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Testimony: Criminal Code Amendment (Prohibit Nazi Symbols) Bill 2023

May 3, 2023 | AIJAC

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

AIJAC testimony to the Federal Senate on the Criminal Code Amendment (Prohibit Nazi Symbols) Bill 2023

 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to our written submission – and to make additional comments on the Criminal Code Amendment (Prohibit Nazi Symbols) Bill 2023.

I am Dr Colin Rubenstein, executive director of Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) and I am also joined by the Honourable Walt Secord, who is AIJAC’s Director of Public Affairs.

Previously, he was a Member of the NSW Parliament for almost 12 years and was shadow minister for police. He was instrumental in the passage of the bipartisan bill which banned the public display of Nazi symbols in NSW.

Senators would be aware that expert groups that monitor extremist activity have reported a worrying increase in recent years in such activity, nationally, particularly in Victoria and also in NSW.

For example in the period from June 2018 to April 2020, NSW Police reported 31 separate incidents where the Nazi flag was flown in the State, including from a water tower at Robertson Oval in Wagga Wagga (February 2020) to a backyard facing the Newtown synagogue (April 2020).

We never thought we’d see neo-Nazis giving Nazi salutes outside the Victorian Parliament or groups giving Nazi salutes at Sydney soccer matches.

Nazi salutes and Nazi symbols are universally recognised messages of hate and genocide.

They are used to frighten, intimidate, and hurt their targets.

So AIJAC wholeheartedly supports this legislation which aligns with our values and heritage as Australians.

We would like to see it enacted on a national basis to complement NSW (December 2022) and Victorian (June 2022) legislation with Tasmania and Queensland having similar bills under consideration.

That said, Australia would not be breaking new ground as a nation. In fact, we are decades behind.

National anti-Nazi symbol laws have been in place in a number of other overseas jurisdictions for years such as Austria, France, Germany with Nazi gestures also proscribed in some countries.

As we said in our submission, this bill would have a “chilling and deterrent effect” on racist elements, help marginalise them and will strengthen our multicultural harmony.

Unfortunately, the reality is a segment of the population will always hold abhorrent racial beliefs regardless of any educational or legislative policy, but we believe that this bill will marginalise and punish such people.

This legislation will send a clear message to the community that we as a nation will not tolerate those who seek to divide us, who promote such toxic, abhorrent bigotry and racism; an ideology characterised by industrialised genocide and mass murder.

Senators, we believe what we have here is a sensible, constructive piece of legislation.

It strikes a balance on freedom of expression, there are exemptions for academic, artistic, and educational purposes and also important exemptions for religious groups like the Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist faiths.

Finally, we support the tough penalties in the bill, financial and jail terms, and there could be both applied in a given case.

In conclusion, of course there are other questions we urge the Senators to pay close attention to, including the definition of symbols:

Are body tattoos and markings related to Nazi symbols covered?

Will online and social media be addressed as in the NSW legislation?

And should extra police powers to take action to end public displays and generally assist law enforcement in early intervention be included too?

To conclude, AIJAC has long advocated banning Nazi symbols including the Nazi salute – so we wholeheartedly commend this bill. Thank you.

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