Nazi symbols are one step closer to be banned in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) after a legislation criminalising their use passed the state parliament’s lower house on Aug. 9.
Under the legislation, the use or display of Nazi flags or memorabilia bearing swastikas would be banned.
Individual offenders face up to 12 months in prison or a fine of $11,000 (US$7,645), or both, while businesses face fines of up to $55,000.
“Hateful and vilifying conduct is completely unacceptable in our community,” Attorney General said in a statement.
“New South Wales is a place where everyone can expect protection and safety from serious vilification and hate crimes.”
Speakman said the display of Nazi symbols undermine Australians’ shared values and causes harm and distress to others in the community, including those from the Jewish faith.
In 2020, NSW Police received 31 reports of Nazi flags being displayed, including one from a home near a Sydney synagogue.
“This distress is also felt keenly by groups targeted by the Nazis, including people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and by veterans who risked their lives in service for our country,” he said.
“This bill recognises that the public display of Nazi symbols is abhorrent, except in very limited circumstances such as for educational purposes, and causes profound offence and distress.”
Religious Communities Exempted
The display of a swastika in connection with Buddhism, Hinduism, or Jainism will not constitute the display of a Nazi symbol under the bill, according to NSW Minister for Multiculturalism Mark Coure.
“The swastika has been an ancient symbol of peace, prosperity, and auspiciousness for these spiritual groups for thousands of years,” Coure said.
“This Bill reflects stakeholder feedback that the offence should not apply to a swastika displayed in connection with Buddhism, Hinduism or Jainism.”
In addition, according to the Bill, the public display of Nazi symbols will not be a crime if there is a reasonable excuse, such as for artistic, academic or educational purposes or any other purpose in the public interest.
The Epoch Times understands that the use of the swastika by some Eastern faith groups, such as Falun Dafa, which has a swastika in its symbol, will also be exempted.
“The Bill also provides in proposed section 93ZA(3) that it is not an offence to display a Nazi symbol where there is a reasonable excuse, done reasonably and in good faith, for another purpose in the public interest,” the Attorney General Mark Speakman said in an email to The Epoch Times.
“A faith group that displays the swastika in connection with their faith, but is not connected with Buddhism, Hinduism or Jainism, may nevertheless be able to establish that they have a reasonable excuse for doing so under section 93ZA(3) if the symbol is displayed reasonably and in good faith for a purpose in the public interest.”
Response from Jewish Community
The state’s Jewish community welcomed the pass of the bill.
“In recent years we have seen a surge in the use of these symbols by right-wing extremists and for other faith-based attacks, both in-person and online,” NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Darren Bark said. “Hate has no place in our tolerant multicultural society.”
“Nazi symbols are a gateway to violence and vilification, and this historic legislation will ensure those who are here to cause harm in our community are dealt with under the law.
“The Jewish Board of Deputies was incredibly proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Hindu community to ensure this important legislation is passed.”
Professor of Law: Banning Swastika Will Cause It to Spread Further
However, others have expressed a different view arguing that banning the symbol will push it underground, where it will spread.
Gabriël A. Moens AM, an emeritus professor of law at the University of Queensland, argued that the ban of the swastika would push the Nazi symbol underground, where it could fester and cause more issues in society.
“The state’s proposed banning of the Swastika (and other Nazi paraphernalia) will have unfortunate consequences because its display will simply go underground where it will fester and infect—an unhealthy situation,” Moens wrote in an opinion piece for The Epoch Times regarding Victoria’s ban on Swastika.
“All ideas, good or bad, should be allowed to be discussed in ‘the marketplace of ideas,” he said. “This is because the truth will emerge from the competition of ideas in free, transparent public discourse.”
Ancient Origins of Swastika
The earliest known swastika was found in 10,000 B.C. in the Ukraine, carved on mammoth ivory.
Additionally, the symbol can be found in artifacts from Ancient Greece and in the remains of the ancient city of Troy, which existed 4,000 years ago. While the ancient Druids and the Celts also utilised the symbol, as did the early Nordic tribes and even early Christians as one of their symbols.
Sometimes called a srivatsa, the word swastika is Sanskrit: and, linguistically, is broken into swa, meaning “higher self,” asti means “being,” and ka is a suffix. The word may be understood as “being with higher self,” “It is,” well being,” “good existence,” and “good luck.”
The srivatsa has an especially strong connection to Buddhism in India, which was then transmitted to China. It is often found on Buddha sculptures and is believed to be a symbol with profound and heavenly meanings.
The NSW bill followed a ban of the Nazi swastika in Victoria in June, which is Australia’s first state to do so. Those who break the law in Victoria face up to a year in jail and an AU$22,000 fine.
The bill still needs to be passed by the NSW upper house before it can be officially come into force.
Henry Jom and Tara MacIsaac contributed to this report.