In Parliament

Bill Debate - Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022



Tuesday, 7 June 2022.

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:

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.