comes in response to a recommendation from the parliamentary inquiry into anti-vilification protections in Victoria. The bill defines the Hakenkreuz as ‘a symbol of a cross with the arms bent at right angles in a clockwise direction’. It does not limit the display to the Nazi flag but includes other displays of this symbol, such as on clothing or graffiti. It uses the Hakenkreuz term to distinguish between this symbol of hate and the swastika of the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and other faiths, which comes from the ancient Sanskrit swastika and means good fortune or wellbeing. This is a really important inclusion, as other members have indicated, to ensure that that symbol can continue to be used for cultural and religious reasons by people of these faiths without fear of persecution.

The penalty for knowingly displaying the hateful Nazi symbol in public is 120 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment, or both. On top of that requirement that this charge is directed at the intentional and public display of the symbol, there is also the requirement that the person must know that the symbol is associated with Nazi ideology. There are exceptions to ensure that the image can be displayed in good faith by academics, in opposition to Nazism, for reporting purposes, by law enforcement, within the justice system for prosecution and evidence and in some other circumstances.

This bill is of great importance to the Jewish community, and I want to acknowledge certainly the large and vibrant Jewish community within the Prahran electorate. A significant number of those are Holocaust survivors. Certainly in my time as the member for Prahran I have really enjoyed being involved in community events, whether it is at local synagogues or at Jewish social service organisations or other organisations, hosting interns from the Jewish student union or meeting with Holocaust survivors who live in and around the Prahran electorate. I know this bill will mean so much to those individuals and those groups and the wider Jewish community.

Over recent years we have seen an increase in the display of this hateful symbol across Melbourne and Victoria. It is just completely unacceptable. That is why we so strongly support this bill—to really draw a line in the sand and to outlaw the public display of this hateful symbol. This symbol of hate and antisemitism has been used by fascists and Neo-Nazis in Victoria to vandalise Jewish buildings or buildings that have Jewish organisations in them and posters. It has been used more broadly to direct hatred and intolerance towards wider groups: the LGBTIQ+ communities, First Nations people, migrants, people from other religions and beyond. We had that disgraceful situation where the Nazi flag was being flown in a residential area on private property and nothing could be done about it. Certainly it has no place here in Victoria.

I want to echo many members’ calls to continue to educate people about that most awful and horrific of events in human history, the Holocaust, and continue also to hear from survivors themselves—‘Never forget, never again’. Like many young people, during my travels in my 20s I visited Auschwitz in Poland. Not only does that experience really bring the horrors of the Holocaust into stark reality, it also brings to the fore the hate and the hurt of Holocaust denial.

The banning of the Nazi symbol is an important step in addressing the rise of white supremacy and the far right here in Victoria. The rise of white supremacy and the far right is one of the biggest and most disturbing challenges we face as a state, in particular when it comes to social harmony. We have seen Neo-Nazis openly congregating in the Grampians. We have seen attempts to recruit people into ultranationalist far-right movements during the pandemic. Toxic racism and threats against individuals and against communities are increasing. There is much work to be done to build a truly anti-racist and anti-fascist Victoria. We must address structural racism, dismantle white supremacy and reckon with our past. We should be a state, and a country even, that does all it can to outlaw and take a stand against racial vilification. We should be a state and we should be a country that welcomes people and provides safety to those who are fleeing persecution.

I am so pleased that the Victorian Parliament is conducting an inquiry into far-right extremism, an inquiry the Greens helped establish. They are doing really important work to identify these movements, their reach and their recruitment methods and to better understand the threats that they pose to Victoria, especially to Victoria’s multicultural communities, along with how to counter these movements and protect those most affected.

I note the Minister for Crime Prevention mentioned in her second-reading speech that this legislation will be part of a broader package of reforms to strengthen anti-vilification protections in Victoria, and I welcome these too. History has shown us just how dangerous these hateful ideologies can be. We need to protect our community and counter them. I commend this bill to the house.

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