19 March, 2024

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 30 November 2023.)

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (16:08): I rise to speak about the Summary Offences (Nazi Salute and Symbols Prohibition) Amendment Bill 2023 and indicate the support of the Liberal Opposition.

This Bill has been introduced as a result of the Select Committee on Prohibition of Neo-Nazi Symbols, on which I had the privilege to serve with other Members of the Legislative Council. The Select Committee on Prohibition of Neo-Nazi Symbols was formed to consider whether legislation such as this to ban Neo-Nazi symbols is required to address the increasing trend of antisemitism and far-right extremism and what form of legislation it should take.

It is important that any law does not improperly impinge upon legitimate displays of Nazi symbols for educational and academic purposes, nor upon the cultural or religious use of symbols that may be mistaken for Nazi symbols. On that basis, I think it is really important that I highlight the distinction between the swastika and the Hakenkreuz.

Religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Odinism have used the swastika for thousands of years as an ancient and auspicious symbol of purity, love, peace and good fortune. The committee heard that the swastika was used in Eurasia as early as 7,000 years ago and also appeared in early Christian art. The swastika has been dated by archaeologists in Ukraine to not long after the last Ice Age. The symbol has also been used in Africa and North America.

The image of the swastika has been used extensively by Hindus to adorn their homes and temples in festivals such as Diwali and Navratri. The committee heard that the swastika is a Sanskrit word meaning will bring good luck and wellbeing or good fortune. The Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia advise that the swastika has more than 10,000 years of positive association behind it, continuing actively to this day, and more than a billion people continue this tradition. The History Trust of South Australia stresses the importance of ensuring that this symbol can continue to be used in this context to protect South Australia's cultural and linguistic diversity.

I just want to highlight, however, the misappropriation of the swastika by Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers' Party. The Nazis modified the swastika and created the Hakenkreuz as a symbol of Nazi Germany.

That distinction and clarification shows respect for the fact that, with this Bill, we need to consider all factors when imposing on our multicultural communities and ensure that the banning of this Nazi salute or symbol does not apply to those religious and multicultural communities.

Evidence heard by the committee showed strong support for the banning of Neo-Nazi symbols. I want to highlight some of it. We did not really have the opportunity to finish the select committee's gathering of other evidence due to many delays of meetings and also the postponement and rescheduling of meetings, so therefore I think it is really important to highlight some of the evidence we heard. Those in full support included the History Trust of South Australia. In their submission, they mentioned that:

“[Legislation] to prohibit the display of such symbols [is] one way to work towards a South Australia that truly celebrates cultural diversity, rejects racism and antisemitism and is a welcoming and safe society for all.

The German Bund der Bayern group say:

“I strongly agree with a prohibition of Nazi symbols, in support of a cohesive, multicultural society, in which Nazi-ideology must not be tolerated.

The Jewish Community Council of South Australia and Vishva Hindu Parishad of Australia made a joint submission, so a Jewish community group as well as a Hindu organisation made a submission, which stated:

“Use of the Hakenkreuz outside of education and other limited purposes is culturally abhorrent, harkening back to the Holocaust, simultaneously bringing hurt to Jews as well as desecrating a symbol holy to Hindu, Jain and Buddhist people.

Some evidence supported the banning of the Nazi symbols but expressed the view that it may have little impact on the hate and antisemitism experienced by Jewish people and other minority groups. The Islamic Society of South Australia, for example, made a submission and they said:

“We submit that while prohibiting Neo-Nazi symbols is a worthy proposal, that it will not improve the experience of the majority of individuals, families and communities that are targeted by hate incidents and crime, whether online or offline. It will not disrupt dehumanising and violent-inducing conspiracy theories, such as Great Replacement theory online, and it will not protect victims of street harassment and public acts of hatred.

The Australian Jewish Association said:

“[The Australian Jewish Association] supports prohibiting the public display of Nazi symbols, although with reservations about its effectiveness…By narrowly focusing on countering one form of historic antisemitism, the more pressing instances of antisemitism if left unaddressed, will grow.

The Jewish Community Council of South Australia said:

“The contemporary antisemitism experienced by Jewish Australians is broader than those arising from Nazi, Neo-Nazi and far-right ideologies.

The Adjunct Associate Professor Matthew Goode, Faculty of Law at the University of Adelaide, said:

“I do not think it is possible, as with anything, to eradicate something by passing a law against it…[but] I think the effort is worth making; it is a statement of what the parliament and the government believes. It discourages people…It will encourage police to collect information about extremist organisations…

Some evidence was collected from historians and collectors. They showed concern that their activities would be prohibited by the legislation, and I quote the Military Arms Preservation Society, which:

“…certainly agrees with the intent of the Draft Bill. However, MAPS is concerned that in its current form and thus enacted, could be open to misinterpretation, which may lead to persons putting on legitimate historical displays being prosecuted.

Of course, that later is addressed by the Bill. A few submissions were completely opposed to the ban. I put on the record the level of diverse views that were expressed by different witnesses when they came in to present. Michael Swan said:

“Australia holds its place in the world as a society of tolerance and diversity but in this particular act it shows complete and utter disregard for education and tries to hide abuse of the Hakenkreuz/Swastika by removing the symbol in its entirety. If other religious icons become offensive, then here is the precedent to allow abuse of the law to remove them also if this legislation is enacted…

I am pleased that the work of the select committee, through this evidence, was able to inform the Government to later draft the Bill in its current form and to take into consideration all the evidence that we have heard. I believe that this Bill now includes a prohibition of the Nazi salute or an image of a Nazi salute in addition to the symbol. In addition to the Hakenkreuz, it prohibits any other symbol associated with the Nazis or the Nazi ideology, and includes the prohibition of publishing a Nazi symbol on a website or social media platform.

Due to the growing concerns about the rise in public activities by the self-professed Neo-Nazi groups, involving unacceptable display of Nazi symbols and the salute, these symbols are definitely associated with racial hatred, violence and intolerance. The threat of racial and religious hatred, violence and intolerance will seriously destabilise our diverse and accepting society and therefore the banning of them needs to be taken into consideration and it is timely for this Bill to finally be introduced.

The clauses and intent of this Bill are in line with strong support, which I mentioned before through the evidence I quoted earlier. I want to turn my attention to look at three sections that this Bill will insert into the Summary Offences Act 1953. Firstly, new section 32A defines the terms and is fairly self-explanatory. The important aspect to note here is that in defining the Nazi salute or the Hakenkreuz and other Nazi symbols, it captures gestures that so nearly resemble a salute that it is likely to be mistaken for that salute, and symbols that so nearly resemble a Nazi symbol that they are likely to be mistaken for such a symbol.

The definition is really important because it captures all acts and uses of symbols that are harmful, particularly as Neo-Nazi groups may continuously modify Nazi symbols for the purpose of secrecy or in an attempt to skirt around the regulations. This allows for law enforcement officers to execute the parameters of their job without obstruction or confusion.

New section 32C allows a police officer to give a direction to a person to remove from display a Nazi symbol, if a police officer reasonably believes the display constitutes an offence. Given the definitions in section 32A, a police officer could reasonably believe that an individual has used a Nazi salute or symbol, even if it is a similar or modified gesture or symbol, and could act swiftly to protect others without any ambiguity on their part.

The Bill has an additional separate offence for failing to comply with a police direction to remove the prohibited symbol to ensure that the offending material is promptly removed from public display. Creating these offences in this Bill will also ensure that police have the necessary powers to direct anyone publicly displaying the Nazi symbol in breach of legislation to move on and to cease the offending conduct.

Finally, new section 32B allows for a defence against a prohibited act if the act was engaged in for a legitimate public purpose. I mentioned earlier the distinction that many multicultural groups and religious groups use a similar symbol called the swastika, and this would be accepted and not considered as an offence. This includes genuine academic, artistic, religious or scientific purposes, and genuine cultural or educational purposes, and the making or publishing of a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest is acceptable.

What the stipulations do allow is that this bill does not restrict the freedom of speech and political communication that we are all guaranteed. The bill ensures that sufficiently broad defences are available for innocent displays of Nazi symbols including for religious, academic, artistic, educational, cultural, scientific, law enforcement or journalistic purposes.

As the Shadow Minister for Multicultural South Australia, it is really important to protect the multifaith society and provide that reassurance that Buddhists, Hindu and Jain faith communities potentially using some of the symbols or recognising the symbols as a way toward love, peace and wellbeing can be protected.

I am very pleased that this Bill also provides definitions within the legislation in line with other jurisdictions that have put forward similar legislation, including Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania.

These definitions are, in fact, the same as the Victorian Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Act 2022. That particular legislation has been supported by the Adelaide Holocaust Museum and the Andrew Steiner Education Centre, and the History Trust of South Australia in their submissions to the committee, some of which I have already quoted in my contribution.

In my closing remarks, I would once again like to thank all the stakeholders who came forward to provide evidence, their experience and case studies to fully inform the committee and help the development of this particular Bill for Government. I want to place my thanks on the public record for their contributions and also to thank the other Honourable Members who participated on the select committee. With those words, I support the passage of the Bill.