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People who are caught publicly displaying the Nazi swastika in Victoria will soon face massive fines – and even one year in prison – after the state became the first in Australia to introduce a “landmark” ban on the symbol. The Victorian government has introduced a new Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill, which would effectively ban all intentional displays of the Nazi swastika across Victoria.
Announcing the Bill at a press conference on Wednesday, the state’s attorney general, Jaclyn Symes, said the new legislation should send a clear message to Victoria’s Nazi and neo-Nazi communities, who have in recent years become increasingly visible across the state.“The Nazi symbol glorifies one of the most hateful ideologies in history – its public display does nothing but cause further pain and division. As a government we want to do all we can to stamp out hate and give it no room to grow,” Symes said. “We do know that the swastika is a symbol of peace, love and acceptance for the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain communities and is a really important symbol for their faith,” Symes said.The new legislation does offer exemptions to showing the symbol in educational and artistic settings, and includes carve-outs for religious versions of the symbol tied to Hundu, Buddhist and Jain faiths, which will each remain fully legal. Those caught publicly displaying the swastika after the new Bill is passed, though, are set to face fines worth $22,000, as well as one year in prison. Attorney General Symes went on to warn Nazis that she’d move to include other symbols, like the Nazi SS Bolts, should law enforcement notice that proponents are just turning to alternative Nazi insignia.The new legislation comes off the back of a parliamentary inquiry launched in early 2021, which recommended the state-wide ban along with an extension to the state’s anti-vilification laws, beyond race and religion.
After the new laws were announced, a variety of different human rights organisations and religious peak bodies welcomed the Bill, saying that laws like those announced on Wednesday are well overdue. Dvir Abramovich, the chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission, was one of them, saying Victoria finds itself in the thick of a Nazi swastika “epidemic” sparked by the neo-Nazi movement. “This is an uplifting and triumphant moment for every Victorian,” Abramovich said. “It’s a thunderous blow to the solar plexus of the neo-Nazi movement here in Victoria, who would love nothing more than to put people like myself in the gas chambers and dream of an Australian Hitler and a Fourth Reich.”He was joined by Daniel Aghion, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, who pointed to a rising trend of anti-Semitic incidents across the country, which have likely only been empowered by the availability of Nazi swastikas. Even then, he said, the ban isn’t likely to make much of a dent in the efforts of “malicious” attackers. When the Bill passes with bipartisan support in both houses next year, as it’s expected to, Victoria will become the first state or territory in Australia to institute a blanket ban on the Nazi swastika. Just last month, New South Wales made moves to introduce similar laws, after a separate inquiry recommended a bill be brought to parliament.Follow John on Twitter.Read more from VICE Australia.