This week, State Labor unanimously approved a draft bill for public consultation to ban the Nazi flag and swastika in NSW.

September 10, 2021

The package was put forward by NSW Shadow Police Minister Walt Secord and NSW Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism Steve Kamper.

It was approved by Shadow Cabinet on September 6 and by full Labor caucus a day later via special zoom meetings at State Parliament.

On September 2, the Victorian Government announced that it would be the first Australian jurisdiction to legislate a ban on the public display of Nazi symbols. This is expected to occur in the first half of 2022. It is also in recognition of the rise in neo-Nazi activity in Australia and its role in inciting hate behaviour.

Under the NSW proposal, the Crimes Amendment (Display of Nazi Symbols) Bill 2021, it will become an offence to display of symbols of Nazi ideology, including the Nazi swastika and Nazi flag.

Mr Secord and Mr Kamper will also work with senior Labor frontbencher Daniel Mookhey to ensure that the Hindu, Buddhist and Jainism faiths are exempt under the proposed legislation – responding to their concerns. (Mr Mookhey was the first MP to be sworn into an Australian Parliament on the Hindu religious text The Bhagavad Gita.)

In fact, the draft legislation already states: “to avoid doubt, does not include a swastika used in connection with Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism”.

In NSW, there has been a long-running campaign by Mr Secord and it was renewed in early 2020 after a number of high-profile incidents including someone attaching a Nazi flag to a water tower at Wagga Wagga and a person hanging a flag from their backyard in Newtown, just 350 metres from the local synagogue.

In 2020, documents obtained under freedom of information laws showed that in a two-year period NSW Police had reported 112 incidents of anti-Semitism, including 31 Nazi flag incidents.

Right-wing extremism is on the rise in Australia, as it is across the world.

ASIO director-general Mike Burgess said in February 2020, not only does the violent right-wing currently account for a third of its counter-terrorism work (an increase from 10 and 15 per cent prior to 2016) but the organisation has observed small cells of these terrorists meeting across the country, saluting Nazi flags, inspecting weapons and training.

Recently, there has been activity related to conspiracy theories and COVID, lock-downs and the anti-vaxxer movement.

Walt Secord said: “The Nazi flag is deeply offensive to all Australian and allied veterans who fought and sacrificed to defeat fascism. Displaying the symbols of an enemy that Australians died to defeat is an affront to them, to survivors of the Holocaust and to all of their collective descendants.”

Steve Kamper added: “The Nazi flag is an emblem of genocide and racism. The decision to fly a Nazi flag is a simple expression of hatred. The Nazi swastika represents a regime that murdered six million Jews, including more than a million children. It represents a regime that sought nothing less than total fascist domination of Europe.”

Currently, it is unlawful in many European countries, including Germany, Austria and France, to publicly fly the Nazi flag.

To ensure that the draft legislation is workable and has community support, NSW Labor will carry public consultation.

Under the plan, the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board will provide exemptions, where necessary. There should be some scope for exemptions for television, films and plays and other works that report or interpret this period of history in good faith such as a reading of the Diary of Anne Frank.

It must also be noted that the swastika is an ancient symbol incorporated in a number of cultures and faiths including the Hindu, Buddhism and Jainism faiths, but it was then misappropriated by the Nazis. The NSW Indian Diaspora has already expressed the need for an exemption relating to their community and NSW Labor will ensure their rights are protected.

The NSW Association of Jewish Ex-servicemen and Women; NSW Jewish Board of Deputies; the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry have all expressed support.

A May 2021 survey of 3,459 respondents by Plus 61J and Monash University on Australian attitudes to Jewish people, antisemitism and Israel found that 62 per cent of Australians believed “the Nazi symbol should be banned in Australia”. The remainder reported 12 per cent disagreed and 25 per cent neither agreed or disagreed.

The proposed penalties would be in line with current anti-race hate or racial vilification laws in NSW.

The CEO of The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies Darren Bark told J-Wire: “The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies considers the public display of Nazi symbols to be offensive not only to the Jewish community and the memory of those who died in the Holocaust, but also to the memory of the thousands of Australian servicemen who fought and died to protect the world from Nazy tyranny in the Second World War.

We welcome any move to counter the surge of violent extremist ideology occurring both globally and here in Australia. Any measures should be targeted and effective and we look forward to providing feedback on the NSW Labor Party’s draft bill.

The banning of the Nazi swastika should be part of a broader strategy which includes educational programs against all forms of bigotry.”