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April 4, 2022 3:02 pm
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New South Wales to Ban Public Display of Nazi Flags, Swastikas

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

A swastika flag flying in the backyard of a house in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

The Australian state of New South Wales is preparing to pass legislation that would outlaw waving Nazi flags and publicly displaying memorabilia featuring swastikas.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the government is set on introducing a bill criminalizing the public display of Nazi symbols in order to “provide an additional safeguard to the existing protections in NSW against vilifying conduct,” Australian Associated Press reported on Sunday.

Under the proposed law, the maximum penalty for violators would be a $5,500 AUD fine ($4,151 USD), imprisonment for six months, or both. The bill was introduced by Labor MP Walt Secord, who has advocated for banning the public display of Nazi symbols for two years.

“Sadly, we are seeing a surge in far right-wing activity in Australia and overseas,” he said.

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The bill would, however, permit swastikas to be used in historical or educational settings. This would include religious purposes, such as display by Hindus.

Surinder Jain, national vice president of the Hindu Council of Australia, said that due to a “superficial resemblance between the [Hindu] Sacred Swastika and the Nazi hate symbol of Hakenkreuz, faith communities have not been able to display their sacred icon in public for fear of persecution.”

A bipartisan NSW parliamentary committee in February unanimously endorsed a ban on the public display of Nazi symbols. NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Darren Bark said the legislation “will ensure there is a clear distinction between legitimate and unlawful use of Nazi symbols. It is a much-needed law in our state.”

David Hudson, deputy commissioner of investigations and counter-terrorism at the NSW Police Force, said that the “majority of mainstream Australia find it abhorrent and disgraceful” to publicly display Nazi symbols, and that these symbols are used by “pathologically violent extremist groups” to “spread hate and incite hate crimes.”

However, he previously suggested that a general prohibition on swastikas might attract more people to display them.

In February, he told a parliamentary inquiry examining the proposed ban, “When you force something underground it gains a certain mystique and attraction for certain individuals. We’re not dealing with people who are mainstream Australia, we have individuals who align themselves to extreme right-wing ideology. The type of individuals that we deal with, will certainly be attracted to the prohibition of this type of symbol.”

Australia has one of the highest number of Holocaust survivors in the world per capita, and NSW was the first Australian state to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism in December 2021.

Last year, Victoria became the first Australian state to advance legislation outlawing the public display of Nazi symbols.

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