Australia: Public display of Nazi flags and memorabilia bearing swastikas banned in New South Wales following parliamentary inquiry

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The ban was passed with unanimous support by the NSW government.  (Photo: www.abc.net.au/news) © Provided by ABC NEWS The ban was passed with unanimous support by the NSW government.  (Photo: www.abc.net.au/news)

Knowingly displaying Nazi flags or memorabilia bearing swastikas has been outlawed in New South Wales, with offenders facing up to a year's jail time or a possible fine of over $100,000.

The Crimes Amendment (Prohibition on display of Nazi symbols) Bill 2022 swiftly passed in the state's upper house on Thursday with unanimous support.

It followed an inquiry earlier this year which recommended a ban on the public display of Nazi symbols in a bid to tackle rising anti-Semitism.

It made NSW the second state in Australia to pass the landmark legislation after Victoria in June.

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NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Darren Bark described the passing of the law as a historic day for NSW.

"Nazi symbols are a gateway to violence and are used as a recruitment tool by extremists," he said.

"Banning their display is a long-overdue and much-needed law in our state. The perpetrators will finally be held to account.

"The legislation is also a game-changer in tackling online hate.

"It is time our tech companies step up and ensure these illegal symbols are removed from their platforms, and the offenders banned and prosecuted."

The Holocaust was the genocide perpetrated by the Nazi regime in Germany that killed some six million Jews and other minority groups including homosexuals, black people and Roma people during World War II.

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NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the bill's passing was a significant moment for Holocaust survivors and their families.

"The events that occurred under the Nazi regime represent one of the darkest periods of recorded human history," he said.

"The atrocities committed during that period are almost unimaginable, and the intergenerational trauma they have caused continues to be felt by many people today.

"This new offence sends a clear message that the display of Nazi symbols, and the hatred and bigotry they represent will not, and should not, be tolerated.

"This new criminal offence will provide important, additional safeguards against hate speech and vilification in our state."

A section in the bill allows for the swastika symbol to be used in academic, historical or educational settings where it is in the public interest.

The section paves the way for its display by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains in which it holds religious significance.

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"For too long, the Hindu community has not felt comfortable to display our symbol of peace because it resembled a symbol of evil. This is no longer," said Hindu Council of Australia national vice-president Surinder Jain.

"We were so pleased to work with the Jewish community to make this a reality.

"Thank you to everyone involved in this important work for the benefit of our entire community."

Mr Bark noted the legislation was also "a game-changer in tackling online hate" and called on tech companies to ramp up efforts to remove imagery and symbols associated with Nazism.

Labor's Walt Secord, a member of the parliamentary committee examining the ban of Nazi symbols and an ardent advocate for the bill, said 31 incidents of displaying the Nazi flag were reported to the police in 2020.

Many members from the government and Opposition in the upper house recounted personal stories of their families' lived experiences enduring the Holocaust.

Others warned of the dangers of rising neo-Nazi trends.

Mr Secord referred to a NSW man arrested by counter-terrorism police in September found to be in possession of a Nazi flag and a map of the state on his bedroom wall.

The man had planned to make a 3D-printed gun.

ASIO said in 2020 that far-right violent extremism with its emphasis on neo-Nazi ideology made up around 40 per cent of its counter-terrorism caseload.

ABC/AAP

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