Tuesday, 7 June 2022
Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022
Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022
Mr HAMER (Box Hill) (14:50): I would like to conclude my contribution in relation to the educational provisions of the legislation and to talk about some of the amazing work that our educators are doing to combat antisemitism. It is really important that the bill does recognise that the symbol of the Hakenkreuz can continue to be shown for an educational purpose just to demonstrate what that symbol actually meant and how it generated the hatred that it did.
Two particular institutions I want to single out. The Jewish Holocaust centre in Elsternwick for so many years have been educating not only school groups but many other members of the public through their artefacts and the testimonies of survivors who talk about the Holocaust and everything that happened. The other organisation is Courage to Care. It is an organisation that is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and has outreach to schools and students to talk about the importance of standing up against all forms of racism and antisemitism. That is exactly what this bill is about, and I am proud to support this bill.
Ms KEALY (Lowan) (14:52): I am very proud today to rise to speak on the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022. One of the key reasons behind this bill, of course, is banning the Nazi swastika and Nazi symbols in Victoria. For my region this has been somewhat of a hot topic. It has been discussed widely throughout the community because the Grampians, a beautiful part of the state, is within my electorate. I think it came as a surprise to most people in my electorate to see a group of young men brandishing a Nazi flag and doing a Nazi salute at the same time and to hear reports of them chanting. In the first instance it appeared that it was locals that were doing that. Very rapidly we found that it was not; it was actually some sort of coordinated meeting point, which unfortunately just happened to be in my electorate. That in its own right had an enormous impact on my community and created a lot of debate over whether that was welcome in our community or not. I can say unequivocally that that sort of celebration—if you would like to put it that way—utilising such negative symbolism, which is representative of horrific outcomes for the Jewish community, with 6 million Jews killed as part of the Holocaust, is not something that is welcome in our community.
We find so often in country Victoria that we are persecuted as being rednecks and in some ways that we are behind the eight ball or behind where people who live in metropolitan areas of the state are, but can I just put it unequivocally on the record that hate, no matter how it looks, and particularly symbolism which commemorates and looks to celebrate and perhaps in some instances bring back that horrible instance in our lifetime of the Holocaust, is not welcome in any corner of the electorate of Lowan. It is not welcome anywhere in country Victoria. It is not welcome anywhere in Victoria, Australia or around the world.
It is very, very welcome seeing this legislation come through Parliament, which of course comes on the back of an initial call and great work by my colleague the member for Caulfield and the former upper house member Mr O’Donohue, who did an enormous amount of work on a proposal that we brought through back in 2020, which was a proposal to ban the Nazi swastika and also Nazi symbolism in Victoria.
The Lowan electorate is very, very large. It is one-sixth of the state. Following the election it will be about one-fifth of the state. Just outside the boundary, though, to the north, the Lowan boundary between the Lowan electorate and the Mildura electorate actually follows the old rabbit-proof or dog-proof fence, and on one side is the beautiful community of Brim, which is home to the Brim art silos. It is an absolutely wonderful community and always very, very welcoming, and I recommend everyone to go through and have a look at the silos and drop into McPherson’s store while they are there for a coffee. Just 10 or 15 minutes up the road is the community of Beulah. It is on the other side of the netting fence, in the Mildura electorate, but it certainly still feels very much like part of my community. It is still within the Yarriambiack Shire Council, of which most is in my electorate, and I have very close contact with the councillors that cover that region and also the Beulah community itself.
It was a great surprise to hear of a Nazi flag being flown within this tiny rural community, which really keeps itself out of the news and is probably prouder of the work that they do in the community supporting one another. So to hear that and to see a Nazi flag being flown in a community where a Holocaust survivor was also living, and having that in view of the Holocaust survivor, was very confronting and caused an enormous amount of distress for those within the community and the broader Yarriambiack area, or the Southern Mallee.
I certainly commend the work of local police who took action to get that flag removed under the limitations that they had, but they did a great amount of work to make sure from a community perspective that particularly the Holocaust survivor was protected as quickly as possible from this exhibition of a flag which was deliberately designed to instil fear, to instil hatred and to bring back the memories of that Holocaust survivor and what they had gone through and what they had survived earlier in their life.
I also commend the work of the Yarriambiack Shire Council and particularly the councillors and the mayor, because they did a fantastic amount of work to try to protect the community of Beulah from in the future being seen as an icon, basically, where you could go and where the concept of Neo-Nazism or Nazism would be welcomed or celebrated in any way. I think that Yarriambiack Shire Council did a fantastic job in categorically stating that that is not welcome in that community—that they will not tolerate that level of hatred being shown in their community. They were willing to take a very public stand about that, and so they should be commended for that.
This bill, which I will not have an opportunity to go into in great detail, because I am limited in time, does contain provisions which will make the public display of Nazi symbols an offence. There have been some concerns from members of my community who have a collection of wartime memorabilia. They have been deeply concerned that this may mean that they have to dispose of that material or memorabilia. It is my understanding that this act will not prohibit them from owning that material but it will prohibit them from publicly exhibiting it in an area, particularly when it comes to how that may be interpreted in the community, and the example that I gave earlier around the flag being flown in Beulah is a perfect example of this.
This bill has been drafted so that museum displays or items in a local RSL which include the Nazi swastika will still be able to be displayed for educational purposes. There will still be the opportunity for our educators to be able to share the stories of the Holocaust, of the horrors that took place and also of the harm that it did to that particular group and the genocide that took place, with 6 million Jews killed through the Holocaust. It is important that while we do not celebrate what happened through the Neo-Nazi period, we need to teach our children what happened so that they know it is not tolerated—that we will remember the harms and we will remember the people who were killed during that period of time—in an effort to make sure that that dark period of our history is never, ever repeated.
There has been some talk recently through the media which we have seen. I think everyone has been following very closely the Russian war in Ukraine, and there are some concerns around an iteration of the Nazi swastika being utilised in the form of a Z on various tanks and clothing. We are seeing that more frequently proliferated throughout the community. While of course, and I will make this very clear, this legislation before us strictly defines Nazi symbols and Neo-Nazi symbolism and is not intended to keep on going and to be expanded to restrict freedom of speech, this is not so much about freedom of speech; it is really about prohibiting that horrific period where there was genocide. The Nazi symbol, the swastika, is a symbol of that genocide and in some ways still celebrates that that was a good thing when we know it was horrifically not a good thing. It is something that is certainly a dark period of our past. It is something we must learn from, and it is something we must all make an effort to make sure does not occur again in the future.
In the last minute I have remaining I would like to make note that the Liberals and Nationals have committed to bringing this forward, to making this bill an act and bringing it into power as soon as we are elected should we be elected on the last Saturday in November this year. I note that the bill as it was initially presented to this Parliament had a 12-month lead time, which was explained to be for an educational round—the Nazi swastika being prohibited as opposed to a similar symbol utilised in other religions. We have since seen an amendment through this place that would bring it forward to six months, which is a good step forward. However, I think there is still a mechanism. We know that there is an immediate need to act now. We are still seeing attacks with the usage of the swastika in a negative way through Jewish communities right across the state. I therefore urge the government to take on board the Liberal-Nationals position— (Time expired)
Ms SULEYMAN (St Albans) (15:02): I too rise and echo the sentiments of the previous speakers and contribute on the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022. I am extremely proud because this is a historic moment where we are making a contribution on this bill and we are united in our stand. On 3 March last year I tabled in this Parliament on behalf the Legal and Social Issues Committee the report of the inquiry into anti-vilification protections. That was a report that took about two years. During that time our inquiry received more than 70 submissions, and I would like to specifically thank and acknowledge the contributions of the committee members: the member for Caulfield, the member for Geelong, the member for Clarinda, the member for Brighton at the time and the member for Buninyong. We all worked very hard, united, to achieve, we believe, a fair and balanced report. The inquiry of course heard from many incredible organisations, multifaith groups and witnesses that gave evidence in this inquiry.
Some stories that we have heard to date—and I want to make note of the story that was shared by the member for Box Hill—what a proud moment for him and his family and to hear the story from the member for Box Hill. A number of contributions have been made from both sides of this chamber. During the inquiry we heard experiences of vilification and abuse and the rise of hate. One that I was really surprised by was that after New Zealand, the terrorist attack, there was a tripling of hate crimes towards the Muslim community. There has been a rise in hate crimes towards the Jewish community.
I really do believe that this report was a landmark piece of work, and I am very pleased to welcome the strong support that we received particularly among key stakeholders across Victoria and across Australia. In that report the Legal and Social Issues Committee found that there had been, as I said, a very strong increase in hate symbols, and we see it all too well, whether it is through the media or whether it is firsthand experiences in our local communities. It does not matter where you live—we have all been affected by the rise in hate crimes.
We have heard ways to tackle this, but our state needed a historic reform—a reform that meant that action will be taken. Today that action will be taken. This bill will create an offence in the Summary Offences Act 1966 which prohibits a person from intentionally displaying the Nazi hate symbol in a public place if the person knows or reasonably ought to know that the Nazi hate symbol is a symbol associated with Nazi ideology. This will mean that Nazi hate symbols or symbols that closely resemble these will be prohibited in Victoria.
Recently we have heard of other states that will follow Victoria’s lead. As I said, this will set the standard, making it very, very clear that there is no place for hatred in our community. There is no place for Nazi hate symbols in our community—and not only because they impact the Victorian Jewish community. An attack on one community is an attack on all communities, and we should never forget that. This symbol has not only been used as a symbol of hate, fear and violence; it has been used on other communities as well. That is why we needed to take action. That is why we needed to have the appropriate consultations to hear evidence from those that have been affected. I am extremely proud to see this government will be the first in Australia to take a stand and ban the public display of the Nazi symbol, the hate symbol that we all know too well, which does not belong not only in this state but in our nation.
This bill fulfils a Victorian government commitment and our collective commitment to implement recommendation 24 of the inquiry into anti-vilification protections: to ban the public display of Nazi hate symbols in this state. Our government is committed to protecting the rights of all Victorians to be free from racism, vilification and hatred and to ensuring everyone feels welcome and accepted in this state and of course in this country. Whether you were born here or whether you were born overseas, whether you are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist, no matter what your religion, faith or colour, you belong as one. Most importantly, we must prevent any form of harm caused by hate conduct and vilification in our society. It has lasting physical and psychological effects on the wellbeing of individuals, and there are the long-term effects of these sorts of displays. We have heard too well today the many stories—some stories too horrifying to actually talk about.
The display of these symbols associated with Nazi and Neo-Nazi ideology is harmful, dangerous and offensive to all members of our society. As I said, one attack on one community is an attack on all communities. That is why we need to protect the ever-sensitive tapestry that we are very proud of in Victoria, and that is our multicultural and diverse multifaith communities. We must protect and always stand up for what is right and make sure that we are all able to be in a free, democratic state and that our race or religion will not in any way allow us to be attacked for those elements.
But importantly—and I have had the opportunity to speak to Buddhist temples in my electorate and reassure them that there are exemptions—whether it is for Hinduism, Buddhism or other religions, the legislation before us makes sure that exemptions for those faiths continue. For faith purposes they are protected and they can continue to use the symbol. These are important recommendations to make sure that we are all protected. As I said, this is not just about one community. We are sending a very clear message that hatred and symbols will be prosecuted and will not be tolerated in Victoria. More than ever before, when we are seeing globally the rise of far-right extremist groups, these sorts of laws and protections are a must in our communities. We need this bill, and we need to make sure that there are proper and sensible anti-vilification protections in place not only for the good of the Victorian community but for society in general. In doing so we are protecting individuals and we are protecting communities but, more so, we are protecting and promoting social cohesion and the harmony and tapestry of what we are all proud of—that is, multicultural Victoria.
I have tabled many reports in my time as a member, but this was one that I am truly proud of, because we really had committee members working very hard, united in trying to put forward balanced and appropriate measures. I truly believe that this one part of the report, seeing this historic moment for Victoria, is a very good thing. It is important, it is historic and it will really make a difference in our community.
Mr NEWBURY (Brighton) (15:12): I rise to speak on the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022. Victoria knows that the Nazi swastika represents racial supremacy and is in reality a symbol of mass genocide. The symbol incites hatred and has no place in modern society. This bill incorporates that position as a new community standard. It will be a law that incorporates that position as a new community standard, a standard based on our values as a state. It is a standard that the community has been calling for and one that should be brought into place immediately. This has been a difficult issue and a difficult process, and I am sure it is one that many considered deeply in the drafting of this bill, because freedom of speech is one of the pillars that sets aside our great democracy, but those freedoms should not come and cannot come at the expense or hurt of others.
As I said earlier, a symbol has the power to incite hate in the same way that a word can or an action can. That was impressed upon me so strongly several years ago, before the parliamentary committee referred to by the previous speaker had looked into the issue, before the government had considered the matter, before any of these issues were raised, when Irma Hanner looked into my eyes at the Jewish Holocaust Centre and talked to me about this issue. At the outbreak of war Irma returned home to find that her mother had been taken by the Gestapo, and she waited there for two days before her aunt found her. She was later deported to a Czechoslovakian camp, and at the end of the war her mother had not survived. She looked into my eyes at the Holocaust centre and said to me that a symbol can incite hate in the same way that a word can. Those words are the ones that I have always used in referring to this issue, her words. We know, as I said earlier, that this bill is about values, and it sets in place a community standard. It sets in place a community standard that has so deeply affected the Jewish community. Antisemitism is a significant problem in the community, and it is a huge problem in Victoria. That is why this bill is so important in this state.
If I can refer to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s most recent report on antisemitism, which covers the period of October 2020 to September 2021, they found that there were 447 antisemitic incidents logged in Australia over that period. Of that total, 272 were attacks—physical assault, verbal assault, harassment, vandalism, graffiti—and 175 were threats. In the 12 months previous to the period of that report the same bodies logged 331 incidents. That is a 35 per cent increase in one year—in one year. To break down the most recent figures, between 2020 and 2021 the four most significant categories were abuse and harassment, up 14 per cent; graffiti, a 152 per cent increase, and we know that those will be symbols; and stickers on posters the same, a 157 per cent increase. So we know the increase in antisemitism is actually in the use of a symbol. I would note, when I refer to the 447 incidents logged across Australia in one year, that between 2013 and 2020 the average was 280 per year—280 up to 447.
I mentioned just previously about the issue in Victoria, and it is an issue in Victoria. When you look at the incidents that have occurred across Australia, the 447 incidents in the last year, October 2020 to September 2021, 46 per cent of them occurred in this state. Just under half occurred in the state of Victoria. That shows that we do have an antisemitism problem in Victoria, sadly. There is a need for this bill. The increases that are occurring are in graffiti, stickers and posters, which are symbols.
This bill is needed. This incorporation of a new community standard is needed. When the coalition announced early in 2020 that it called on the government to move this amendment, we did so—the member for Caulfield and former member Ed O’Donohue—at the Holocaust centre. We sat with Holocaust survivor Joe de Haan, who had tears in his eyes as we talked to him about what we were proposing to call for, and he said, when told about this policy proposal: ‘It means a lot to me, because this symbol of Nazi Germany should have been wiped off the face of the earth years ago. I cannot understand how a person can put this flag in his garden, symbolising the horror and destruction to so many millions. It’s about time this flag is going to be banned forever’. No truer words could be said.
Mr FOWLES (Burwood) (15:21): I rise to speak on the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022, and I note the amendment. This is an important piece of legislation that will help combat racism, vilification and far-right extremism in our community. The bill creates a criminal offence prohibiting a person from intentionally displaying a Nazi symbol in a public place or in public view. Victorians have seen several recent examples of the Hakenkreuz being displayed in public, sometimes in tandem with violence and harassment. In my electorate there have been a number of examples of the Hakenkreuz being graffitied on signs, fences and pathways. It is not and will never be acceptable. It is not and will never be a valid expression of free speech. The harm of this symbol clearly massively outweighs any benefit to free speech. It is especially important for this Parliament to act on this issue, because outside of Israel Melbourne has the largest concentration of Holocaust survivors in the world. We must continue to educate Victorians about the significance of the Holocaust, not just through the government’s curriculum changes but also in conversation with our community. And a critical part of that education is hearing from survivors.
My focus today is on the story of a great woman, Halina Strnad. Halina is a Holocaust survivor, a constituent, a neighbour, a human rights activist and a dear friend. And she is also here with us today—an outcome that can only be described as a miracle upon a miracle, for the horrors and deprivations of her childhood have not stopped her living a life of passion and purpose. She sits here a magnificent 95 years of age. Halina Strnad was born Halina Wagowska, and she spent five years and nine months in captivity under the Third Reich—five years and nine months. She has told her story many times, including in her stunning book entitled The Testimony as well as through many, many interviews with Holocaust researchers. She has been an active prosecution witness, including testifying in the 2020 trial in Hamburg of Bruno Dey, an SS guard at the Stutthof death camp where Halina was a prisoner. Poignantly, Halina often described the sentiment of her and her fellow prisoners during the Holocaust in these terms: ‘If we survive, we must testify until we die’. Today I share some of her testimony with this chamber for two reasons: firstly, to put on the parliamentary record just some of the horrors of the Holocaust that was survived by our fellow Victorians; and secondly, to acknowledge the danger and deep pain associated with the Hakenkreuz and other Nazi symbols. I would like to warn those listening or watching or reading that some of the material following is graphic and distressing. Time constraints also mean of course that it is merely a snapshot of her incredible story.
Halina was born in Poland and raised in Poznań. Halina’s parents loved her and each other and were peaceful people. Both of Halina’s parents were agnostic and, while of Jewish origin, their appearance and names were not Semitic. On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland, and a few days later Halina and her family were having breakfast when a German soldier burst into their home and demanded to know if they were Jews. Halina was 12 years old. What followed was a series of events that are real and yet unimaginable. The soldier demanded their valuables: Halina father’s wallet, her mother’s silver chain and pendant with a photo inside, their wedding rings. He went through the cupboards looking for more. Neighbours who had put up the Nazi flag in their windows to show allegiance were called in by the soldier to help with removing the family’s possessions. Halina watched them remove everything of value from their home. They filled two trucks. Halina and her family were left in an unrecognisable home with almost all of their possessions taken or broken.
Eventually the Jews living in Poznań were ordered to leave their home city. Halina and her family travelled to Nazi-occupied Lódź in central Poland. At first Halina and her family could move around the city freely, but they had to wear a yellow Star of David to identify them as Jews. In Lódź, to survive, Halina had to pretend to be older than she was. Deception did not come easily. Her parents, having spent her childhood emphasising the importance of being honest, now had to teach her how to convincingly lie as a matter of life and death. They knew that Halina had to be seen as useful or she might be disappeared, as had happened to her younger cousins. Fortunately Halina was tall and had long hair that she could wear in plaits that made her seem older. They stayed with a family member until they were eventually moved into a single room in the ghetto, which was sealed off in 1940. Halina survived for 3½ years in the Lódź ghetto. Living conditions were horrendous, especially over winter. The Germans established factories in the ghetto, where Halina and her family were forced to work. There were regular public hangings, punishment for escape attempts or sabotage. The residents, or rather the prisoners, were made to watch as a deterrent. The first time Halina was made to witness a mass execution it was the public hanging of six young men. Death was all around her. The threat of execution was constant. There was no room to misstep. Many thousands of Jews perished in Lódź.
In 1944 the Nazis decided to destroy Lódź, which was by then the last remaining ghetto in German-occupied Poland. Residents were deported to various death camps, and Halina and her family were eventually deported to the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. The journey there was slow and painful on a freight train overcrowded with other inmates. At one point a soldier looked in their carriage and found a young baby. He ripped it from its mother’s arms and swung the baby by its legs, smashing its skull on the floor. Halina watched as blood and brains oozed from the baby’s skull.
In Auschwitz the horror continued. At the gates Halina and her mother were separated from her father. He waved goodbye to them, and that was last time Halina ever saw him. They were then processed with the other arrivals. Heads were shaved, any remaining jewellery was taken and those with gold teeth had them immediately removed with pliers. The weak were separated out and killed. Halina and her mother were deemed useful enough to live. Along with other inmates she was made to assist with the work of the gas chambers and the crematoria. Hundreds of bodies would be carted each day from the gas chambers. Halina’s horrendous task was to load the bodies from the carts into the ovens. Efficiency was an obsession in the concentration camp. Soldiers would beat them for moving too slowly. There was no time to dwell on things like the occasional weak pulse Halina might feel on a body being loaded into the oven.
In late 1944 Halina and her mother were moved again, this time to Stutthof. At Stutthof the SS guards would call Halina and the other inmates ‘Untermenschen’, meaning ‘subhumans’. Halina was beaten, kicked and spat on. During one of these beatings her skull was fractured. She describes discovering a fellow inmate who had given birth to a stillborn fetus. Halina and other inmates did what they could, breaking a window and using the glass to cut the umbilical cord. Two doctors in the group tended to the woman; however, she died from blood loss. Halina was given the job of disposing of the dead baby. She took it to the toilets and using a plank of wood pushed it down under the excrement. Later the bloated fetus floated to the top of the toilet, an image that appeared in Halina’s nightmares for years to come.
While at Stutthof, Halina was not made to work. Apart from the early morning roll call and the clearing of dead bodies, there was not much to do. There were no beds; Halina and her mother slept on some straw on the ground. It was filthy. The toilet was merely an open hole with slippery edges watched over by sadistic guards. Halina befriended a woman who she describes as remarkable—Freida, a university professor from Budapest. Older than Halina, she became a mentor, but Halina also mentored her and protected her. It was Freida who kept repeating, when the prisoners dared to speculate about a postwar world, that if they survived, they should testify and bear witness for the rest of their lives.
Death was all around Halina, a normalised daily part of life. Many inmates were overwhelmed by their circumstances and committed suicide by using the electric fence. One day Halina set out looking for Freida and could not find her, until eventually she found Freida’s body hanging on the wire. She had electrocuted herself. The day before she had said to Halina, ‘In a world that allows Stutthof to happen, I do not want to be’. Halina regretted not foreseeing Freida’s intention. Typhoid passed through Stutthof, and Halina and her mother were both struck. Halina survived, but her mother passed away in her arms. Everyone Halina loved had now been taken from her by the Nazis. In the last days of the war Halina was taken on a death march from Stutthof. She and two other inmates managed to escape and hid for two weeks. They were fortunate enough to be aided by civilian Germans and survived. Three years later she made the journey to Melbourne and now resides in my electorate.
Halina survived the most unimaginable horrors during the Holocaust. The Hakenkreuz was there every step of the way. It was the symbol worn and displayed. It was the backdrop to the genocide of 6 million Jews. It was the sign of strength of the Third Reich. It was and is a symbol of hate, a symbol used to intimidate and vilify, a symbol that has no place in a tolerant, peaceful and multicultural society. So that is why I invited Halina to be with us here while we debate this important piece of legislation. I pay tribute to her now as she watches from the gallery, and I pay tribute to her evidence given yet again next week in yet another war crime trial. If I can conclude, and with indulgence, with her words, ‘If we survive, we must testify until we die’.
Mr McCURDY (Ovens Valley) (15:31): I am delighted to rise and make a brief contribution to the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022. As we have heard from other speakers particularly on this side of the house—the members for Malvern, Lowan, Caulfield and Brighton, who have spoken extensively on this bill—it will be an offence to display a swastika publicly, except where it can still be shown in certain circumstances, and I will go through those in due course.
I am pleased that the Andrews government has finally followed the lead of the coalition, who started down this track some years ago and took steps to outlaw the public use of the swastika. Back in February 2020 we announced that we would amend the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001, which would go towards then banning the public display of the Nazi swastika and other symbols that incite hate. As a society we used to rely on common sense and trust that people would not push the boundaries, but clearly over time and certainly over the last eight years there have been challenges, and fear and anger have grown within our communities. It is important that we stop this hatred and incitement of hatred. As I say, under this Victorian government we just need to take these steps forward, because if we do not, individuals will go down certain paths and take it way too far. I think it is time that we all take a step back and a deep breath and work together rather than accepting some of the things we see and the incitement of hate.
There has been some anger and hostility around the Nazi swastika, and it certainly must stop. We would not tolerate these actions against our Indigenous cousins and friends, our Asian community, our African community, so why should we tolerate it against the Jewish community? It goes without saying that we need to stop this, and this bill takes a significant step forward. There will always be people who push the boundaries, but this is a terrific start. In September 2021 the government followed our lead and announced that it would legislate a ban on the public display of a Nazi symbol, and here we are in June 2022—better late than never—and we are actually making some ground now.
I just want to touch on some of the main provisions. Clause 3 inserts a new division 4C, which refers to the historical use of swastikas in Buddhism, Hindu and other religions. It was the Nazis under the Third Reich in Germany who misappropriated its use; hence we are where we are today. To this end it is only the public display of the Nazi swastika that is being banned, not any of the other symbols. A public display offence will occur when a Nazi symbol, after this legislation is introduced, is displayed publicly, if that person knows or ought to know reasonably that the symbol is associated with Nazi ideology and if the display occurs in a public place, and the penalty is 120 units, which is significant—$21 800 or imprisonment for 12 months. I certainly hope that these sorts of fines go forward in terms of what we have seen with farm trespass and biosecurity. I would like to see those fines continue and for it to be seen how significant some of these other things in our community are. I think it is a significant fine—$21 000—if you continue to break the law and display the swastika publicly.
There are some exemptions, and they are for good reason—for example, if a person can prove that the display of a swastika is to engage reasonably and in good faith for academic development or artistic use or religious or scientific purposes. There is a short list of other occasions where a person would not contravene the legislation. For example, if a person has a tattoo of a swastika, that does not contravene the legislation. This legislation will empower a police officer to give direction to remove a Nazi symbol where appropriate, and I think that is the other component of this legislation. As in all circumstances, in all legislation, there can be some anomalies. If a person were to wear a swastika in a private home, for example—either theirs or someone else’s home—that would be fine, but they cannot travel on public transport from one place to the other while displaying those emblems. So again, there will be a few grey areas people will not understand, but I think this legislation goes a long way towards supporting the Jewish community and stamping out this hatred.
Most people will start to understand what the rules are, and some will push the boundaries, as always. But we know the type of behaviour that we are trying to snuff out in this legislation, and let us hope that this is reflected throughout the detail in the bill. As I said earlier, we would not allow a culture of threatening behaviour against our Indigenous people or against French, Spanish, American or whatever—any other nationality, any other colour or any other religious group. So it is important that Jewish community also have that respect, and it is certainly time. It is well past time that this legislation was introduced, and I am very pleased to stand here and support this legislation.
I know I speak on behalf of the Ovens Valley community when I say that Neo-Nazi and Nazi groups are not welcome, with their threats of violence where that occurs by allowing swastikas or other contraband. As I said earlier, managing the application of this may have some challenges, and we will work through those as we go. But hopefully we will get well-rounded outcomes, which is what this legislation is endeavouring to achieve. The coalition believe that every Victorian deserves to go about their daily lives free of persecution, and this ban will go a long way to keep our communities hate free. I certainly support the removal of swastikas from public display, and with those brief comments I commend the bill to the house.
Ms CONNOLLY (Tarneit) (15:38): It gives me a great deal of pleasure to rise to make a contribution and follow colleagues in this house who have spoken so passionately and made contributions with some very personal, moving stories, which is why I say it is with pleasure that I rise to speak in favour of the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022, because we really are making history here today by doing something that perhaps should have been done many, many years ago. It is something that is an Australian first, and again Victoria is leading the way.
I would like to start by acknowledging the Victorian and indeed Australian Jewish communities and the survivors particularly of the Holocaust. It is absolutely incredible to have had a 95-year-old beautiful woman here in the gallery today as the guest of the member for Burwood and for him to have been able to share her incredible story of survival, however tragic that story of survival is. I would also like to acknowledge the work of the Legal and Social Issues Committee, whose work on the inquiry into anti-vilification protections resulted in the contents of this bill being brought before us here today. Once again, I really feel we are showing that Victoria is the national leader, and I have no doubt that when we pass this bill not only will we be the first jurisdiction in this country to ban the public display of Nazi imagery, but we will not be the last state to do that—I am sure many states will follow in our footsteps.
There is really no other way of putting it: Nazi imagery are symbols of hate, of bigotry and indeed of ignorance. They remind us of what can only be described as one of the darkest times of our history and reflect the absolute horrors that the 20th century did record. We talked here in this place today about 6 million Jews having been killed in what was, in terms of the time that we have recorded history, a very short period of time in which so many people were murdered. I remember hearing last year and reading about how Neo-Nazis had camped in and marched through our beautiful Grampians communities on Australia Day, frightening locals. It speaks to really just how emboldened far-right fringe groups have become over the past couple of years. The stories that we have heard here in this place today really should remind us, and I am sure they do, that we must absolutely remain vigilant at all times and fight back against the use of these types of horrific images that frighten communities but also inflict further pain and further tragedy on people who have already spent a large period of their lives very much affected by the horrors of the Holocaust.
In January 2020 we saw a Nazi flag being displayed at a person’s home. In May 2020 the Hakenkreuz was graffitied at Cranbourne Golf Club, which I believe was founded and is frequented by the Jewish community. What a truly horrific thing to do. We saw the Nazi swastika defacing a number of campaign posters during the recent federal election, including even those of the former member for Kooyong. I was talking to staff about this when we were talking about the importance of this bill coming through the house. I remember four years ago talking to constituents on a really cold morning at Hoppers Crossing train station. I was a pretty fresh candidate hitting the pavement on my first campaign. I remember being approached by a man who was really disappointed in our government, and he was really keen to talk to me about that. His disappointment stemmed from our government having made the decision to remove Sky News—remember that?—from airing in the city loop. I remember this decision being widely ridiculed by the papers. But why did we do it? Because Sky thought it was appropriate to conduct an interview with a well-known Neo-Nazi. Let us be clear: this was someone who advocated for a picture of Hitler to be hung in every primary school. Such a large news network thought that someone like that was appropriate to interview—about immigration, no less. I think our government made it very clear even back then that there are consequences for those who, intentionally or not, platform Nazis and Neo-Nazis and attempt to bring that kind of hateful and extreme rhetoric into mainstream Victoria—and standing against that kind of hateful rhetoric is something that our government continues to do.
Last month our Premier committed to adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of ‘antisemitism’, which builds upon our commitment to expanding education about the Holocaust in secondary schools, because the evil of Nazism is something that must be safeguarded against. As we know, more and more, education really is the key to ensuring that such extremism does not grow further.
After we announced that we will be banning the display of this type of Nazi imagery and symbolism I was contacted by some constituents from my local community, from the local Indian community in fact, who really wanted to know what this bill meant for them. As many here would know, before the Nazis adopted the swastika the swastika was more commonly recognised as a religious symbol used primarily by Dharmic faiths like Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, and it is a symbol that is still used by these faiths today. I know the member for Cranbourne and I talk about being out in our local communities and seeing this symbol above the front doors in some parts of our Hindu communities. I want to take this opportunity to assure my community that the purpose of this bill specifically targets Nazi imagery, so it therefore bans displays of the Nazi swastika, identified as the Hakenkreuz. It does not ban the display of the swastika in religious and cultural contexts as it might appear in Dharmic faiths. In fact such depictions do not even fall close to being within the scope of this bill. In fact the bill supports a community campaign to go ahead and educate and raise awareness of the origins of the religious and cultural swastika and its importance to Indian communities like mine and to differentiate it from the Nazi swastika. To ensure this is understood the legislation will come into force a year from now to facilitate this education, so it will be a 12-month education campaign.
To be clear, this bill does contain a few exceptions to allow the public display of Nazi imagery. The first is for a genuine academic, artistic, religious or scientific purpose. Not only does this allow for our local Indian communities to display the swastika within the appropriate cultural context, but it would also naturally allow for depictions in film, which would, for example, prevent a cinema that shows World War II films from falling afoul in displaying symbols to the public. Another exemption is for a genuine cultural or educational purpose, which would allow for things like schools educating students about Nazi Germany, whether that be through textbooks, presentations or films. We have also got another exception in that the bill does not apply where the Nazi symbol is displayed publicly by a tattoo or similar process such as branding, because we know that making that an offence would not only be difficult to enforce but also open up human rights issues that are very messy to work through.
This is a really important bill. It is a historic moment for us here in Victoria. Victorians should feel proud that Victoria is leading the way in banning this Nazi swastika, this symbol of absolute hatred and the atrocities that have been undertaken. It is incredibly offensive that it is used constantly, consistently and increasingly here in Victoria. We are making it very clear as part of this bill: the Nazi swastika, the Hakenkreuz, has no place in a modern Victoria. I commend the bill to the house.
Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) (15:48): I rise today to speak on behalf of the Greens to the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022, which the Greens wholeheartedly support. This bill will make it a criminal offence to knowingly display the Nazi symbol, the Hakenkreuz, as associated with Nazi ideology, in public. It is an important bill, an important bill to show the community that hate and antisemitism have absolutely no place in Victoria, and comes in response to a recommendation from the parliamentary inquiry into anti-vilification protections in Victoria. The bill defines the Hakenkreuz as ‘a symbol of a cross with the arms bent at right angles in a clockwise direction’. It does not limit the display to the Nazi flag but includes other displays of this symbol, such as on clothing or graffiti. It uses the Hakenkreuz term to distinguish between this symbol of hate and the swastika of the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and other faiths, which comes from the ancient Sanskrit swastika and means good fortune or wellbeing. This is a really important inclusion, as other members have indicated, to ensure that that symbol can continue to be used for cultural and religious reasons by people of these faiths without fear of persecution.
The penalty for knowingly displaying the hateful Nazi symbol in public is 120 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment, or both. On top of that requirement that this charge is directed at the intentional and public display of the symbol, there is also the requirement that the person must know that the symbol is associated with Nazi ideology. There are exceptions to ensure that the image can be displayed in good faith by academics, in opposition to Nazism, for reporting purposes, by law enforcement, within the justice system for prosecution and evidence and in some other circumstances.
This bill is of great importance to the Jewish community, and I want to acknowledge certainly the large and vibrant Jewish community within the Prahran electorate. A significant number of those are Holocaust survivors. Certainly in my time as the member for Prahran I have really enjoyed being involved in community events, whether it is at local synagogues or at Jewish social service organisations or other organisations, hosting interns from the Jewish student union or meeting with Holocaust survivors who live in and around the Prahran electorate. I know this bill will mean so much to those individuals and those groups and the wider Jewish community.
Over recent years we have seen an increase in the display of this hateful symbol across Melbourne and Victoria. It is just completely unacceptable. That is why we so strongly support this bill—to really draw a line in the sand and to outlaw the public display of this hateful symbol. This symbol of hate and antisemitism has been used by fascists and Neo-Nazis in Victoria to vandalise Jewish buildings or buildings that have Jewish organisations in them and posters. It has been used more broadly to direct hatred and intolerance towards wider groups: the LGBTIQ+ communities, First Nations people, migrants, people from other religions and beyond. We had that disgraceful situation where the Nazi flag was being flown in a residential area on private property and nothing could be done about it. Certainly it has no place here in Victoria.
I want to echo many members’ calls to continue to educate people about that most awful and horrific of events in human history, the Holocaust, and continue also to hear from survivors themselves—‘Never forget, never again’. Like many young people, during my travels in my 20s I visited Auschwitz in Poland. Not only does that experience really bring the horrors of the Holocaust into stark reality, it also brings to the fore the hate and the hurt of Holocaust denial.
The banning of the Nazi symbol is an important step in addressing the rise of white supremacy and the far right here in Victoria. The rise of white supremacy and the far right is one of the biggest and most disturbing challenges we face as a state, in particular when it comes to social harmony. We have seen Neo-Nazis openly congregating in the Grampians. We have seen attempts to recruit people into ultranationalist far-right movements during the pandemic. Toxic racism and threats against individuals and against communities are increasing. There is much work to be done to build a truly anti-racist and anti-fascist Victoria. We must address structural racism, dismantle white supremacy and reckon with our past. We should be a state, and a country even, that does all it can to outlaw and take a stand against racial vilification. We should be a state and we should be a country that welcomes people and provides safety to those who are fleeing persecution.
I am so pleased that the Victorian Parliament is conducting an inquiry into far-right extremism, an inquiry the Greens helped establish. They are doing really important work to identify these movements, their reach and their recruitment methods and to better understand the threats that they pose to Victoria, especially to Victoria’s multicultural communities, along with how to counter these movements and protect those most affected.
I note the Minister for Crime Prevention mentioned in her second-reading speech that this legislation will be part of a broader package of reforms to strengthen anti-vilification protections in Victoria, and I welcome these too. History has shown us just how dangerous these hateful ideologies can be. We need to protect our community and counter them. I commend this bill to the house.
Ms SETTLE (Buninyong) (15:55): I am proud to rise to speak on the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022. As the member for Tarneit said, this is truly a historic moment when we have support throughout the house to become one of the first places to make this legislation. It makes me very, very proud, and it speaks to the fact that in Victoria we will not tolerate this sort of vilification of people based on anything, be it their race, their gender—we will not accept it.
This bill is very important and introduces a new summary offence to prohibit the intentional public display of the Hakenkreuz symbol. We know that this is a symbol of hate and causes real, significant harm to many Victorians—obviously particularly to our Jewish community. It is also used in anger against many other people in our community like Torres Strait Islanders and LGBTQI+ and Aboriginal people, but of course that pain and that true symbolism that comes from that symbol is felt most deeply by the Jewish community. This type of harm is just completely unacceptable in our society, and I am very proud that we stand to make a historic change.
The bill fulfils a Victorian government commitment to implementation of recommendation 24 of the 2021 report of the Legal and Social Issues Committee’s inquiry into anti-vilification protections in Victoria, and that recommendation was to ban this public display. I served on the committee, and I would like to acknowledge my committee members, in particular our chair, the member for St Albans, but of course also the member for Caulfield, who is in the room with us today, because I saw the commitment of the member for Caulfield throughout our inquiry. So I would like to acknowledge him as well as the rest of the committee members. That includes the members for Clarinda, Geelong and Brighton. They all worked very hard on this inquiry report because it is such an important piece.
I guess more importantly I want to thank the individuals who shared their experiences of vilification and abuse. There were 62 submissions, with a further 11 submissions that came in late due to COVID, and we had seven days of public hearings. I really want to thank all of those people who gave evidence to this inquiry. We heard their stories, and we could hear the awful damage that vilification can have on a person. Anti-racism, anti-hate, anti-Islamophobia and human rights initiatives, policies and programs must be at the centre and be informed by the experiences and perspectives of communities who are being targeted by or are on the receiving end of the human rights breaches. We heard evidence from the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, the Australian Jewish Association, the Islamic Council of Victoria, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, the LGBTIQ Legal Service, Thorne Harbour Health, the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights, the Victorian Multicultural Commission and many others.
Today we are one step closer to addressing a gap that exists between the legislation of 20 years ago and the demands of today, and there were 30 recommendations put forward. I will just touch on a couple of the other recommendations. Obviously this bill is very specifically about the banning of the symbolism, but I think that some of those other recommendations speak to the same quest to really rid our state of that level of vilification.
Among the findings of the committee we found that there is a lack of awareness and understanding in the community of Victoria’s anti-vilification laws. There is a frustration about the lack of accessibility, and there is a frustration about how ineffective these laws are. The current Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 does not properly address the rising problem of hate crime in Victoria, especially for First Nations people, multicultural and multifaith groups, women, the LGBTIQ community and people living with a disability. There were 36 recommendations which will strengthen Victoria’s anti-vilification laws. The rise of online vilification was something that was particularly troubling to all of us during the inquiry, and there are recommendations about trying to educate on and address that. But the bill before the house will acquit one of the report’s key recommendations, which was the banning of the public display of the Hakenkreuz symbol.
During the inquiry we heard from Ms Jessie Holmes, who was the chief executive officer of Yarriambiack council, and she talked about the experience they had in Beulah in January 2020. She described Beulah as a very small part of their shire, a very small town, very close knit—400 people. A couple who had recently moved there erected the offensive flag, the Hakenkreuz flag. It was up for about a fortnight, but of course then it just blew up in the media and it was a very traumatic experience for the whole of the town and indeed everyone who was confronted by it. I will just read a little bit from her testimony to the inquiry, because it really highlights that they were so desperate to do something and the tools just were not there for them. In her words:
When we were notified, I guess our first thing was that we contacted the local police to find out what could be done about the situation. The local police were obviously aware of the situation as well, and they were trying to seek ways to have the flag removed as well as us trying to figure out how we could potentially remove the flag.
She went on to describe, once it had hit the news and really got big engagement across the state, the sorts of emails and contact that they at the council were receiving. People were just angry and frustrated that it had not been taken down and felt that perhaps Yarriambiack council were in some way to blame, which of course they were not. They were desperately trying to seek legal advice as to how they could remove it. It was interesting, because I think I remember from the inquiry they did find a sort of local-laws way that they could get around it, but in fact it was actually the local police officer, a police officer by the name of Shane, and Ms Holmes described him as an absolute hero. They went and spent a couple of hours talking to the people who had this flag up, and Shane just patiently talked and went through it all and the flag came down. So I would like to acknowledge that police officer for all of his work in that situation.
What that really highlighted for me during the inquiry was the universal agreement that this was wrong but the fact that there were no tools that council could utilise. So I am very happy that this bill will give teeth, if you like, to make sure that that offensive flag is not flown again in public. Once in effect, anyone who intentionally displays the Nazi symbol in public faces penalties of almost $22 000. The government intends to move an amendment to include an earlier default commencement date so it can get on and do this very quickly.
As I started out saying, I would really like to acknowledge my committee members on this—there was a lot of work done by everyone—but also the secretariat, who worked very hard to look after and support the people that were coming to present to us. I would like to acknowledge our Attorney-General and our Minister for Multicultural Affairs, who is at the table at the moment, and acknowledge their hard work in making this fact. We in the inquiry could see that that needed addressing and put forward some recommendations, and I am very proud that this government has acted so, so quickly on those recommendations. Something that is so hurtful needs to be acted upon, and I am very glad that the ministers responsible were so quick to act. Again my heartfelt thanks go to all of the people who presented at the inquiry. It is their experiences and hearing from people in public about the vilification that they have suffered that really, really put fire in the belly to make change.
This government will not accept vilification of any kind in our society. We are all equal, and this government has gone a long way to make sure that that message is heard loud and clear. This bill of course is another such way that we can really send that message that Victoria is a welcoming place. We are proud of our multicultural roots and community and we are proud of all in our community, so I commend this bill to the house in the strongest terms.
Ms HENNESSY (Altona) (16:05): I am really honoured to have an opportunity to make a contribution to this bill, which I wholeheartedly support.
It is hard to believe that those who are inflamed with virulent bigotry and who are using the swastika as a rallying cry to celebrate the legacy of the Third Reich have the law on the side. These violent final solutionists, who seek to destroy the touchstone of our democracy and our way of life, would exterminate each one of you if they had the means to do so. We do not need a Christchurch in our city to realise the fierce urgency of this moment. And so a good place to start is to ban once and for all the public display of the Nazi swastika. You and your colleagues have the opportunity to right a wrong, to shout down the Neo-Nazis and to affirm the ideals and principles that we all cherish.
That was evidence given to the Legal and Social Issues Committee by Dr Dvir Abramovich, who is the chairman of the Anti Defamation Commission. I think it is a very compelling contribution as to why this bill is needed and why it is indeed justified, and I think it really does underline the urgency with which people have been seeking this change. I am incredibly impressed with the work that the Legal and Social Issues Committee did in respect of racial vilification, and I will welcome those reforms when they make their way to this Parliament. But I think in that very short extract of the evidence that Dr Abramovich gave to the committee, calling upon us as a Parliament to act, he was indeed calling upon us to ensure that we are all appealing to our better selves. As the member for Buninyong just outlined in her really fantastic contribution, the rise of antisemitism, the display of new and far-right extremist activity and the impact that that has had on all members of the community but in particular on members of the Victorian Jewish community is something that means that we have an obligation to act. I think the work of the Legal and Social Issues Committee and the evidence that they heard made a very, very compelling case for us to indeed introduce this bill into this Parliament.
I do just want to briefly reflect upon some of the stories that we have heard in the course of the last few years, particularly where we have seen instances of hateful ideology being given expression to and many well-motivated people and institutions who did not have the tools to take action. This is on the one hand a very practical and pragmatic bill in attempting to address those issues, but it is also a bill that is very important in terms of rejecting racism and the symbolism of all those who seek to destroy people on the basis of their race and cultural identity. This bill cannot come soon enough, in my view. Where we have seen those sorts of circumstances—the sorts of delays that we have heard about in Beulah; in the most recent federal election, the disgusting defacement and defilement of candidates’ corflutes; in those that have been seeking to organise protests—where police or members of the community have become aware of those, they have not in the past had the ability to act in a pre-emptive fashion for those who might be attempting to organise activities that would essentially be about promoting this kind of ideology, but the police have not also had the ability, the authority or in fact the obligation to respond to these sorts of incidents.
Unfortunately it is not only in respect of the subject matter that this bill discusses that that has been the case but in respect of many acts of vilification, not just racial vilification, and that is why the Legal and Social Issues Committee have made a series of recommendations about how we bring greater teeth to both the law and what we do in response when there are breaches of the law, and of course online environments are an example of where that is incredibly challenging.
I also want to thank and acknowledge the symbolism that sits behind the work that people in this Parliament have done. Racism continues to persist in this country, and we sometimes find it really confronting to accept that. We sometimes like to speak ill of the messenger. We like to characterise them as proselytisers of woke ideology or people that want a black armband view of history. We have to remember that as leaders, as people that get to influence the public debate and the public discussion, we need at all times to be able to hold a very honest mirror to what is occurring in our community and in our society. We need to not let those who come to us to talk about their experiences of racism, usually on the back of such horrific intergenerational trauma that their communities have lived through, be rejected on the basis that we find it too confronting or we cannot think of the right policy tools or we do not think we can build a political consensus about trying to find a better regulatory response.
One of the things that is so terrific about Victoria is that Victoria is one of those places where such leaders exist—and they exist on both sides of the house in this Parliament, they exist out in the community. I think the consensus that has been built around this bill is a fine display of what we can achieve when we focus on righting wrongs rather than playing the politics on an issue, and I hope to see that kind of collaboration and that kind of consensus replicated in the future when we are talking about other issues—the introduction that I understand may occur this week in respect of the establishment of a treaty authority, many of the issues that go to unfinished business in the history of this country. When we actually stand for rejecting racism, when we go to how we actually be our better selves and put in place the sorts of educational and regulatory tools that come down as tough as nails on exhibitions of racism, then we will continue to be a better place.
I want to acknowledge the fantastic work that was done by the Legal and Social Issues Committee under the chair, the member for St Albans. I want to acknowledge the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and the Attorney-General, who have done such a terrific job. I also want to acknowledge the member for Caulfield, who has been a tireless advocate on behalf of his community on this issue, and I think both his contribution and the contribution by the member for Box Hill today again are just a reminder that the power of personal stories can be such an incredibly informative and educational tool when we are dealing with some of the challenging issues to regulate. But just because issues are difficult to regulate does not mean we should not act, and I am firmly in the corner of ‘Don’t let perfection stop us’. It is always difficult to confront issues when you are banning something. This bill has sought to thread the eye of the needle with great consideration to the impact on the Hindu, the Buddhist and the Jain communities. I hear the call that we want to get this put in place as quickly as possible. Education is important, and I support the activities that have been undertaken both by our state and also the federal government around trying to ensure that we are better educating people around the history of the Holocaust. But it is important, particularly when we want to have a good, effective and strong response, when this law is broken, that people can rely on a consistent response, and unfortunately that does take time. I support the sentiment behind some of the comments from the opposition on that issue, and the amendment seeks to try and make sure that we get it done as quickly as possible but we get it done very, very effectively.
Viktor Frankl is one of my childhood idols, and anyone who read Man’s Search for Meaning as part of their own spiritual reflection and development I think could do well to go back to it. Viktor Frankl was a person that described racism in terms of two races, decent men and indecent men, and said that we need to try to back the decent people in. This bill tries to do that, and I wish it a speedy passage through the house.
Ms COUZENS (Geelong) (16:15): I am pleased to rise to contribute to the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022. As a member of the Legal and Social Issues Committee, which undertook the inquiry into anti-vilification protections, I am really proud of recommendation 24. We have heard in this place today the support for this bill and of course the member for Altona’s great contribution we have just heard—and I agree with her sentiments around racism—but also significant contributions from the member for Box Hill and the member for Caulfield.
RECOMMENDATION 24: That the Victorian Government establish a criminal offence that prohibits the display of symbols of Nazi ideology—
including the Nazi hate symbol—
with considered exceptions to the prohibition.
I am pleased that we have taken the significant steps to ban this symbol of hate and all it represents. The inquiry, which was chaired by the member St Albans, took around 62 submissions, with a further 11 submissions based on the COVID experience, and held seven days of public hearings. The committee heard from many giving evidence about the public display of offensive symbols, in particular the Nazi hate symbol, which is outlined in chapter 7 of our report. An example of the evidence given by the Anti-Defamation Commission, for example, strongly supported a specific ban on the Nazi symbol, and their evidence went as follows:
It is hard to believe that those who are inflamed with virulent bigotry and who are using the swastika as a rallying cry to celebrate the legacy of the Third Reich have the law on the side. These violent final solutionists, who seek to destroy the touchstone of our democracy and our way of life, would exterminate each … of you if they had the means to do so. We do not need a Christchurch in our city to realise the fierce urgency of this moment. And so a good place to start is to ban once and for all the public display of the Nazi …
You and your colleagues have the opportunity to right a wrong, to shout down the Neo-Nazis and to affirm the ideals and principles that we all cherish.
And there were many, many more people that gave evidence of a similar nature.
This bill is a first in this country, and it is so important when we know of the increase of far-right groups using this hateful symbol. We need to be dealing with it as soon as possible. This government is committed to protecting the rights of all Victorians to be free from racism, vilification and hatred and to ensuring everyone feels welcome and accepted in our communities. We know that the harm caused by hate conduct and vilification can be profound and it can affect the physical and psychological wellbeing of individuals and often prevent them from feeling comfortable participating in their communities. Holocaust survivors and their families should never have to experience the hateful behaviour of those few in our community that continue to do that. Victoria has seen a number of recent incidents where the public display of Nazi hate symbols has been used to intimidate and convey a message of hate and intolerance. We are all horrified by these stories. The display of symbols associated with Nazi and Neo-Nazi ideology is harmful and offensive to all members of our society and particularly to the Jewish community.
Nazi symbols are also used to communicate hatred and cause harm to a wide range of other groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, LGBTIQ+ people, people with disabilities and other racial and religious groups. Throughout the inquiry we heard from all those groups, and they all gave us evidence around the issues that they have experienced. This type of harm is completely unacceptable in our society, which is proudly democratic, diverse, multicultural and multifaith. The vast majority of Victorians show the greatest respect and believe that the display of the Nazi hate symbol is totally unacceptable, and they all support this bill, including in my electorate of Geelong.
In the Geelong region there have been occasions when the Nazi hate symbol has been publicly displayed. That created an outpouring of concern and in some cases fear of this hateful symbol and those responsible. The community very clearly found it offensive and appalling. We also saw the behaviour of a group who were exposed for executing a Nazi salute on Australia Day, whose response to the media was very disturbingly, ‘It was all just a bit of fun’. The Geelong community were sickened by this behaviour and that comment. It was also concerning to see the Nazi hate symbol used during protests against the global pandemic lockdowns; again, our community was appalled at that behaviour.
I am really proud that we have introduced education on the Holocaust in schools. Education plays such an important role in preventing this sort of shocking behaviour from occurring in our communities. I think the education piece sits in a really important place to ensure that we are not hearing people say, ‘It was all just a bit of fun’, when they truly understand what it is and how hateful it is what they are doing.
This bill introduces a new summary offence to prohibit the intentional public display of a Nazi hate symbol. This is a symbol of hate and causes significant harm to Victorians, particularly to the Jewish community. This landmark reform sends a clear message that the public display of the Nazi symbol has no place in Victoria and certainly has no place in my community of Geelong. The bill will create an offence in the Summary Offences Act 1966 which prohibits a person from intentionally displaying a Nazi symbol in a public place if the person knows or reasonably ought to know that the Nazi symbol is a symbol associated with Nazi ideology.
The bill seeks to ensure that the swastika’s significance to the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain communities is not captured. This is set out in the preamble, legislative examples and specific exemptions for genuine religious or cultural use. There are also exceptions for academic, artistic, scientific, educational, publishing a report, opposition to fascism or Nazism, administration of justice or law enforcement purposes. Once in effect, anyone who intentionally displays a Nazi symbol in public faces penalties of up to $22 000 or 12 months imprisonment or both. I know in my community, while I was working on the inquiry with the committee, it was very clear that there are very few people in our community that use this hate symbol. I am sure my community is the same as many others across this state: they see it as abhorrent, and they do not agree with its use in any shape or form.
As a hate symbol, we see them plastered around our community at different times. Certainly during the lockdown period there were those protesters that took it upon themselves to use that, and it caused great fear and distress in some parts of my community. People did not know whether those people were going to harm them or others in the community, because they were quite fiercely claiming to uphold their right to be able to either fly a flag or have that symbol on the front of their house or have those stickers around the community. I know for my community it was quite dramatic, so I can only imagine what it must have been like for Holocaust survivors and their families who have a stronger connection to what has occurred in our history. This is a really important bill for my community.
I know there is an amendment before the house to change it to six months rather than 12 months. We need time to bring people up to speed. There has been a huge amount of consultation on this bill to ensure that we are capturing everybody’s views on how it impacts on them, particularly for those communities for which it has been a symbol of peace and love and those sorts of things. It is the Nazi symbol that is what is so disgusting in our community, and we need to ensure that we have laws to stamp it out.
As I say, I am really pleased that we have all come together in this chamber to support this bill and the significance of it. We know how important it is. It is one of the first in this country, and we should be very proud as Victorians to know that we are, in the process of passing this bill, ensuring that there are penalties in place. I commend the bill to the house.
Mr DIMOPOULOS (Oakleigh) (16:25): It is a real pleasure to speak on such a substantive and important bill. We speak often of those murdered by the Nazis, and of course in the largest numbers and with the greatest hate they targeted the Jewish community. But we should also remember that their ideology was also used to justify the murder of over 6 million others—Poles, Romany, Serbs, Greeks, Jehovah’s Witnesses, disabled people, queer people—and indeed millions more through their indiscriminate war, a war in which many Australians died. So we must first accept that this legislation is important for us all; it confronts a hatred that threatens us all. Further, for every death there were another three people who ended up in labour camps, freezing, tortured and starving. Some of them were experimented on without anaesthesia. When these experiments did not result in death, prisoners were left with trauma, disfigurement or permanent disability. This is the legacy of these symbols. This is what they celebrate. The undead, the ones who would have to live with what was done to them—some of them came here.
We heard today the story of Halina so powerfully put by the member for Burwood while Halina was in the gallery. Anyone who heard that contribution must be in disbelief about the horrors. Even though we have heard about them and read about them, to hear them described in such vivid fashion while the survivor was watching was just extraordinarily moving. And that is the story of one survivor. There are millions of these stories. If only we had the opportunity to hear the stories of the 6 million who died. We only hear the stories of the survivors, as powerful as they are, but there were 6 million souls who will never be able to tell their story.
Through their incredible resilience the survivors built a life and made an incredible contribution to this state, and regularly—as in hundreds of times a year—they and their community are subjected to antisemitic abuse. Most cruelly, outside their synagogues, schools and aged care homes, Nazi groups paste Nazi symbols with threatening messages—messages that once again call for their genocide and disfigurement. Among others, some of their stickers read ‘Legalise the execution of Jews’, with an image of a Nazi officer shooting a kneeling antisemitic caricature of a Jewish person in the head. Outside of aged care homes—and in some of those aged care homes survivors reside—cowardly acts are intended to intimidate and terrorise Holocaust survivors, to intimidate the elderly. But we are not intimidated. We are standing with these survivors proudly. We will defend these survivors, and with this legislation we will prosecute those who seek to divide us, those who desecrate the memory of our World War II veterans and the freedoms they fought for.
We lost thousands of Australians in World War II—thousands of men and women fighting against the very perpetrators of crimes that were described by colleagues on both sides of the house in relation to this bill. It is why we will pass this important piece of legislation. It is why we have committed to teaching Holocaust education at all government secondary schools, partnering with the Gandel Foundation, the Melbourne Holocaust Museum and Courage to Care—excellent organisations. It is why this government is adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of ‘antisemitism’. It is why this government continues to deliver protections and support for diversity in all its forms. We will not be intimidated. We will act, and we will continue our action to tackle rising antisemitism and reject that hateful, violent ideology.
With this legislation the Victorian Parliament on both sides of the chamber says to the Jewish community, the Jehovah community, the Serb community, the Polish, the Romani, the Russian, the Ukrainian, the Greek and the Sudanese communities, the disabled community, the queer community and our World War II veterans and their families: we are with you. You are welcome here, and we will not just protect you, we will invest in you. You will continue to thrive, and you will continue to grow and be part of what makes Victoria great. There is no sense that anyone can live their best life when they are surrounded by intimidation and hate, when they or their family are reminded of the horrors that they have survived or the stories they have heard of those they love that survived and those that did not. You cannot live your best life. You cannot live a fulfilled life with those that seek to bring us to a world of hate.
As a member of a local community that has a proud Jewish community component to it, particularly around Carnegie, I have doorknocked thousands of homes, and many hundreds I doorknocked had the mezuzah on the door frame. I just feel an enormous sense of pride that I represent a community, and I have heard some stories from survivors amongst those who answered the door, who with all the horrors that they have been through—or even if they have not been through them themselves, from the stories I have heard about their parents and their grandparents—have enough compassion, enough optimism and enough thirst for life that they have created a new one thousands of miles away based on hope and aspiration. Some of us cannot get out of bed in the morning for far, far less. This community has suffered in a way that very, very few in history have, and to be able to build a new life and contribute to this society economically, academically, in the arts, in community life and in sporting life is just really a point of celebration for me as their local member but also the whole of Victoria.
I say to the Jewish community in the electorate of Oakleigh: you will always have my support. I will fight to ensure that you can live a life free of violence, free of intimidation and free of humiliation. The rise in antisemitic incidents and trends is absolutely unacceptable. Not only have the Premier and other senior people in our government, including the minister at the table, the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, made comments to that regard, they have provided leadership through legislative reform and through financial contributions to communities to create safe spaces.
The bill creates an offence, as we have heard, in the Summary Offences Act 1966 which prohibits a person from intentionally displaying a Nazi symbol in a public place or in sight of a person in a public place if the person knows or reasonably ought to know that the Nazi symbol is a symbol associated with Nazi ideology. The bill prohibits only the display of the Hakenkreuz, more widely known as a swastika, or a symbol that so nearly resembles that symbol that it is likely to be confused or mistaken for it. The bill includes a range of exceptions to the offence where the display was engaged in reasonably and in good faith—for a genuine academic, artistic, religious or scientific purpose; for a genuine cultural or educational purpose; in making or publishing a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest; or in opposition to fascism, Nazism, Neo-Nazism or any other related ideology. The bill also includes exceptions for the display of a Nazi symbol by means of tattooing or other like processes and for law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The offence is accompanied by powers for Victoria Police to direct a person to remove a Nazi symbol from public display and to apply to the Magistrates Court for a warrant to enter a premises to search and seize Nazi symbols. These are important, important interventions that will reduce and relieve suffering in those communities—and for all of us actually, because this affects all of us—who are directly impacted by the evils of what this symbol and this symbolism portrays.
In finishing, protection of one community from evil is protection of all of us from evil, because it is in our common human interest that our diversity and our humanity, whether that be religious, cultural, sexual orientation or gender, be protected and respected, and if we do not stand up for one community, we do not stand up for any community. I commend the bill to the house.
Mr STAIKOS (Bentleigh) (16:35): It is truly a great and singular honour to rise and make a contribution on a profound piece of legislation, the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022. It is a bill that will prohibit the intentional public display of a Nazi symbol, specifically the Hakenkreuz, more commonly known as the Nazi swastika.
Many, many years ago I was a young 19-year-old who was elected to the Glen Eira City Council. The City of Glen Eira has the highest concentration of Holocaust survivors in I think all of Australia. At 19, when I first had to confront this issue of Nazi graffiti on public facilities, I just thought, ‘Well, this is vandalism that is in very, very poor taste’, but I then thought about it and thought, ‘No, this is so much worse than that’. There was one day where I actually received a phone call from a Holocaust survivor who was clearly distressed after going for his daily walk to his local park and just seeing the Hakenkreuz, which was a symbol from a dark period in his life, the darkest period of his life—the darkest period in human history—in full public display at a local park in a safe and free society. It was then, at the age of 19, that I realised that we have a significant problem on our hands, and I think more broadly it is a problem that even ASIO has acknowledged—that is, the rise of the extreme far right in this country. It was in February 2020 that the ASIO director-general, Mike Burgess, warned that:
In suburbs around Australia, small cells regularly meet to salute Nazi flags, inspect weapons, train in combat and share their hateful ideology.
And that was before the pandemic. It is fair to say that things have gotten worse during the pandemic, and things have gotten worse during the pandemic because people—very odious people, might I add—who would normally occupy the fringes of society have decided to invade the centre as though they are mainstream. But they are far from mainstream. So while this is I guess a small bill—it makes a simple change, one that, might I add, also safeguards the legitimate use of the swastika for certain religions for whom the swastika is not a symbol of hate—it is nonetheless profound.
You do not have to be Jewish to be totally, deeply offended by the Hakenkreuz and by the Holocaust, the darkest chapter in human history, and that was something that I certainly discovered a few years ago. A few years ago at the Jewish museum there was a fantastic exhibition titled The Jews of Greece. It was one that I was very much interested in due to my Greek heritage. I went, and it was fantastic. In fact I went twice. Throughout the exhibition there was a lot of information about the very vibrant Greek-Jewish community. In northern Greece, for instance, in Thessaloniki, which is Greece’s second largest city, at one point prior to the Holocaust 40 per cent of that city was Jewish, and I think 95 per cent of them sadly perished in the Holocaust.
But there was one part of the exhibition that literally stopped me in my tracks. There was a television screen as part of the exhibition, and it showed Holocaust survivors from Greece giving their testimony. There was one old lady who was giving her testimony as a Holocaust survivor. She described the last time she saw her mother. She was hiding in a cupboard at home when the Nazis came and took her mother away. I looked at this woman’s face, and she looked just like my grandmother. She was roughly the same age as my grandmother. She spoke a similar village dialect of Greek to my grandmother, and suddenly I think the Holocaust took on a different meaning for me. It really did make me want to learn more about the Greek-Jewish community, and I found out about somebody by the name of Archbishop Damaskinos, who was the archbishop of Greece during the Holocaust. He was truly a hero. In fact Yad Vashem has recognised him as righteous among the nations. He as the archbishop issued more than 27 000 fake baptismal certificates to Greek Jews, and he is credited with saving thousands of lives. But he was a hero for a whole host of reasons. He wrote a letter when he could foresee the deportation of the Greek Jews. I have a copy of the letter right here, and I am going to quote some extracts from this letter:
In our national consciousness, all the children of Mother Greece are an inseparable unity: they are equal members of the national body irrespective of religion or dogmatic differences.
Our Holy Religion does not recognize superior or inferior qualities based on race or religion, as it is stated: “There is neither Jew nor Greek” … and thus condemns any attempt to discriminate or create racial or religious differences.
Let no one forget that all actions done during these difficult times, even those actions that lie beyond our will and power, will be assessed some day by the nation and will be subjected to historical investigation. In that time of judgement, the responsibility of the leaders will weigh heavily upon the conscience of the nation if today the leaders fail to protest boldly in the name of the nation against such unjust measures as the deportation of the Greek Jews, which are an insult to our national unity and honor.
The archbishop took that letter and he marched into the office of SS General Jurgen Stroop, who oversaw the mass murder of thousands of Jews at Warsaw. He handed it to him, and the Nazi then threatened to shoot him, to which the archbishop replied, ‘I’d prefer to be hung instead’.
Those of us here today are not being called upon to show that same level of bravery, that same level of leadership, that the archbishop demonstrated. Nonetheless, what we are doing today and this week in this Parliament is very profound—very profound indeed—because we are drawing a line in the sand to say that Neo-Nazism in this state is unacceptable. It has no place in this society, and we will stand by our Holocaust survivors, by our Jewish community, by minorities in Victoria—indeed all of us. We will protect all of us from these hate-filled ideologies.
In the last 2 minutes remaining I do want to pay tribute to Margot Pampel. Margot Pampel was a Holocaust survivor from my electorate who passed away in 2020. She would have been 100 this year. She was the grandmother of a very close and old friend of mine, Sebastian Zwalf. She was born in Jena, Germany, in 1922, and when she was a little girl her mother perished at the hands of the Nazis, so she was left on her own to survive. I think it is for Margot and for every Holocaust survivor, for their descendants and for the 6.5 million people systematically exterminated by the evil Nazis that we pass this important, profound legislation in this house this week. I commend the bill to the house, and I wish it a speedy passage.
Ms SHEED (Shepparton) (16:44): I rise to speak on this important piece of legislation, the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022. In speaking initially to the bill, its purpose is set out in clause 1, and that is to amend the principal act, the Summary Offences Act 1966, to make the public display of Nazi symbols an offence.
The commencement date has had some discussion in relation to it. The proposal by the government is that there be some time allowed to allow for the education of police, courts and communities who use symbols somewhat similar to the Nazi symbol. I think it is always important when speaking about bills to relate them in some way to your own community, and I try to do that. In particular I would like to talk about the fact that Shepparton has had a Jewish community. Only in recent years there has been a memorial service held in Shepparton to commemorate the synagogue and hall that used to be on the outskirts of Shepparton, facilities that were used by the Jewish community that arrived in Shepparton between 1913 and 1966—so from a very early time in the last century through to pre Second World War, post Second World War. Eventually they moved on to Melbourne, where most of those families and communities joined communities here, but nevertheless the facilities were an important symbol of the time they spent there after leaving countries where generally they had been the subject of persecution.
It is interesting to note that at that memorial service was Uncle ‘Boydie’ Turner, an Aboriginal man who is the grandson of William Cooper. William Cooper, a Yorta Yorta Aboriginal man, prepared a letter to the consul general of the German embassy in Melbourne and travelled to Melbourne with that letter and with other Aboriginal people and handed his letter to the German embassy decrying the persecution of the Jews. William Cooper is now commemorated with a statue in Queens Gardens in Shepparton for his outstanding advocacy, not just for his own community but on behalf of another community that was persecuted. I think it is something that Shepparton is very proud to reflect on, because it was a very brave act at a different time in history and perhaps it is hard for many of us really to understand.
A really important person of the Jewish community that Shepparton also hosted for a period of years was Richard Pratt, and of course we still have a Visy factory in Shepparton. His philanthropy to Shepparton has always been greatly valued because of his years of association with Shepparton, and that generosity is reflected in our hospital and other facilities in Shepparton. You know, there are just important connections with the Jewish community. No doubt there are still Jewish people in Shepparton. The community did eventually largely relocate to Melbourne, but their connections have never been forgotten, and I think that memorial that the families from those earlier times built to commemorate the fact that there was a synagogue there is really quite remarkable.
When talking on an issue like this too, I cannot help but bring it back to my family. In my case a very close family member has chosen to join the Jewish community. They have, for love, for family, for religion, for culture, chosen to marry into the Jewish community, and that has been a really profound experience for my family and for my extended family to begin to understand the history of that community, the culture of that community, a community that lives in the member for Caulfield’s electorate with young children and participates actively in that community. I have learned so much—and so has all our family—even further about the Jewish community, about the persecution, about the Holocaust. I mean, none of us have been immune from coming to understand what happened during that period of the great terror in Germany under the reign of Hitler. For me in my early years it was from reading The Diary of Anne Frank, the documentaries, the films. The horror portrayed of the things that happened to individuals, families and communities during that time is so hard to comprehend, but we have to comprehend it and we have to be reminded of it. And when I see people in our community displaying symbols such as they do that remind us so clearly that of that hatred, of that capacity for human beings to behave in ways that are so inhumane, that are so cruel and that are really so wicked, then I feel proud to be part of a Parliament where everyone has come together, everyone is on the same page in relation to this piece of legislation. It is a step towards saying that we will not tolerate certain behaviours in our community. We will not tolerate the hate speech and the hate symbols that people might choose to put before us and them thinking that that is their right. The rights of so many people were taken away as a result of that behaviour in Germany and, dare I say, in so many other countries.
We have many communities in Australia who have fled persecution to find a place to feel safe, to live with their families and not have a symbol such as that or others of that ilk put before them to create that fear. I know that because I now have a family in my extended family which is part of the Jewish community. I feel a level of anxiety for them all the time. My husband feels anxiety. We have this feeling over and above all the anxieties you have for all your children and all your family members always—you never get away from it. But for this family, knowing the history of that community and the things that have been done over history but in particular by the Nazis, I just know that we at times take a deep breath and just hope that they will be safe—that in their time and in their lifetimes they will never experience what so many families in Germany experienced. So for me it has become an even more live issue. It is not just about books and documentaries and talking to people who are outside my scope of community or family. Now it has taken on a reality that is much greater, and I am very grateful for that in a way, to have had the opportunity to come to understand how that community have suffered, how they so want to be able to just live their lives in a peaceful and safe manner.
I think by doing this here, by presenting this bill, by debating this bill and by passing this important piece of legislation, we are all coming together to say, ‘No. We won’t have this. We won’t have this in Australia; we won’t have this in Victoria. We will stand up for what is decent human behaviour’. I think the legislation is important and the principle it supports is important, and I support the legislation.
Mr J BULL (Sunbury) (16:54): I am pleased to have the opportunity this evening to contribute to debate on this bill, the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022, and the amendment that has been circulated. As other members have spoken about this afternoon, this is a very important and significant bill—a bill that stands against hate, stands against violence and stands against evil acts committed against innocent people.
Every single Victorian should have the opportunity to know and to understand the pure evil that was committed by the Nazi regime. They should know and understand the atrocities that were experienced in World War II—the atrocities that were committed by the Nazi regime, which killed millions, with hundreds of millions injured or displaced, the destruction of towns, of cities, right through Europe and of course the destruction of nations.
This government and all members of this place—we have just heard a wonderful contribution from the member for Shepparton—I think today have respectfully debated this piece of legislation in the context of knowing and understanding and making sure that we are educating, we are teaching and we are reminding those within our community about what the Nazi regime were able to do, those atrocities that were committed, how they took power and how they propagated evil. The things that they did should never, ever, ever be forgotten.
Like many in this house, I have had the opportunity to travel through Germany and to a concentration camp, and despite that opportunity to travel being many years ago, I will never forget the feeling of being within the concentration camp—I know that other members have spoken about many of their personal experiences both within their community and overseas—and just seeing the size, just seeing the scale of what was at a systematic level committed and the atrocities that were delivered upon people from the Jewish community within the late 1930s and of course the 1940s as World War II raged throughout Europe. This is a part of a history that should never, ever be forgotten.
I know that other members have spoken about this this afternoon, and I want to again put on the record that ability for our community to work, whether it be with the RSL or whether it be with those people that are of an age bracket where—and I cannot recall who the member was who spoke about it; it might have been the Minister for Multicultural Affairs—these acts have been committed in the lifetime of some people that are within our community today. We should never, ever, ever be forgetting what has occurred, and we should always as a government, as a community and as a society be working together to make sure that we are protecting every single person within our community from these harmful words, these harmful actions—and what is delivered within this legislation is a significant and important step around that. I do also want to take the opportunity to acknowledge the work that has been done in bringing this piece of legislation, this important bill, to the house. We should make sure that we continue as a government and as a Parliament to always work together across the aisle to ensure that we are protecting those within our community who deserve and need that protection.
It goes without saying of course that those who fail to learn from history will repeat it. We will not allow the horrors of the Nazi ideology to repeat and run rife within this magnificent, multicultural community that is Victoria. It is because of this that we are prioritising the recommendation stemming from the inquiry into anti-vilification protections to establish a criminal offence for knowingly and intentionally displaying the Nazi hate symbol in public displays, including at locations deemed to be public places such as railway stations, markets, churches and licensed premises. Also contained within the legislation is a definition around a broad catch-all provision, which captures any other place not mentioned in the act that can be regarded as a public place such as a government school.
What this bill does is send a strong and clear message that intentionally displaying the Nazi hate symbol will not be tolerated in this state. The vilification of our Jewish community will not be tolerated. Intimidation towards a fellow Victorian will not be tolerated. Those that do that will face imprisonment for such an act. Messaging will be delivered via a community education campaign to promote awareness about the differences between the religious swastika and the Hakenkreuz, which we know of course is something that is really important to many within our community, many within our multicultural community. I know that other members have spoken about this at length. If I do have time, I will go back to some of that work that is contained within the legislation, but I think it has been reasonably well covered in the debate today. As enforcers of the law Victoria Police will also be providing an educational and communications campaign package to police members, supported by amendments to the Victoria Police manual, to guide police members on what may or may not constitute an offence under the bill.
But we do know what is important. We know the history of the swastika is not associated with Nazi and Neo-Nazi ideology but is of course—and this being somewhat of an irony—one of purity, of love, of peace and of good fortune. That is why there has been broad consultation with the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain communities as well. It was a critical part of bringing this piece of legislation to the house. We know that ensuring that this consultation, this important work working with our many multicultural communities across the state, has been an important lead-up and an important piece of consultation that has made sure that we are striking that balance between understanding the history—the use of the Nazi hate symbol as opposed the use of the symbol for peaceful purposes, for religious purposes and for those opportunities that we know exist within the community—and ensuring that this legislation does exactly what we need it to do.
I will go back to where I started around the history and the atrocities that were committed not so long ago. We know of course that governments have not just an opportunity but a responsibility to lead, an opportunity and a responsibility to make sure that wherever the opportunity we are always working with local communities, whether it be within a school setting, whether it be within the workplace or whether it be out and about in local communities, at sporting events or on public transport, to make sure that we are always sending a message that using a symbol such as the Nazi hate symbol to target those within our community of a particular religion or of a particular faith is simply disgraceful. This bill calls that out. This bill enshrines in legislation an opportunity to make sure that the government and—certainly through what I believe from listening to all of the contributions this afternoon through debate—members right across the chamber are united in our defence of and our protection of those within our community who might be unfairly targeted.
This is a piece of legislation that I am sure many of us would not think that we would need to be bringing through the house. In fact it is a piece of legislation that we should not need to be here debating, because for anyone within our community to think that the use of that hate symbol to unfairly target and go after people in our community that might be vulnerable because of a historic event, arguably the biggest historic event that has happened in the course of history, is frankly disgraceful. Every single member needs to call it out. Every single member needs to have the opportunity to come into this place to call out those who want to go after others, who want to target others, so that they feel the full force of the law when they do these things, because frankly it is disgraceful and it is wrong. It is for these reasons that I support the legislation before the house, and I do indeed wish the piece of legislation a speedy passage through both houses. I commend the bill to the house.
Ms ADDISON (Wendouree) (17:04): Like so many people here in this house today I stand to support the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022, which will prohibit the intentional display of the Hakenkreuz, also known as the Nazi swastika, in a public place knowing that it supports Nazi ideology. I also support the government’s amendment to bring forward the implementation of this legislation by six months. I wish to acknowledge Holocaust survivors and their families and thank them for their strength and advocacy and for continuing to share their lived experience to ensure that an atrocity like the Holocaust can never happen again.
As a former history teacher, I have had the opportunity and privilege of teaching units about the lessons of World War II to year 10 students. This curriculum, which is taught in schools across the state, covers the rise of Hitler and antisemitism during the 1930s, the hateful ideology of the Nazis and the systematic murder and extermination of 6 million Jews. No matter how many times I have taught on the rise of fascism, the despicable actions of the Third Reich and the structural prejudice and discrimination against the Jewish people that led to violence and ultimately genocide, it remains hard to comprehend that this could have happened in the 20th century. I shared with my students the accounts of the vicious and violent attacks of Crystal Night, the brutal oppression of the Warsaw ghetto and many other ghettos across Eastern Europe, the horrors of the massacres of the Nazi’s mobile killing units in the Soviet Union and the inhumane acts that took place in the extermination camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the other killing centres across Europe, and I continue to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the evil. Just as we cannot allow Holocaust denial, nor can we allow the promotion or celebration of the systematic genocidal killing of approximately 6 million Jews in Europe by Nazi Germany. I would also like to acknowledge the millions of others who were targeted and killed by the Nazi regime during this time, including people with disability, LGBTIQ+ people, Roma communities and opponents of the regime. I am committed to supporting anti-vilification measures that will prevent hate, fear and violence in Victoria and to supporting programs and events that educate our young people and future generations about racism, vilification and the prevention of genocide and ethnic cleansing.
This is landmark legislation that reflects the values of our government and the people of Victoria. This reform is a part of our government’s broader commitment to protect Victorians by strengthening our anti-vilification laws. I welcome that this historic legislation is receiving bipartisan support. I want to thank the Attorney-General for her leadership on developing and introducing this legislation, and her office and the department. I am pleased to follow the contributions from the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and the Shadow Attorney-General, who is in the house right now. I wish to recognise the powerful contribution from the member for Box Hill, reflecting on his family’s personal experience, as well as thank the member for Caulfield for sharing his personal story. Once again Victoria is leading the nation, as the first jurisdiction to introduce legislation to ban public displays of the Nazi swastika. I welcome the news that the parliaments of New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania also plan to introduce similar legislation.
We are a proudly multicultural and multifaith state that recognises and respects cultural diversity. In my community of Ballarat we celebrate diversity. We come from 69 different nations, we speak 42 different languages and we practise 21 different faiths in peace and harmony. Disappointingly, not everyone in Victoria embraces and celebrates our diversity. A very small, small number of individuals reject it, rather promoting racism, antisemitism and division. In recent years we have seen examples of the Nazi swastika being displayed by far-right extremists to intimidate and to promote hate. This behaviour is intolerable, and this legislation will prevent such acts.
Importantly, this legislation recognises and respects the swastika, which has been a symbol of divinity, good luck and prosperity and celebrated for thousands of years by the followers of Buddhism, Hinduism and the Jain faiths. I know this has been discussed by a number of speakers, and it is very good to see that we are wanting to work with our Buddhist, Hindu and Jain Victorians to ensure that they will continue to use their symbols to celebrate their faith and their culture.
We are a proud multicultural and multifaith state, and it is because of this that we want to support our Jewish community as well as everyone in our community from hate speech and hate displays. But what we need to know is that there will be exemptions to ensure that museums, cultural institutions and places of learning will continue to be able to display the Nazi swastika for educational purposes. It is so important that we continue to educate our community on this, and therefore we are making sure that that is an important part of this bill as well.
I want to talk briefly about the consultation that has gone on, because I think it is very important that we do so. What I want to make sure is recorded in my speech is that we have really wanted to include people in this process. The opening statement of the legislation provides essential context to the proposed legislation, acknowledging the swastika’s historic and ongoing use, and was co-designed with leaders from the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain communities, and throughout the drafting of this bill as a whole extensive consultation has occurred with faith leaders, the Victorian police, legal stakeholders, the Victorian Multicultural Commission, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission as well as other impacted stakeholders. Targeted consultation has also been conducted as well as in-depth meetings held by the department with the core consultative group, and I really would like to acknowledge and thank the Buddhist Council of Victoria, the Hindu Council of Australia, the Melbourne Shwetambar Jain Sangh and the Jewish Community Council of Victoria for their involvement and for their feedback, which has led to a number of improvements to the proposed legislation.
This consultative process and this bill are demonstrative of the Victorian government’s record of strengthening anti-vilification protections. It also fulfils our government’s commitment to implementing recommendation 24 of the inquiry into anti-vilification protections in Victoria and the 2021 report from the Legislative Assembly Legal and Social Issues Committee which recommends a ban on the display of Nazi symbols, and I would really like to acknowledge the leadership of the chair, the member for St Albans, who did such an excellent job, as well as all the committee members from both sides of the house in that inquiry. We often overlook committee work in this place, and it does not get a lot of glory. But the work that our committees do can be so significant and so important, and I would really like to thank and recognise the great work of the Legislative Assembly Legal and Social Issues Committee for the contribution that they have made to changing Victoria for the better and leading our nation through their great work.
With just a short time to go I will just summarise by saying that while seeking to accelerate the bill’s introduction the Andrews government has also ensured that there will be sufficient time to prepare those involved and the broader community for its implementation. This includes providing training and guidance to the Victorian police on exemptions and enforcements, and it also includes developing and implementing an education campaign to strengthen community awareness of the swastika’s importance to the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain faith communities and the religious and cultural connections that they have. This is significant legislation, and it is essential that it is implemented both efficiently and effectively. The horrors of the Holocaust must never be forgotten, and the acts of Hitler and the Nazi regime must never be glorified. I commend this bill to the house.
Mr BRAYNE (Nepean) (17:14): I also rise today to speak on the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022, joining many other members who have spoken on this bill. It was particularly powerful to hear from my dear friend the member for Box Hill, whose contribution is so important given his family’s history, and the member for Caulfield also gave a really powerful contribution.
The Victorian government is committed to ensuring and protecting the rights of all Victorians to be free from racism, vilification and hatred. The best way to protect the rights of all Victorians is to ensure everyone feels welcome and accepted. Victoria is home to one of the most multicultural societies in the world, and it is from this diversity that we get our strength. We are a harmonious state and we are a harmonious country, but we must be consistently vigilant around people who seek to destroy this. It is the promise of our state that we welcome people of all backgrounds with open arms and give them the chance of a better life. For years people around the world have made Victoria and Australia their home. They have brought with them their hopes and dreams, their religions and cultures and their own personal stories. I know that everyone here today represents communities that are made up of people from many backgrounds.
We all understand how diversity brings us together and enriches our communities. However, we do know that many people in Australia still suffer from the scourge of racism, vilification and hatred, and despite the progress we have made towards reducing racial discrimination in Victoria, we know that there is still more to do. We know that the harm caused by hate conduct and vilification can be profound and long lasting. It can affect people’s physical and psychological wellbeing and prevent them from feeling safe and welcomed in our communities.
Unfortunately we have seen a number of recent incidents where the public display of Nazi symbols has been used to intimidate our culturally diverse communities and spread a message of hate and intolerance. It was so incredibly disappointing to see this take place last year. When this ban was first announced a Nazi symbol was painted near the local shops in Rye. This was so disgusting, and I know that my community were shocked and appalled by this gross act. That is not who we are on the Mornington Peninsula. It is why it is so important that this ban goes ahead and that we make it clear, whether it is in Rye or anywhere else in Victoria, that we will not tolerate racism and discrimination.
As we all know, displaying symbols associated with Nazi and Neo-Nazi ideology is harmful and offensive to all members of our society. However, it is particularly harmful and offensive to our Jewish community, many of whom still carry the generational weight of the Holocaust on their backs. Many have friends and family who endured the heinous crimes committed by the Nazis. Some who survived the horrors of this period are still telling their story today. For our Jewish community the Nazi symbol is more than just a symbol; it is a reminder of the danger that hate and discrimination pose to our society. I know that every Victorian stands with the Jewish community, who have for too long been subject to shameful discrimination.
The Nazi symbol has been used as a symbol of hate to cause many groups harm and to send a message that they are not welcome. Let us be clear: this type of harm is completely unacceptable in our society, which is proudly multicultural and multifaith. And more than anything, everyone, no matter their background, is welcome here. No racist and discriminatory people or symbols will ever change that. That is why it is so important that we stamp out the unjust use of the Nazi symbol to send a message to anyone who would try to do harm to fellow Victorians that it is them and their harmful views that are not welcome here. As I said, it is our diversity that gives us strength, and the racism, vilification and hatred communicated by Nazi symbols and Nazi ideology have no place in Victoria.
That is why this government is proud to deliver this bill, which will make Victoria the first Australian state or territory to ban the public display of the Nazi symbol. This follows the government’s announcement in 2020 that all government secondary school students in years 9 and 10 will be taught about the Holocaust to tackle rising antisemitism, racism and prejudice in our schools and broader society but also to educate and give a deeper understanding of one of the most horrific periods in history. In year 9 I took a class called ‘History: the Holocaust’, a non-compulsory subject which left me feeling horrified throughout the term as it was being taught. Having no understanding of this period prior to the class, I remember feeling absolutely shocked. How could this have happened? My teacher, Mr Vaughan, gave a hugely detailed and complete analysis of the steps leading up to the Holocaust, the period itself and the deep pain and suffering that continues to this day. My class were also taken up to Elsternwick to visit the Holocaust museum, a rich resource in Melbourne for education on the Holocaust, a visit I still remember today. I read on its website just before that currently the museum is undergoing renovation and will be reopening this year. Visiting this institute when reopened is critical for students who are studying and seeking to gain a greater and more personal understanding of this horrific time. Seeing the faces, clothing and shoes of those whose lives were lost just does not leave you. That is why teaching about the Holocaust to our year 9 and 10 students forms such a strong component of keeping the memory alive of those whose lives were lost, and I consider myself fortunate to have been given such a comprehensive education about it in year 9.
With such an education, no other conclusion can be reached than that the public display of the Nazi symbol has no place in Victoria. However, this bill also recognises the significance of the swastika for the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and other faith communities. This symbol has historical and cultural significance for these communities, with the symbol conveying peace and good fortune rather than hate and fear. Despite the importance of this symbol to many in our multifaith communities, there are some Victorians who, through no fault of their own, are not aware of this distinction. As such, the ban will be supported by a community education campaign to raise awareness of the origins of the religious and cultural symbol, its importance to the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain communities and its distinction from the Nazi hate symbol, because while it is important that we stamp out the racism, vilification and hatred associated with the Nazi symbol, it is also important that we protect the cultural and historical significance of the swastika for our multifaith communities.
This government is committed to reducing racism and discrimination in Victoria. That is why this government has got to work on developing Victoria’s anti-racism strategy and established the Anti-Racism Taskforce. That is why this government is listening to the recommendations of the Legal and Social Issues Committee’s inquiry into anti-vilification protections in Victoria, which found that vilification is still common for many Victorians. As such, this bill fulfils this government’s commitment to implementing recommendation 24 of this committee’s report, which includes the banning of Nazi symbols in public places.
This bill also forms part of the government’s broader commitment to introducing reforms that will strengthen anti-vilification protections in Victoria. This bill will create an offence in the Summary Offences Act 1966 which prohibits a person from intentionally displaying a Nazi symbol in a public place if the person knows or reasonably ought to know that the Nazi symbol is a symbol associated with Nazi ideology. Once it is in effect, anyone who intentionally displays the Nazi symbol in public faces penalties of up to almost $22 000, 12 months imprisonment or both.
This bill does ensure that the swastika can continue to be used in appropriate circumstances. This includes genuine religious or cultural use, in particular the use of the swastika by Buddhist, Hindu and Jain communities. This exception also includes the use of the swastika for academic, educational, artistic or scientific purposes when published in a report, when used in opposition to fascism or Nazism or when used for law enforcement and the administration of justice.
As I said, protecting the religious and cultural use of the swastika remains a priority of this bill. That is why exceptions to the offence will be supported by a community education campaign to raise awareness of the religious and cultural swastika—because it is important that we recognise that despite its bastardisation by the Nazis the swastika is still an important symbol for many in our multifaith communities. This bill was drafted with significant input from faith groups about the swastika’s widespread use, including on places of worship, clothing, art, architecture and cars and in shopfronts. That is why the opening statement of this bill details the use of the swastika in the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain communities. This provides vital context as to how this offence will be applied and makes clear the swastika should never fall within the scope of the offence.
Make no mistake, banning public displays of the Nazi symbol is another important step towards reducing racism and discrimination in Victoria, because people should not be able to spread hate and fear towards our culturally diverse communities and get away with it. That is not what Victoria stands for nor what Victoria will allow going forward. By banning the public display of the Nazi symbol, this government is fulfilling its commitment to the Victorian people—that all Victorians have the right to be free from racism, vilification and hatred.
An amendment to this bill will be made to ensure that the bill will be operational for six months after its introduction, as opposed to the previously designated 12 months. This is a good move. I am proud to support this bill. I commend this bill to the house.
Mr TAK (Clarinda) (17:24): I am very proud to rise today to speak on the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022, a historic bill, one that creates a criminal offence to prohibit the display of Nazi symbols in Victoria. I am very humbled also to join the member for Nepean and the member for Box Hill, who made a very powerful and insightful contribution on this bill. As we heard, this is a national first. Victoria will become the first Australian state or territory to ban the public display of the Nazi symbol in recognition of its role in inciting antisemitism and hate. The Nazi symbol has no place in Victoria when it is being used as a symbol of hate.
Victoria is a multicultural success story, and I am proud to be here as one of those stories. The Clarinda electorate is a shining example of this, with more than half of our residents born overseas or with a parent born overseas. We encompass people from all walks of life. People from all over the world have chosen to make their home in the south-east of Melbourne. We are extremely lucky, because with them come their experience, their heritage and their cultures. It brings new ideas and also new opportunities, and we are so much richer for this. We have all worked so hard to build an inclusive, cohesive community, one that celebrates diversity, fosters integration and promotes harmony. Our values are always on show: freedom, fairness, equality and respect. These values are proudly on display each and every day on the streets of the south-east and across Victoria, and a Nazi symbol used to incite hate or division could not be any further from this value. So I am extremely proud to see this bill here today.
Specifically the bill creates an offence in the Summary Offences Act 1966 which prohibits a person from intentionally displaying a Nazi symbol in a public place or in sight of a person in a public place if the person knows or reasonably ought to know that the Nazi symbol is a symbol associated with Nazi ideology. Also included are symbols that so nearly resemble the Hakenkreuz that the symbol is likely to be confused or mistaken for it. The offence comes with a strong penalty—which previous contributors from both sides have already mentioned—which sends a very strong message. Anyone who intentionally displays a Nazi symbol in public could face a penalty of up to almost $22 000 or 12 months imprisonment or both. This is a strong message that Nazi symbols and Neo-Nazi ideology have no place in Victoria.
The bill includes a range of exceptions to the offence where the display was engaged in reasonably and in good faith for a genuine academic, artistic, religious or scientific purpose; for a genuine cultural or educational purpose; in making or publishing a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest; or in opposition to Nazism, Neo-Nazism or other related ideologies.
Just on this point, the bill makes reference to the religious origins of the symbol. In fact it includes an opening statement co-designed with leaders of the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Jewish communities which provides vital context to the application of the offence. The statement goes on to mention that the distorted version of the symbol is also known as the Hakenkreuz, meaning a twisted or hooked cross in German. The symbol became a symbol of the Third Reich, under which heinous crimes were perpetrated against humanity, particularly the Jewish people.
As mentioned before, it was very humbling to hear the fine contributions from our good friend the member for Box Hill and also the member for Caulfield. So it is a very powerful statement and one that deserves repeating: it is an ideology fundamentally incompatible with Victoria’s multicultural, multifaith, multiethnic and democratic society. We have many proud religious organisations in Clarinda, and I am glad to see extensive consultation was undertaken with these groups. These consultations occurred from November 2021 to March 2022. Seven in-depth meetings were held with faith leaders from the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Jewish communities, which sought feedback on key aspects of the offence. Further, a discussion paper was distributed to 150 stakeholders, and feedback was received through written submissions and meetings. Stakeholders included Victoria Police, Victoria Legal Aid, the Law Institute of Victoria, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, the Victorian Multicultural Commission, Aboriginal communities and the Department of Education and Training.
So this is an extensive process, and in fact these changes are part of the broader process under the Legal and Social Issues Committee’s inquiry into anti-vilification protections in Victoria. Acting Speaker Suleyman, it is good to see you in the chair in this chamber as the chair of the Legal and Social Issues Committee, and I am also very proud to be part of that committee. I thank you and all the members and all the secretariat and staff for their work on another important inquiry. The committee was tasked to investigate how Victoria’s anti-vilification laws are working. We received 62 written submissions and 11 supplementary submissions and held seven days of public hearings. Subsequently the report was released in early March this year with 36 recommendations, which included a ban on Nazi symbols. Specifically, recommendation 24 provides:
… the Victorian Government establish a criminal offence that prohibits the display of symbols of Nazi ideology … with considered exceptions to the prohibition.
There are a range of submissions and considerations highlighted in chapter 7 of the committee report regarding the public display offence. One of those considerations is that the offence be accompanied by powers for Victoria Police to direct a person to remove a Nazi symbol from public display, as well as the requirement for the written consent of Director of Public Prosecutions before the commencement of a prosecution of a child for the offence. Both of those elements have been included in this bill. There is also a provision for police to apply to the Magistrates Court for a warrant to enter a premises to search for and seize a Nazi symbol.
Lastly, the government has agreed to monitor the use of hate symbols in response to recommendation 25 of the anti-vilification inquiry and may consider the inclusion of additional symbols, such as the SS symbol, at a later stage. This is very positive, as these symbols too are a representation of hate, genocide and trauma for many people in Victoria and around the world. I commend the Attorney-General and the Andrews Labor government for taking this step—a national first—and for leading the way towards a more inclusive, fairer and more equal Australia. I commend the bill to the house.
Ms HALL (Footscray) (17:33): I am very proud today to rise and speak in support of this bill, and what a significant and important step we are taking today. As a society we have an obligation to be upstanders, not bystanders, to educate and to respond to hateful ideology. To learn the lessons of history and all of its horror, we have to look it in the eye and call it out, and of course the Holocaust—this awful crime against humanity, this pure evil, this atrocity—must never be forgotten. We must continue to act to ensure the seeds of hatred cannot be watered. We are a proudly diverse multicultural and multifaith society. Our diversity in Victoria is our strength. I would like to acknowledge the work of your committee, Acting Speaker Suleyman, the Legal and Social Issues Committee, the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and the Attorney-General and the contributions from the member for Box Hill and the member for Caulfield in this debate.
As a university student I studied the Holocaust and Jewish history at Monash University, and I had the opportunity to learn and study at the Holocaust museum in Elsternwick. Sadly, many of our Holocaust survivors are no longer with us, and at the time of my studies, 20 years ago, I know many children of survivors and students of the Holocaust were undertaking important work to carry the torch in terms of education and awareness from their parents, who had given so much. I would like to acknowledge our community of Holocaust survivors and the work of our Holocaust museum here in Melbourne and in particular their work to document survivor histories. I encourage everyone to look at the vast collection of resources they have on their website.
During my research at university I had the opportunity to meet with a number of survivors and hear their stories, and one in particular, that of a woman called Kitty, has stayed with me. She spoke to me about her arrival at Auschwitz when she was 16 years old, going through those terrible gates, in a line waiting to go through the gates, and she told me that she could not work out whether it was night or day and that it felt like there was a quite pretty sunset over Auschwitz. She made that comment to someone else in the line who said to her, ‘No, you’re going to go through these gates and that’s where we come out’. It was the change in the sky from the gas chambers. She encouraged me to continue my studies and to continue my research and to learn more.
At the time I had become fascinated about the Jewish heritage in my mother’s family, and so I did continue to learn. I travelled to Auschwitz in Poland, and I also visited Oskar Schindler’s factory in Kraków nearby. I will always be grateful to the security guard who let me go into the factory and go into Oskar Schindler’s office and have a look around. In Munich I went to Dachau, and in Prague I visited the Pinkas Synagogue—I went there on a number of occasions—where the drawings of children from the Terezin ghetto tell a harrowing story of the hope, fright and fear of Jewish children, who were encouraged by people in the ghetto to draw their feelings. That collection in the synagogue is an absolutely shocking thing to see but a very important thing to see as well. I also visited the Anne Frank House, like so many thousands of other people every year, and tried to imagine her fear and her hopes as a young woman hiding in that house in Amsterdam.
So in making a contribution to this bill I think about the upstanders. Just last week in my capacity as Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs I had the honour of visiting the Ark Centre and seeing the Courage to Care program, now in its 30th anniversary year. I had the great honour of meeting with a Holocaust survivor, Ken, who is of course all the more significant to me because he is the father of the member for Box Hill. Ken was there speaking with school students about his experience, and raising awareness and understanding is a core element of the work that the Ark Centre do.
Over the past few years we have seen a number of high-profile and sickening Neo-Nazi incidents in our state. This includes the flying of the Nazi flag and Neo-Nazi meetings in the Grampians. These behaviours are offensive and unacceptable to public decency in any modern society. The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 contains criminal offences for serious racial and religious vilification, but the anti-vilification inquiry heard from many stakeholders that these offences are currently too complex and set too high a bar for successful investigation and prosecution of vilification incidents. As such, only the most serious incidents could be found to be in breach of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.
This bill responds to a gap in the law and the findings of the committee inquiry. One important feature of the bill is that it refers to Nazi symbols, specifically the Hakenkreuz. That is because the swastika has a long and continued importance to Buddhist, Hindu and Jain communities in particular, and I am pleased to note that leaders from each of these groups, in addition to Jewish representatives, co-designed the preamble to this bill, which acknowledges and contextualises the difference between the Hakenkreuz and the swastika. Faith communities with legitimate and non-hateful associations with the swastika will not be penalised or included in these amendments, and to ensure this was the case targeted consultation was undertaken with 150 stakeholders between December 2021 and February 2022.
This bill is a sensible and measured response, as a starting point, to ban a globally recognised hate symbol. I am also pleased that the Andrews Labor government will be monitoring the use of hate symbols in response to recommendation 25 of the anti-vilification inquiry and may consider the inclusion of other symbols, such as the SS symbol, at a later stage. Hateful ideologies and symbols have no place in a society that values inclusion and equality, as Victoria does. This is the paradox of tolerance: a society with unfettered tolerance will eventually be exploited by the intolerant. As the recent high-profile Hakenkreuz displays, vandalism and Neo-Nazi gatherings have shown, this is not some abstract or unrealistic concern.
This bill also includes symbols that so closely resemble a prohibited symbol that those symbols are likely to be confused with or mistaken for that symbol. This will ensure that groups and individuals cannot make minor aesthetic alterations to avoid prosecution, particularly when their intention is to promote Nazi ideology. Current legislation sets a high and complex bar for successful investigation and prosecution of vilification incidents. Keeping a clear and consistent definition of public places is essential to the enforcement of this bill.
I have many notes and could have made a longer contribution, but I am very pleased, particularly given my work with the Anti-Racism Taskforce, that today we are making this important step as a Parliament and that it has bipartisan support. I wish it a speedy passage.
Ms THEOPHANOUS (Northcote) (17:43): I would like to begin my contribution today with a story. It is a true story, a story about my father-in-law. His name was Joel Margolis, and he was born in 1920 in Białystok, Poland. Joel was 19 years old when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. He was living in Warsaw with his mother, Anja, father, Myrim, and younger brother, George. They were Jewish. The fear of German aggression had been steadily growing over the preceding years as Joel finished his final years of high school and was preparing to enter university, but on 1 September 1939 those fears became a reality. Things changed very quickly in the days and weeks that followed. The Polish military were unprepared for the speed and force of the German advance. On the first day of the invasion the German air force bombed civilian targets, a deliberate attempt to terrorise and frighten the Polish people buttressed by a relentless propaganda campaign to convince Germans that Jewish people were less than human.
In the terrifying frenzy of that first week Joel and his family scrambled for survival. Warsaw had undergone heavy bombardment since the first hours of the war, and the German forces were closing in fast. They knew they had to get out. They had managed to meet some Russians in Warsaw who had a truck. The problem was that no-one had any fuel; it had all been sequestered by the Polish army for the war effort. This is where Joel’s now famous ingenuity came in. The family owned a tannery where Joel worked part time making leather products. Joel’s early interest in science meant he knew which solvents from the tannery to mix together to make just enough fuel for the truck. They piled in—Joel, his father and mother, his brother, his uncle Munya and aunty Nadja, their baby, Joan, and the Russians—and they drove north.
My husband tells me about some chilling close calls along the way, like when a Russian battalion stopped the car and interrogated them but ultimately let them pass, or when his father overheard the Russians deliberating on whether they should just abandon the family—or worse—to save themselves. Eventually through luck or fate or circumstance they made it across to Lithuania and Latvia, ultimately taking a plane to Sweden, going onto the UK and finally boarding a ship, the SS Orontes, to Australia. When Joel arrived in Fremantle he kissed the ground in thanks for having left troubled Europe behind. The family settled in Melbourne, where they set up a tannery and began making boots for our soldiers.
Joel read physiology and medical textbooks in his spare time and, after going in for an interview, was accepted on the spot to study medicine at Melbourne University. Joel Margolis went on to become an exceptional researcher in medical science, developing key methods to improve the efficacy of blood transfusions for haemophiliacs, which dramatically improved the prognosis for these patients. His methods are now used around the world. He published over 60 medical and scientific papers and founded one of the country’s first biotech companies. Joel’s love of science and pursuit of knowledge never left him. He knew six languages and was an extraordinary musician, and even when a stroke in his final years left him unable to speak, he could still be found consuming books on quantum physics. Sadly, I did not get a chance to meet this gentle, thoughtful, humble and inquisitive man who escaped the Nazis and made such a remarkable contribution to modern science and medicine. He died less than a year before I met my husband, and for those doing the maths, Joel was 63 and his wife, Margo, was 39 when my husband was born—so it is safe to say that Joel also had some charm. Looking at pictures of my father-in-law I can see a clear resemblance to my own daughters, and I know that his story will always be a part of theirs.
For every story like Joel’s there are so many who were not given the chance to live and love and contribute as he did. We have heard some of them today. The Holocaust saw the Nazis and their collaborators systematically murder around 6 million Jews across Europe, around two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population. Many of Joel’s uncles, aunties and cousins did not make it, and we only know fragments of their stories. Generations later, regardless of whether we have personal stories or not, the weight of that atrocity has never left us. It bears down on humanity as a constant reminder of the harm that humans are capable of inflicting on one another—genocide, the end product of hate that is so deep that it cannot even see another as human. When we see the Nazi symbol brandished in revelry at this hatred and these crimes, it is not just an innocuous symbol, it is an attack on our very democracy and our freedom.
Frighteningly and disturbingly, we have seen a rise in right-wing extremism in this country. We cannot pretend that it is not happening. Antisemitism, violent extremism, terrorism—these are real threats which ASIO has identified. In recent years this has become more and more organised. Far-right groups have latched onto the pandemic to propel their hateful message and to actively recruit, often targeting vulnerable, disaffected and disenfranchised members of our community. For our Jewish community this is very close to home, and other speakers have outlined some of the horrifying incidents which have occurred right here in Victoria. Increasingly we are also seeing Nazi symbols used to communicate hatred and cause harm to other groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the LGBTIQ community as well as other racial and religious groups. This type of intimidation is completely unacceptable in our society, which is proudly democratic, diverse, multicultural and multifaith. We hold our cultural diversity close to our hearts, and the use of this symbol to erode that is offensive to every single one of us.
This is not a debate about free speech. The bill contains exemptions for the use of the swastika symbol under a range of appropriate settings. We know this symbol is deeply significant to the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain communities, where it signifies peace, prosperity and blessings. These communities should not have to pay for the past when a sacred sign was twisted to become a representation of hate and bigotry. That is why this bill makes it very clear, particularly in the preamble, that there are specific exemptions for genuine religious or cultural uses of the swastika, and I am pleased to see in this bill a commitment to a community education campaign around that. There are also appropriate exemptions for academic, artistic, scientific and other uses, but the public display of the Nazi symbol to maliciously intimidate our community is not something we can abide.
As I said, this is not about free speech. The Nazi symbol does not propose a different point of view or a different policy position. It is not one side of a debate. The Nazi symbol is an end to all debate. It extinguishes debate. It says, ‘You are less than human, and you have no right to exist’. No argument around freedom or agency can stack up against the harm caused by this hateful symbol. Freedom does not mean freedom to oppress, it does not mean freedom to vilify, it does not mean freedom to terrorise. The Nazi symbol and the extremist elements who wield it are corrosive to our democracy, and it has no place in Victoria.
This is an important bill and one which I wholeheartedly support. It is a first for Australia, and we should be proud that here in Victoria we are taking a stand to legislate this ban. Once in effect, anyone who intentionally displays the Nazi symbol in public for malicious reasons faces penalties of up to almost $22 000, 12 months imprisonment or both. It is a historic moment, a moment in which our government sends a clear message to those who seek to divide, intimidate and harm our peaceful way of life. With this bill we condemn this behaviour and we say, ‘You don’t get to show off your hatred. You don’t get to make others fearful. You don’t get to glorify violence and tyranny and genocide, not in this state, not ever’. Let us ban this symbol. I commend this bill to the house.
Mr TAYLOR (Bayswater) (17:52): It is a bit bittersweet in the context of some of the history behind this, but it is a great honour to rise and a privilege to speak in support of the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022. Like I said, it is bittersweet to be able to speak in support of this bill, this bipartisan legislation. However, it is indeed, in the context of history for our Australian Jewish community and the Jewish community the world over, sad that many decades after the atrocities during World War II the issue we are proceeding to debate today clearly has not gone away in terms of the hatred shown towards our Jewish community through the use of this symbol. It is sad that we are here having to do this today, but it is absolutely necessary. It is a powerful statement. It is a statement of solidarity with our Jewish community. It is a statement that our community’s expectations and our expectations here as legislators are that this will not be tolerated. So in that context it is a pleasure that I rise to make a contribution on this bill.
It is great to see the level of bipartisanship across this place and across the other place on this critical piece of legislation, and I acknowledge a number of contributions. We heard from the member for Box Hill an extremely powerful contribution. I note that recently on social media he noted that it was a privilege to speak in support of this bill to prohibit the public display of the Hakenkreuz. It was great, whilst I was not in the chamber at the time, to listen to it. Obviously the member for Box Hill talked about how he spoke for his family, for the survivors and of course for 95-year-old Halina here from Box Hill South and her continued fight for justice. But the thing that really took me aback was the 6 million Jews and many others who have never been able to speak, and that for me is extremely powerful and came through in the member for Box Hill’s contribution to this Parliament, so I want to thank the member for Box Hill. The member for Northcote spoke so powerfully preceding me. Some of the arguments that have been made by some people—I do not understand it.
I think, member for Northcote, you articulated it well. It has absolutely got nothing to do with free speech. I cannot do justice to how you articulated that, but it is absolutely rubbish, that argument put forward by—and I am grateful for this—a very, very, very select minority. It is not about free speech, and the member for Northcote and others who have shared that sentiment today could not be more right. To the member for Burwood and all members in this place who have made very decent contributions, I thank you all for your contributions on this important legislation, given the context.
This bill creates an offence in the Summary Offences Act 1966 which prohibits a person from intentionally displaying a Nazi symbol in a public space or in sight of a person in a public place if the person knows or reasonably ought to know that the Nazi symbol is associated with Nazi ideology. The bill prohibits only the display of the Hakenkreuz, more widely known as the swastika. Of course it is important to reference it as a Nazi symbol, the Nazi swastika, or a symbol that so nearly resembles the Hakenkreuz that the symbol is likely to be confused or mistaken for it.
This bill, as others have detailed, includes a range of exceptions for the offence where the display is engaged in reasonably and in good faith for a genuine academic, artistic, religious or scientific purpose; for a genuine cultural or educational purpose; in making or publishing a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest; or in opposition to fascism, Nazism, Neo-Nazism or other related ideologies. I know that was important work that the bipartisan committee did on some of the exceptions, and that was something that came up in my community when they were first discussing this.
We know the bill also includes exceptions for the display of the Nazi symbol by means of tattooing or other like processes and for law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The offence is importantly accompanied by powers for Victoria Police to direct a person to remove a Nazi symbol from public display and the ability to apply to the Magistrates Court for a warrant to enter a premises to search and seize a Nazi symbol. Of course it is important to create the offence, but it is equally important to make sure we empower our law enforcement to be able to remove these symbols from public display. Here we are introducing this new summary offence for the public display of the Nazi symbol. The Hakenkreuz as we know is a symbol of hate and causes significant harm to Victorians and particularly to the Jewish community. This landmark reform, the first in the nation, sends a very clear message that the public display of the Nazi symbol has absolutely no place in Victoria.
Again, as I started my contribution, it is 2022, many, many years after the atrocities of World War II and the loss of some 6 million Jewish people during that conflict. I think it is pretty fair to say that an overwhelmingly significant majority of Victorians know that this symbol is disgusting and only serves the purpose of a select few hateful and spiteful people in the community who seek to use this symbol to somehow glorify Nazism and glorify the atrocities that were committed. I am indeed proud that on the opposing side of that are the overwhelming majority of Victorians that stand with the Jewish community, that stand with the community more broadly. In the face of hatred and vile rubbish, in this place we are setting clear expectations that this will absolutely not be tolerated.
This bill as we know will acquit the government’s commitment to banning the display of this Nazi symbol as recommended by the Legal and Social Issues Committee’s inquiry into anti-vilification protections. I absolutely commend the work of that bipartisan committee, and I want to note that on record. We know in effect that anyone who does intentionally display the Nazi symbol in public will face significant penalties of up to almost $22 000 or 12 months imprisonment or both.
It is also important to note the amendments which the Minister for Crime Prevention has circulated. The bill was to commence, by default, one year after royal assent. Sadly with the recent increases in the public display of Nazi symbols in our community—indeed the day after the bill was introduced—it is indeed even more important that we hasten this work to protect our Jewish community and stop idiots from plastering these disgusting symbols on fences, light poles, bus stops and even a Jewish community centre in Caulfield. This causes great distress to the Jewish community and to the entire community, and this amendment is appropriate and makes very clear that this behaviour is unacceptable—and it is of course the conduct that this bill is intended to prevent.
We are very proud as a government, as I know all members in this place are, to be responsible for this bill, which will make Victoria the first Australian state or territory to ban the public display of a Nazi symbol, and it is important in doing so that we recognise the role of Nazi symbols in inciting antisemitism and hate. The bill specifically prohibits the public display of the Hakenkreuz, commonly referred to as the Nazi swastika. Importantly this bill also distinguishes and acknowledges the swastika, which has great cultural and religious significance for our Hindu, Buddhist and Jain communities. I know from some of my interactions with communities, particularly south-east Asian communities, that they have been very pleased to see this important consultation with their communities as well.
This bill also forms part of the government’s broader commitment to introduce a suite of reforms to strengthen anti-vilification protections in Victoria. We want to make sure that we protect the rights of all Victorians to be free from racism, vilification and hatred and to ensure everyone feels welcome and accepted, and we know indeed the harm caused by hate conduct and vilification can be profound. It can affect the physical and psychological wellbeing of individuals and often prevents them from feeling comfortable and participating in their communities. I will simply say: imagine being confronted with this rubbish given the history, the atrocities committed on the Jewish people. I am very proud that we are here today banning this symbol. We are criminalising it and making sure there is a clear message that it is not tolerated.
Ms RICHARDS (Cranbourne) (18:02): I consider it an extraordinary honour to speak today on this bill, the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022. This bill prohibits and introduces a summary offence for the intentional public display of the Nazi symbol, specifically the Hakenkreuz. I pay credit to the extraordinary contributions we have been honoured to hear from both sides of the chamber today. Like most people I would like to pay credit to the member for Box Hill for bringing us all to the place we need to be, which is to centre ourselves around people who have experienced the most horrendous atrocities and the survivors who are—some of whom we have had here today—living amongst us and the families of survivors. I would also like to pay credit to the extraordinary contribution of the member for Northcote and also thank the member for Caulfield, the member for Brighton and others for making our contributions here today a real reflection of the best of us and what happens when we join together to call out hate.
This bill is an affirmation that this symbol of hate has no place in Victoria, but it also recognises the great harm that is caused to Victorians, especially those in the Jewish community, when this awful, atrocious symbol is used as a way of intimidating or just being a participant in hate. As has been beautifully articulated across this chamber, it is absolutely imperative for the Shoah and the horror and the atrocities of the Shoah to be embedded in our consciousness, our understanding and our curriculum. I have had two students in today from St Peter’s College in Cranbourne, and I was asking them for their reflections on what they saw today. In fact this debate shows what can happen when the Parliament joins together to call out hate and to acknowledge the effect it has on people, and so I do want to also pay credit to Vasu and Lucksy for inspiring me with their deep understanding of the Holocaust and the Shoah. They demonstrated to me the future and the opportunity for us to see in our young people that there is a deep understanding, an acknowledgement, of that incredibly important part of our collective history and why, when we act together, we can give people hope that they can go about their lives without having to experience the sort of hate that that awful symbol demonstrates.
Like many people who have travelled to Europe, I was struck by a monument that lives amongst the European cities. There are 70 000 stumbling blocks—the German word is ‘Stolpersteine’—and they are a chilling reminder of past atrocities. Over 70 000 of these stumbling blocks are placed at the front of homes where Holocaust survivors last lived freely. And once you have seen one, you will see many of them. They are a really important reminder of the lives people lived and the way that people experienced joy. I have got a quote here from a person who saw a home—a young person who was deported at age four from a house—and he pointed to a house and said, ‘That was our house’. That idea of a remembrance of the homes where people lived freely and the people who lived in them has generated a groundswell of these important monuments. You would literally stumble across them everywhere in Europe. They are a 10-centimetre square embedded underfoot, and they are a really important reminder wherever we go—inside the cobblestones—of the joy that people had before being taken away by the horror of those who ascribed to the Nazi philosophy.
The swastika, by contrast, is of great cultural and religious significance to the Hindu community, the Buddhist community and the Jain community and should be known for its meaning of peace, good fortune and hope—in fact as the opposite of that horrendous object of hate that has been used by people who do ascribe to the far-right Nazi philosophies. The use of a swastika by the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist communities is exemplified by the preamble of this bill, and the approach acknowledges and distinguishes between a swastika as a symbol important to these communities and the Hakenkreuz as a symbol of hate.
I would like to acknowledge particularly some of the communities in Cranbourne and some of the schools in Cranbourne who have worked so hard in acknowledging the Holocaust. I would like to celebrate and pay credit to Alkira Secondary College and the close working relationship they have with Mount Scopus. It is a partnership between a school in Cranbourne and a school in Burwood, and as part of that partnership, each year they have a really important and reverential memorial service in which they invite Holocaust survivors or descendants of Holocaust survivors to talk about the importance of the Shoah and to talk about the importance of understanding what that type of racial vilification can lead to. And to hear the young students I had here today and the students of Alkira and the depth of their understanding of the consequences of the Holocaust is something that gives me great hope for the future and something that is absolutely captured very clearly in this chamber here and across the Parliament and in the work that the government is undertaking.
The member for Tarneit did acknowledge the Cranbourne golf course and an awful incident at the Cranbourne golf course a couple of years ago where there was some antisemitic graffiti. I choose to also particularly acknowledge the way that the community came together after hearing about and learning of this horrendous graffiti. This was particularly important because the Cranbourne golf course is a club that was set up in response to the historic antisemitic behaviour of some of the golf clubs, so it is a golf course that has been important to the Jewish community. When other faith leaders in Cranbourne—and specifically we had a Christian leader, a Muslim leader, a member of the Sikh faith and others—came together and made a statement of solidarity, that elevated the faith communities and their joint commitment to calling out Nazis and calling out any antisemitic behaviour, condemning it in the strongest possible way and doing it at speed immediately. It was a moment where I felt the optimism, again, of a community who can come together and call out the pain and suffering the use of that symbol does generate.
Like many here, I have visited the Holocaust museum, and I keep with me in my office a photo of the survivor that we met that day to remind us all the time of that important mantra to never forget. I feel grateful to have had a survivor here with us today as well, as so powerfully acknowledged by the member for Burwood. This is a really important bill. The consultation has been fulsome. The Hindu Council of Australia have come out with really strong statements as well, recognising and supporting this legislation—they support it in the context of their own use of a symbol of peace, and they recognise that that symbol of peace is not captured in this legislation. I commend this bill. I thank the many contributors, and I wish it a speedy passage.
Ms WARD (Eltham) (18:12): Like the member for Cranbourne, I also rise in support of this bill, and what a great contribution it was by her. I am so grateful to follow on from so many of my Labor colleagues, who have stood in this place in support of this bill. I do not want Nazis in my state. I do not want them in my country. In fact I do not want them anywhere in the world. Their hate, their anger, their violence, their prejudice, their ignorance, their evil does not deserve to be heard. It needs to be banished. It needs to be reviled. Used in this way it is a symbol we should never have to see. What the Nazis did across Europe is a horror beyond nightmares. To think that humans can be so evil, can cause so much harm to others, is something we must never forget, and the dominant symbol of the violent Nazi fascists must never be given the opportunity to be displayed to demonstrate hate, violence, division and death.
We cannot allow this symbol to spread, to be in our community attempting to gain power. We have seen with a number of the protests against health protection measures during COVID-19 that there has been a rise in the use of Nazi symbols. Dr Dvir Abramovich, the chair of the Anti-Defamation Commission, says that white supremacists are dreaming of an impending race war and Neo-Nazis are using the protests to spread their ideology. Dr Abramovich added the more often the imagery is used, the more normalised it becomes, and that was the goal used by white supremacists to build support in Australian society. We do not want this symbol, when used for hate, to be normalised.
Here is a Melbourne story from less than two months ago. A family who had survived the Holocaust are on a helicopter ride. They are having a great time. They look down as a sports field comes into view. What they see is a Hakenkreuz burned into the grass. This is not a lark. This is not graffiti. It is not kids mucking around. It is a symbol of hate, it is a symbol of oppression and it is a symbol of violence. It is a symbol of death. When told of this hatred branded into the grass, Yarra Valley council said that actions such as these were becoming more frequent in the area—and again, this was less than two months ago. I have had contact from members of my own community concerned at seeing the Hakenkreuz scrawled in public areas. We know what it means. It is an attempt to intimidate, a cowardly way to try and gain power from fear and from hate. Only cowards use this symbol in this way, and we will not cower before them. We will not cower before it as its proponents want; instead we stand up to it and we stamp it out.
We know the horror of the Holocaust. Such evil is so hard to imagine, to fathom, but we do. We do because of the bravery of those who have told their stories, those who have wanted to make sure that such horrors would never, could never, happen again. This is why we want to make it a criminal act to display this symbol of hate, this symbol of violence, this symbol of death. In Germany this symbol of suppression, fear and violence was banned after World War II.
A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The enormity of the actions of the Nazis is overwhelming—the names, the endless list of names, of people violently destroyed because of their identity; the photos, the suitcases, the clothing; the relics of those who are gone, who went through shocking horrors; the violence, the starvation, the cruelty, the misery, the rapes. We have to stand up to hatred and we have to stand up to cruelty. This government has been consistent in so doing, and this is what we do with this amendment.
I ask: what is white pride? What on earth is it? What does it mean? Why does pride mean the violent denigration of others? To use this symbol to make yourself feel proud of who you are is unfathomable to me. I do not understand why people cannot be proud of themselves unless they cause hurt and create violence against other people. The member for Shepparton in her important contribution to this debate spoke of feeling anxious for Jewish members of her extended family. We cannot live like this. People cannot be afraid to exist or their loved ones to be afraid for them because of their identity. We must stand up to hate and we must stand up to violence.
I also thank my friend the member for Box Hill for telling his story in support of this amendment. As a proud Melburnian—my family arrived here in the late 1840s—it moves me to know that outside of Israel we have the largest per capita concentration of Holocaust survivors in the world. Holocaust survivors call our city their home, including the family of the member for Box Hill, and it must remain their home. They deserve for their home to be safe, and we must do all that we can to make sure that it is indeed safe. No-one should be confronted with this symbol of horror, of cowardice, in their daily life. They know what it means. It is purely there to intimidate and to instil fear and to remind people of what the Nazis did—the horror and trauma they inflicted upon millions upon millions of people. Not in a respectful way, not in a way to commemorate, its purpose is to celebrate this pain, this evil. We need to stand in the shoes of others and understand their pain to legislate, to criminalise the display of this symbol when its only message is hate and violence.
In my past I had an American-Israeli boyfriend who told me the story of his dad who was Polish. With his family he had been on a train to be transported to a death camp. At one point of the journey the train stopped, and his mother was able to pull open the door and shove him out. He ran and somehow found his way to France. His family perished. No-one can escape this institutional trauma. Children and grandchildren—they all wear the psychological scars of what happened at the hands of the Nazis.
While the former member for Kooyong is a different colour from me—he is blue and I am red—I am appalled that the Hakenkreuz symbol found its way onto some of his signage during the recent federal campaign. While we all get moustaches, blacked-out teeth or glasses, to put this symbol on any political sign, let alone that of a Jewish candidate, is disgusting and outrageous. We have to put a stop to it. We cannot confuse the Hakenkreuz symbol of hate with the swastika of Hindus, Buddhists and Jains—‘swastika’ being an ancient Sanskrit word meaning ‘wellbeing’. Pre World War II it became such a positive symbol it was used by businesses such as Coca-Cola and indeed the US military during World War I. I thank those religious communities who have worked with the government on this legislation, helping to ensure that the use of the swastika as a symbol for love can continue, but that when it comes to hate, it has no place in this state.
I am so glad that this government has stood up, has allowed the voices of those who have been hurt by this terribly evil symbol of the Hakenkreuz to be taken away, to be criminalised, when it is used in this way—for sowing hate, sowing violence and sowing division. It does need to be criminalised. It needs to be stopped, and they need to be held to account. These cowards who use this symbol—these cowards who scrawl this symbol in the darkness of night, hidden away so that they can try and impart messages of fear and of hate—need to be held to account. For them to have to stand up in the community and be held accountable for their action of hatred is very important, and I am glad that this government, the government that I represent, has stepped up to make sure that this is indeed the case—that these people will be held to account for the hatred that they try to sow, for the racism that they try to sow, for the divisiveness that they try to sow and for the evil that they try to sow. It needs to be exposed, it needs to be held up to scrutiny. They need to be found accountable, and they need to be found wanting. I am very glad and very proud to support this legislation.
Mr RICHARDSON (Mordialloc) (18:21): I rise to speak on the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022 and follow a long line of contributors who have spoken so passionately and eloquently about this important legislation, what it means across communities and what it says for us as a triumphant democracy in an uncertain world. The contributions of the member for Caulfield, the member for Box Hill and the member for Burwood were truly extraordinary and the best parts of our parliamentary multi-partisanship and how we work together on pieces of legislation. To the Legal and Social Issues Committee, led by the member for St Albans: outstanding work. This is a testament to the Parliament and the work that can be done by committees across all parties.
It is an interesting time to reflect, to think of such atrocities that were inflicted in living memory, some of the darkest times of humanity and more than 6 million people that perished in Jewish communities across the world, with horrific consequences. And to think in a modern democracy like Australia that we need legislation like this is troubling. It is concerning where we find extremism, symbols of hatred, particularly Nazi symbols of hatred and the malice that they are attached to. I remember the early days of working for the federal member for Isaacs, Mark Dreyfus, who had family perish in the Holocaust, and at the time I was working for him, in 2012, we had a Nazi symbol flag flown at a household in Carrum. This was probably one of the strangest interactions and probably where I learned quite a bit about this as a symbol of hatred. At that time Mark Dreyfus was on the record as saying:
These symbols offend the thousands of Australian men and women who served during World War II and Australia’s Jewish community. These are symbols of the most evil regime of the 20th century. The flag maker should find other ways to attract attention …
The member for Caulfield was quoted as well at that time, a decade ago, saying that people should vote with their feet and not purchase these products from this business—that it was a blatant disregard for the enormous community of Holocaust survivors.
It is amazing that, a decade on, now we have the mechanisms to deal with such behaviours, and while that was probably attention seeking at that time, anyone attached to that image, whether that is wilful or ignorant or provocative, is endorsing a symbol of great hatred. When we see that kind of action now, as it is flown and used as a mechanism for fear particularly towards Jewish Australians, we need to call it out, and we need strong legislative action. We see people nowadays who just recently were commemorating some of the architects of that horror and recognising them. We need to stamp that out in our community. It is nothing to do with freedom of speech, it is hate speech. It is provocation, and it is an absolute atrocity to Holocaust survivors across our communities.
I had an incredible opportunity to join with the Parkdale Secondary College community a few years ago and a Holocaust survivor by the name of Edith Gluck, who has been recognised before in the Guardian and who was so wonderful, humble and kind to the students at Parkdale Secondary College. It is really important that we educate our generations about such atrocities and hatred and the inhumanity that occurred only in living memory for many people still in our community and only a couple of branches of generations before—that where we dehumanise and devalue people it can have horrendous consequences in the darkest parts of our communities. So to join with Edith at that time was a truly humbling experience. To light a candle with Edith and then to hear her reflections and hear her story of how she lost family and how she somehow survived, met another Holocaust survivor and went on to find a life in the 1950s in Australia was extraordinary and left an incredible mark on our community and that event.
I just thought, how do you sum up in words the message that she delivered to students at that time? Her words were quite simple. In five words she said: be kind to one another. And I thought, for all that grief and all that trauma—that generational trauma—to have that as a contribution to leave with our communities was really telling. It was an example of the resilience of so many in the Jewish community—those that suffered the generational suffering that has occurred—and the need to always reflect and remember. If anyone is on Twitter and wants to really reflect on that, I would highly recommend they follow the Auschwitz memorial Twitter page. It is a daily reminder of the stories of those that perished. Each and every day families, communities and individuals display their photos and who they were. We never forget and we always remember the families and the generations that never got to fulfil their ambitions or hopes and dreams through the most horrific dehumanisation of people in the modern world. We always have to be vigilant.
There is symbolism as well in this bill about making sure that Nazi symbols of hate—the intention around malice and the intention around fear—and those atrocities are always denounced and that free democracies and inclusive communities and multicultural societies like Victoria and Australia always challenge that whenever it rears its ugly head. That is this opportunity right now with this bill. It is an important reminder of the work that has been done to get to this point and what we strive to live up to across the world as an example of a modern and inclusive and harmonious democracy with over 6.5 million people born somewhere else. That is the truest example of a multicultural and inclusive society—that we make sure that we are respectful and kind to one another.
I know there is some commentary around this symbol as it is intended in other communities, particularly in other faith communities, but I think the key element to that is intent. It is quite easy to disaggregate the use of this particular symbol in its own place as opposed to malicious intent, fear and aggression. I think that is quite an easy delineation to make. We see it being weaponised in communities at the moment to spread fear and aggression.
Really, it is humbling to be in the Parliament to make sure that this is a historic moment where we denounce hate and we denounce symbols of atrocities and of previous wars as well and that that symbol will forever be buried and cast aside for generations to come. But we must always be vigilant as a nation, as a society as well, about the elements of that dehumanisation of people at that time and how quickly it spread across Europe and how it had the most horrific consequences—over 6 million people perished in the Jewish community, but in the world war, over 76 million people perished—and the toll that it had and the hatred that spread. So thank you to all the members that have contributed. On behalf of my local community, I thank the minister. I thank members for the multipartisanship that has been shown and the moving and thoughtful contributions that have been made, and I commend the bill to the house.
That the debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to and debate adjourned.
Ordered that debate be adjourned until later this day.