22 March 2023
[procedural wording omitted]
Mr Speaker, I rise today to support the Suspension Motion that will allow the Member for Berowra to introduce a Bill to amend the Criminal Code Act of 1995.
The Coalition is seeking to have the Criminal Code amended to prohibit the display of Nazi symbols.
Nazi symbols are, of course, associated with one of the most heinous regimes in history.
Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany carried out the deliberate, calculated and organised mass murder of six million European Jews, as well as 5 million prisoners of war and other victims.
The Nazi systemic and state sponsored campaign of persecution dehumanised an entire people and its industrialised extermination resulted in the Holocaust, one of the worst crimes committed in history.
In all, the Nazis murdered 11 million human beings they considered to be life unworthy of life.
The Nazi regime is one of the greatest evils ever visited on humanity.
Nazism is an ideology of unparalleled hate. It’s an ideology which, through its contempt for the rights of man, can lead only to darkness and to the destruction of humanity.
Thus, in what they represent, Nazi symbols are no ordinary symbols. They must be condemned wherever and whenever they are found and displayed.
Today, we must stand united as a Parliament.
Those who display Nazi symbols are either ignorant of history or they are knowingly lionising an evil which must never be revisited upon humanity.
Sadly and repugnantly, there is growing incidence of the glorification of Nazism in Australia.
The Nazi symbol is a symbol of action commonly associated with the Nazi Party.
It would include the Nazi swastika, the Nazi salute, Nazi uniforms and other types of symbols identified in the Executive Council of Australian Jewry Anti-Semitism reports.
In seeking to amend the Criminal Code, we seek to make it an offence to display such symbols without a reasonable excuse.
A person would have committed an offence if the person displays a Nazi symbol or the person knows that the symbol is a Nazi symbol.
The penalty would be 100 units or 12 months imprisonment.
Mr Speaker, in these amendments there would be exceptions, and to avoid doubt, the display of swastika in connection with Buddhism, Hinduism or Jainism does not constitute the display of a Nazi symbol.
Moreover, to ensure the prohibition does not interfere with the vital work of teaching young people about the evils of the past, there are limitations and carve outs in terms of genuine educational, scientific and artistic purposes, such as films and documentaries.
Furthermore, the prohibition does not apply to journalism or where symbols are displayed for another purpose in the public interest.
Mr Speaker, there will be those who complain about these amendments to the Criminal Code being an infringement of civil liberties.
To those people, I can say the historical context here is everything.
We owe it to all of those who were victims of one of the greatest crimes ever committed, that such crimes are never repeated, and as a Parliament, as a people, ours is a duty to the present and the future informed by one of the greatest sins of the past.
Mr Deputy Speaker, we seek support from the government today to suspend Standing Orders to bring on a Bill, which is an important Bill.
It goes to the points that I’ve raised earlier in this contribution. It allows us as a Parliament to deal with this issue as a matter of urgency.
It’s clear to this Parliament that there is no matter on the agenda today which has precedence over this matter, which we seek to bring in a bipartisan way into this chamber.
It’s obvious, Mr Speaker, through the drafting by the Shadow Attorney-General, that we have been able to – in a concise way – provide words to the Parliament that will enhance the criminal code and give the ability to authorities to stamp out a repugnant practice, the practice which is on the rise and which we must condemn.
Mr Speaker, as the Minister for Home Affairs in 2020, I wrote to the Parliamentary Committee, the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. I asked the Committee to examine this very issue.
To look at the issue of symbols, and particularly in the context of coming from a period where we had been worried about ISIL attacks and attacks that had taken place in our own country and a rise in the incidence of ring-wing extremism, which is not to be tolerated by anybody, to be discouraged by all.
The Committee, to its credit, said that they had a heavy agenda and that they would consider it in due course. The now Attorney-General, of course, was a member at that time of the PJCIS.
The government says that they will examine this through the PJCIS process and that’s a commitment that I understand the government had given.
Now, we are 10 months into the period of government since May of last year, the government still hasn’t dealt with this matter, even though I had written to the Committee in 2020.
We seek, Mr Speaker, to work with the government through this suspension on a particularly important issue. The Leader of the House has the opportunity now to read through the proposal that we put, and we would ask for his respect in allowing the chamber to deal with this important matter.
I want to join with everybody, not just on this side of the House, but on both sides of the House, Mr Speaker, in working as one to do what we can to make sure that the Criminal Code reflects the reality of having to deal with this scourge.
That is why it is important for us as a Parliament to suspend Standing Orders to deal with this in a balanced way.
We call on the support of the Independents who have come into this place saying that they have an open mind and many of them have made the commitment to considering each Bill that comes before them.
There is no more compelling Bill before the House than that which we present this morning, and so, Mr Speaker, we ask for the support of the Leader of the House who’s good enough to be here in the chamber and the Attorney-General as well and we respect that.
We don’t seek to divide. We seek to unify through this action in the Parliament today.
We don’t seek to vilify people for spurious reasons.
We don’t seek to cast aspersions on their character that are completely baseless.
We don’t seek to occupy that ground. In fact, completely the opposite.
We seek to work together to send a very clear message, particularly to young Australians, predominantly young males, who may be influenced online, maybe indoctrinated quickly online as the Director-General of Security in our country has pointed out, can happen very quickly, and that a period of history may be glorified and the denialism may somehow have appeal to them as it did in a previous generation.
We come together to send a very clear message that it is not Australian to adopt these symbols, to publicly display them, to glorify that period of history.
It is Australian to condemn that period of history.
It is Australian to stand with people of Jewish faith.
It is Australian to stand against that anti-Semitic incidence that we see globally, but in our country as well and it’s on the rise.
Today, is an opportunity for our Parliament to show our country and frankly, to show the world that we will take action, which is significant, and it will send a clear message to those that may otherwise be influenced by people of bad faith.
There are Australians Mr Speaker, who live to this very day with the horrors of knowing that their loved ones were tortured, gassed, murdered and abused in so many violent ways and they deserve the support of this Parliament.
They deserve to know that we stand with them in the condemnation of the rise of Nazism and the display of these symbols, which is meant to deliver hate on those people that seek love.
Mr Speaker, we will work with the government and we’ve allowed them as much time as possible to contemplate, to deal with this matter as a matter of urgency in the Parliament.
I want to thank the Member for Berowra for a lifetime of work in this area.
I want to thank him for the drafting.
He’s a renowned legal expert, as we know, and he has been at work on drafting this, which is not in a complicated form.
It reflects some of the legislation in New South Wales as well, and it should not be any difficulty for the government to support what it is we’re reasonably proposing today.