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Federal government to ban Nazi symbols, but not salutes

TJI Wrap
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Published: 9 June 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

The Nazi Hakenkreuz (swastika) and Schutzstaffel (SS symbol) will be banned but the Attorney-General says offensive gestures are a matter for state law.

The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures) Bill will be introduced into parliament next week, outlining a ban on symbols related to Nazis or the SS, including on flags, armbands, T-shirts in public and online, with a maximum penalty of up to 12 months’ imprisonment.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said tackling far-right extremism was a priority for the government and the measures will work alongside the moves some states have made to ban Nazi symbols in their jurisdictions.

"This bill is going to complement the work of the states and ensure that there are no loopholes and we will have all governments working together to ban the display and trade of these evil symbols," he said.

The legislation will outlaw the Nazi Hakenkreuz (the Nazis form of the swastika, rotated to the right without the traditional dots) and Schutzstaffel (SS) symbols.

But it will not include the swastika, which is a much older symbol significant in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism,

The government has also stopped short of banning the Nazi salute.

"The Nazi salute is an offensive gesture that has no place in Australian society, but we think that the banning of these gestures is a matter for State and Territory laws," Dreyfus said.

"We need to make a start. This may not be the end of what we do to criminalise hate speech, this kind of conduct — we need to make it absolutely clear that there's no place in Australia for Nazi symbols that glorify the horrors of the Holocaust."

Jewish groups are divided on the effectiveness of these laws. Submissions to the recent federal government inquiry from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the Sydney Jewish Museum, and the Online Hate Prevention Institute argued for more comprehensive bans.

But other submissions, including from the Australian Federal Police, expressed concern about the effectiveness and enforceability of bans.

ECAJ co-CEO Peter Wertheim welcomed the proposed bans, particularly the proposals to ban the trade in items featuring certain Nazi symbols, and to empower police to issue directions to remove Nazi symbols from public display.

But he expressed concern about the decision to exclude the salute and other neo-Nazi symbols.


Federal government set to introduce national ban on Nazi symbols (ABC)

 Australia to ban Nazi symbols but not the salute, Mark Dreyfus says (Guardian)

Swastika ban will be easily circumvented, government inquiry told  (The Jewish Independent)

We need good vilification laws, not knee-jerk bans on Nazi symbols (The Jewish Independent)

Racism, homophobia fuelling thousands of crimes in New Zealand each year, figures show (Guardian)
Data obtained by the Guardian reveals for the first time a breakdown of hate-motivated crimes, with Jewish and Muslim people disproportionately targeted.

Has one of the world's biggest neo-Nazis stopped hating Jews? (Haaretz)
For 25 years, Jeff Schoep headed the biggest neo-Nazi group in the United States. What made him renounce his past – and why do many find it hard to believe him? “For the first time, something cracked in my belief in what I was doing,” he tells Haaretz

Photo: A Nazi  flag featuring a hakenkreuz for sale at the Gladstone Harbour Festival in Queensland in 2006 (AAP/Chris Donaghy)

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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