The Holocaust must not be forgotten

Abigail spoke on the need to prohibit the intentional public display of Nazi symbols, and how important it is for society to not forget the Holocaust and the pervasive harm of antisemitism. 

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (18:13): On behalf of The Greens, I support the Crimes Amendment (Prohibition on Display of Nazi Symbols) Bill 2022. I thank the Hon. Walt Secord for working with the Jewish committee to progress this legal reform. I acknowledge the bill that he brought earlier in the year prior to this one, which was brought with the same intention. I am grateful to have been a member of the committee inquiring into it, particularly the work we did around the specific terms of a bill of this kind. The Greens wholeheartedly support the prohibition on the display of Nazi symbols.

The ongoing damage of Nazism cannot be understated. The Holocaust resulted in the genocide of six million Jewish people and 11 million members of other minority groups, including people with disabilities, gay men, Slavic people, Romani people, political dissidents and other religious minorities. The genocide, dispossession and displacement of millions of Jewish people in particular, as well as the influence of Nazism in stoking antisemitism across the world, continues to be felt as profound collective and intergenerational trauma. I have read widely about the Holocaust and encouraged many others, including my eldest daughter, who I feel is now old enough, to do the same. Because we cannot and must not forget the Holocaust. It represents the very, very worst of humanity. We cannot be complacent about ensuring that nothing like that happens again. It did not happen out of the blue. Jewish people have been persecuted for thousands of years.

The symbols of the Nazi regime that carried out these atrocities continue to represent the ideology of racial supremacy that fuelled the Holocaust and continue to cause harm, especially to the Jewish community. Nazi symbolism and indeed Nazism did not exist only in the past, however. We know that the extreme far right is actively organising in Australia and internationally. Over the past few years we have seen an increase in hate crimes by self-identified Neo-Nazis perpetrated against Jewish people, First Nations people and people of colour, while mainstream politicians and media outlets have embraced their harmful fringe ideology for votes and clicks, without a care for the fact that in flirting with the far right they stoke the flames of hate, normalising and even encouraging the growth of these ideologies that continue to inflict harm on vulnerable minorities.

These far-right groups are often organising under banners that utilise long-standing symbols of hate, and in some cases literally using them as a recruiting tool.The Sydney Morning Herald released an investigation only last week into the methods Neo-Nazis are using to organise, recruit and radicalise, documenting one particular incident in which stickers, posters and graffiti featuring far-right slogans and symbols were plastered across Wollongong in what appears to have been a recruitment drive. Nazism in all its forms must be actively opposed. Antisemitism, Neo-Nazism, white supremacy and far‑right extremism are a scourge. We cannot allow them to gain any further of a foothold in our society, and we must actively fight fascism on all fronts and in all circumstances. Banning the public display of Nazi symbols is a small but important step in this fight. Images and words mean things. Whether a dog whistle or an outright shout, the weaponisation of these symbols can harm people.

The bill will ban the knowing display of a Nazi symbol to the public. I have asked the Attorney General to confirm, and I understand that the intention is, that you must knowingly display as well as it be knowingly a public act in order to be caught by this offence. We raised the question to the Attorney General of, for example, a person who had some sort of Nazi paraphernalia in their bedroom, with a window or a curtain open, that somebody walking past could see. If the person was knowingly allowing people to see that and had knowingly left the curtain open, they would be caught by this. But if they had done it inadvertently or did not know, then the mere act of holding that sort of imagery would not be caught by this. We think it is important that both elements are caught by the qualifier of "knowingly". That was one of the main things coming out of the inquiry into the Hon. Walt Secord's version of this legal reform, and I think it is an important one that we have captured and tightened.

The other aspect we considered during the inquiry was what happens in the case of social media. For instance, if somebody posted on their web page some sort of Nazi symbol five years ago, then this legislation comes in. The question I think is still whether continuing to have that on your Facebook page is a public display. I think that this is when things perhaps get a little bit tricky. At the end of this new provision is a "reasonable excuse" defence. I am hoping that that acts in some way to catch, for instance, the person that just was not aware it was on there as opposed to the person who has deliberately left it up. But I ask the Government to look into that aspect of the application of these laws.

I understand that the review that has been suggested by the Opposition will help to ensure that that does not have unintended consequences. On that basis we are comfortable that people who do not intend to publicly display are not caught. We have to acknowledge, of course, that this bill alone will not tackle antisemitism or dismantle racism. The Greens welcome further tangible work by the Government towards a genuinely anti-racist society. But we are grateful to see reforms of this kind pass with the support of both the Government and the Opposition. The Greens wholeheartedly welcome it.

 

For the full transcript, see Hansard here.

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