Is it Illegal to Publicly Display Nazi Symbols?

Image credit: agsaz

Poppy Morandin.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Dave Hudson has recently told a parliamentary inquiry into whether Nazi symbols should be banned, that the move could ‘backfire’. 

The Crimes Amendment (Display of Nazi Symbols) Bill 2021 was previously referred to the parliamentary inquiry to determine it’s introduction.

The bill was introduced by the Hon Walt Secord MLC and seeks to prohibit the public display of Nazi symbols. 

This is listed to include symbols of, or associated with, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, the Third Reich or NeoNazism. 

The bill was discussed on 3 February 2022, where persons such as the Chair of the Anti-Defamation Commission, Dr Dvir Abramovich and Executive Director, Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, Dr Colin Rubenstein AM were present. 

In his remarks at the hearing, Deputy Commissioner Hudson told the inquiry that banning the symbols may not be the right approach. 

“When you force something underground it gains a certain mystique and attraction for certain individuals,” he said.

“We’re not dealing with people who are mainstream Australia, we have individuals who align themselves to extreme right-wing ideology.

“The type of individuals that we deal with, will certainly be attracted to the prohibition of this type of symbol.”

Despite this, he noted that new measures are certainly needed to address the rise in right-wing extremism. 

“Any criticism I have of this bill is not in relation to its intent, but in relation to the mechanics of how it might operate,” he summarised. 

Hudson noted that he had personally seen a rise in extremist behaviour over the past two years, particularly due to increased recruitment and engagement online throughout COVID lockdowns. 

Shadow Police Minister Walt Secord has noted that in 2020 alone there were 31 instances where police were notified about a Nazi flag being displayed. 

It included an incident in April 2020 where a Nazi flag was displayed hanging on the veranda of a Newtown home, just 350m from a local synagogue.

Whilst officers from Inner West Police Area Command spoke to the occupiers of the residence, and the flag was taken down, no charges were laid. 

“It’s not against the law to do it,” Mr Secord said, noting: “it’s deeply offensive, it’s a symbol of genocide.” 

Mr Secord has rejected suggestions that the ban could empower extremists. 

The bill has evidently received support from Jewish community groups. 

It has also received support from Hindu community groups, for whom the swastika is an ancient religious symbol, meaning prosperity or good luck. 

Is it Illegal to Publicly Display Nazi Symbols?

The bill contains proposed exceptions for Nazi symbols to be displayed for religious, educational, historic, artistic, and other legitimate purposes.

It specifically exempts swastikas used in connection with Hinduism, Buddhism or Jainism.

The proposed legislation would introduce a maximum penalty of a $550 fine and/or imprisonment for 6 months for displaying a Nazi symbol, through a public act.  

For an offending corporation, the applicable maximum penalty would be a $5,500 fine. 

It is proposed to cover broadcasting and communicating Nazi symbols through social media and other electronic methods, wearing clothes branded with the symbols, displaying signs or symbols in a way that is observable by the public, and distribution of written or visual material to the public.

The swastika is currently banned in numerous other countries, including Germany, Austria, France, and parts of Canada. 

Victoria is also in the process of banning Nazi symbols, with new laws expected to be introduced into their state parliament this year. 

Questions on this topic? Our criminal lawyers Sydney solicitors are available for a chat.

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