Top row: incoming NSW Jewish Board of Deputies vice-president David Ossip, Holocaust survivor Eddy Boas, Hindu Council of Australia vice-president Surinder Jain and NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Darren Bark. Bottom row: Vaucluse MP Gabrielle Upton, Attorney-General Mark Speakman, Multiculturalism Minister Mark Coure, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Lesli Berger and vice-president Nathalie Samia. Photo: Noel Kessel

Carly Adno
The Australian Jewish News
August 18, 2022

THE NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD) has been commended for its role in the bill to ban the public display of all Nazi symbols without a reasonable excuse across New South Wales.

The bill passed both houses of NSW Parliament last week with unanimous support (including from the Greens) and is a historic moment for NSW.

It’s also an Australian-first. While Victorian legislation passed a similar bill in June of this year, the NSW ban will be enacted sooner than the six-month wait time in Victoria.

The bill deliberately takes the approach of not defining the term ‘Nazi symbol’ to ensure that the offence is broad enough to capture all relevant traditional, well-known symbols associated with the Nazi regime, and not just the Nazi Hakenkreuz.

The bill also encompasses material displayed online and through social media, which is a “game-changer” in tackling online hate.

The new offence will carry a maximum penalty of 12 months’ imprisonment or an $11,000 fine, or both for an individual, or a fine of $55,000 for a corporation.

It was Walt Secord, deputy chair of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel, who introduced a private member’s bill to Parliament late last year to ban Nazi symbols, but he paid tribute to the tireless work of the NSW JBD in getting it over the line.

He also acknowledged the historic, joint submission from the NSW JBD and the Hindu Council of Australia.

“We would not be debating this bill if not for the work of the NSW JBD and the Hindu Council of Australia,” Secord said.

“I particularly single out the NSW JBD CEO Darren Bark and the NSW JBD president Lesli Berger for their tireless efforts and support of this campaign to ban the public display of Nazi symbols.

“They forged a historic agreement with the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist communities. In fact, they prepared a joint submission spelling out their views and a path forward to addressing their mutual concerns, to protect the sacred symbol of the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist faiths, which was appropriated by the Nazis. The joint submission was inspired and breathtaking; it was a bold exercise in public policy on how to convince and persuade legislators.

“People will rush to take credit for this bill, but Mr Bark and Mr Berger must be recognised.”

Bark said it’s a historic moment for NSW and “a significant blow to those who promote hate and vilification in our community”.

“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 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.

“We acknowledge and thank the NSW government, the Opposition, the Hindu community and all MPs who joined together in taking a stand against hate, wherever it appears.”

Hindu Council of Australia national vice-president Surinder Jain said: “For the Hindu community, today is extra special. This legislation will not only protect our community from those who wish to cause harm, it frees our sacred swastika from its indoor prison.

“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.

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

Attorney-General Mark Speakman said it’s a significant moment for survivors of the Holocaust and their loved ones.

“The events that occurred under the Nazi regime represent one of the darkest periods of recorded human history,” Speakman 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.”