Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022 – Second Reading Debate

Ms ADDISON (Wendouree) (17:04): Thank you very much, Acting Speaker, and it is lovely to see you in the Chair today. Like so many people here in this house today I stand to support the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022, which will prohibit the intentional display of the Hakenkreuz, also known as the Nazi swastika, in a public place knowing that it supports Nazi ideology. I also support the government’s amendment to bring forward the implementation of this legislation by six months.

I wish to acknowledge Holocaust survivors and their families and thank them for their strength and advocacy and for continuing to share their lived experience to ensure that an atrocity like the Holocaust can never happen again.

As a former history teacher, I have had the opportunity and privilege of teaching units about the lessons of World War II to year 10 students. This curriculum, which is taught in schools across the state, covers the rise of Hitler and antisemitism during the 1930s, the hateful ideology of the Nazis and the systematic murder and extermination of 6 million Jews. No matter how many times I have taught on the rise of fascism, the despicable actions of the Third Reich and the structural prejudice and discrimination against the Jewish people that led to violence and ultimately genocide, it remains hard to comprehend that this could have happened in the 20th century.

I shared with my students the accounts of the vicious and violent attacks of Crystal Night, the brutal oppression of the Warsaw ghetto and many other ghettos across Eastern Europe, the horrors of the massacres of the Nazi’s mobile killing units in the Soviet Union and the inhumane acts that took place in the extermination camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the other killing centres across Europe, and I continue to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the evil. Just as we cannot allow Holocaust denial, nor can we allow the promotion or celebration of the systematic genocidal killing of approximately 6 million Jews in Europe by Nazi Germany.

I would also like to acknowledge the millions of others who were targeted and killed by the Nazi regime during this time, including people with disability, LGBTIQ+ people, Roma communities and opponents of the regime. I am committed to supporting anti-vilification measures that will prevent hate, fear and violence in Victoria and to supporting programs and events that educate our young people and future generations about racism, vilification and the prevention of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

This is landmark legislation that reflects the values of our government and the people of Victoria. This reform is a part of our government’s broader commitment to protect Victorians by strengthening our anti-vilification laws. I welcome that this historic legislation is receiving bipartisan support. I want to thank the Attorney-General for her leadership on developing and introducing this legislation, and her office and the department. I am pleased to follow the contributions from the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and the Shadow Attorney-General, who is in the house right now. I wish to recognise the powerful contribution from the member for Box Hill, reflecting on his family’s personal experience, as well as thank the member for Caulfield for sharing his personal story.

Once again Victoria is leading the nation as the first jurisdiction to introduce legislation to ban public displays of the Nazi swastika. I welcome the news that the parliaments of New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania also plan to introduce similar legislation.

We are a proudly multicultural and multifaith state that recognises and respects cultural diversity. In my community of Ballarat we celebrate diversity. We come from 69 different nations, we speak 42 different languages and we practise 21 different faiths in peace and harmony. Disappointingly, not everyone in Victoria embraces and celebrates our diversity. A very small, small number of individuals reject it, rather promoting racism, antisemitism and division. In recent years we have seen examples of the Nazi swastika being displayed by far-right extremists to intimidate and to promote hate. This behaviour is intolerable, and this legislation will prevent such acts.

Importantly, this legislation recognises and respects the swastika which has been a symbol of divinity, good luck and prosperity and celebrated for thousands of years by the followers of Buddhism, Hinduism and the Jain faiths. I know this has been discussed by a number of speakers, and it is very good to see that we are wanting to work with our Buddhist, Hindu and Jain Victorians to ensure that they will continue to use their symbols to celebrate their faith and their culture.

We are a proud multicultural and multifaith state, and it is because of this that we want to support our Jewish community as well as everyone in our community from hate speech and hate displays. But what we need to know is that there will be exemptions to ensure that museums, cultural institutions and places of learning will continue to be able to display the Nazi swastika for educational purposes. It is so important that we continue to educate our community on this, and therefore we are making sure that that is an important part of this bill as well.

I want to talk briefly about the consultation that has gone on, because I think it is very important that we do so. What I want to make sure is recorded in my speech is that we have really wanted to include people in this process. The opening statement of the legislation provides essential context to the proposed legislation, acknowledging the swastika’s historic and ongoing use, and was co-designed with leaders from the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain communities, and throughout the drafting of this bill as a whole extensive consultation has occurred with faith leaders, the Victorian police, legal stakeholders, the Victorian Multicultural Commission, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission as well as other impacted stakeholders.

Targeted consultation has also been conducted as well as in-depth meetings held by the department with the core consultative group, and I really would like to acknowledge and thank the Buddhist Council of Victoria, the Hindu Council of Australia, the Melbourne Shwetambar Jain Sangh and the Jewish Community Council of Victoria for their involvement and for their feedback, which has led to a number of improvements to the proposed legislation.

This consultative process and this bill are demonstrative of the Victorian government’s record of strengthening anti-vilification protections. It also fulfils our government’s commitment to implementing recommendation 24 of the inquiry into anti-vilification protections in Victoria and the 2021 report from the Legislative Assembly Legal and Social Issues Committee which recommends a ban on the displays of Nazi symbols, and I would really like to acknowledge the leadership of the chair, the member for St Albans, who did such an excellent job, as well as all the committee members from both sides of the house in that inquiry. We often overlook committee work in this place, and it does not get a lot of glory. But the work that our committees do can be so significant and so important, and I would really like to thank and recognise the great work of the Legislative Assembly Legal and Social Issues Committee for the contribution that they have made to changing Victoria for the better and leading our nation through their great work.

With just a short time to go I will just summarise by saying that while seeking to accelerate the bill’s introduction the Andrews government has also ensured that there will be sufficient time to prepare those involved and the broader community for its implementation. This includes providing training and guidance to the Victorian police on exemptions and enforcements, and it also includes developing and implementing an education campaign to strengthen community awareness of the swastika’s importance to the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain faith communities and the religious and cultural connections that they have.

This is significant legislation, and it is essential that it is implemented both efficiently and effectively. The horrors of the Holocaust must never be forgotten, and the acts of Hitler and the Nazi regime must never be glorified. I commend this bill to the house.

Click here to read more of my contributions in Parliament. To access further Hansard transcripts, head to the Parliament of Victoria website.