‘Well and truly time’ to make symbols of hate a crime

14 June 2023

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has introduced a bill to ban the display of two Nazi symbols. Photo: Joel Carrett/AAP

Maeve Bannister
June 14, 2023

Australians are being sent a clear message that there is no excuse for displays of hate, as a proposal to ban Nazi and Islamic State symbols enters federal parliament.

If passed, the criminal code would be amended to prohibit hate symbols and will see people who display the insignia face the prospect of prison time.

The law would apply to the Nazi hakenkreuz, the Nazi double sig rune, and the Islamic State flag.

Selling, renting or leasing memorabilia containing the symbols will also be made an offence and banned in retail and online stores.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus introduced the proposal to parliament on Wednesday.

He said the two Nazi symbols, known as the Schutzstaffel insignia, represented the Third Reich and conjured fear in many Australians whose families suffered the horrors of the Holocaust during World War II.

The symbols are also used to promote hatred against other marginalised groups, including LGBTQI Australians.

Similarly, the attorney-general said the Islamic State flag represented the “abhorrent actions” of the terrorist organisation.

Despite no longer controlling territory in Iraq and Syria, Mr Dreyfus said Islamic State remained an active terrorist group that regularly attacked security forces and civilians.

“Extremist insignia are an effective propaganda tool because they are easy to remember and understand,” he told parliament.

“They also transcend language and cultural divides.

“The Albanese government is taking a significant step towards sending a message that Australia is united against displays of hate.”

Mr Dreyfus said a section of the reforms making public display of the symbols an offence was designed to stamp out harassment and vilification of communities targeted by Nazi, neo-Nazi and Islamic State supporters.

But the legislation would not affect the use of the swastika for people observing Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

The attorney-general said a ban on displaying the Islamic State flag would signify an important distinction between a terrorist group and the deeply respected Islamic faith.

Displaying the symbols for journalistic, educational or artistic purposes would be exempt from the ban.

“These offences have been carefully considered and crafted so as not to capture legitimate uses of these symbols,” Mr Dreyfus said.

“For example, public display for the purposes of education is permitted so the horrors of the Second World War are not forgotten and can continue to be taught as a lesson for future generations.”

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Darren Bark said Nazi symbols had no place in Australia.

“NSW has strong laws banning these disgusting symbols, including those posted online and on social media,” he told AAP.

“It is well and truly time the rest of our country followed NSW’s lead.”