Select Committee On Prohibition Of Neo-Nazi Symbols (Motions)

In Parliament, Motions

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. S.L. Game:

1. That a select committee of the Legislative Council be established to inquire into and report on the prohibition of Neo-Nazi symbols, with particular reference to:

(a) the symbols used to identify and promote Neo-Nazi and other ideologically motivated (extreme far right) groups, and options to prohibit their display;

(b) the activities of Neo-Nazi and other ideologically motivated extremist groups in South Australia;

(c) discrimination faced by Jewish South Australians and other groups within the community targeted by Neo-Nazi and other ideologically motivated extremist groups;

(d) prohibitions on such symbols in other jurisdictions, including proposed prohibitions;

(e) the requirements of the Australian Constitution and other legal matters relevant to the prohibition of Neo-Nazi symbols; and

(f) any other relevant matters.

2. That the committee consist of four members and that the quorum of members necessary to be present at all meetings of the committee be fixed at three members.

3. That this council permits the select committee to authorise the disclosure or publication, as it sees fit, of any evidence or documents presented to the committee prior to such evidence being presented to the council.

(Continued from 7 September 2022.)

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (17:01): I rise on behalf of the government to indicate our support for this motion. The public display of Neo-Nazi symbols and the protection for those it affects in South Australia is an important issue. The government supports this committee as a means to ensure the issue of prohibiting Neo-Nazi symbols is properly examined and a solution is developed which is proportionate and adapted to the particular situation in South Australia, the importance of which I will come to shortly.

This is in line with other jurisdictions such as Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. In those states where legislation has either passed or is being considered, parliamentary inquiries are undertaken as part of the process for implementing such a ban. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, when dealing with discrimination and attacks faced by vulnerable groups in the community, it is right that those groups are consulted and involved in the process in developing legislation, but also any such legislation raises a risk of constitutional challenge on the basis of the implied freedom of political communication.

In considering challenges on the basis of that implied constitutional freedom, the High Court has particularly noted the importance of any laws burdening that freedom to be proportionate and adapted to the harm the laws are seeking to address. I would be anticipating that this committee will undertake a thorough examination of these issues with the goal of determining what sort of legislation is required and what form it might take, and take into consideration the evidence it gathers on the situation in this state.

What we do know from media reports is that there are activities of Neo-Nazi and far-right extremist groups in South Australia. Many people would have seen—either themselves or in media or social media—in parts of Adelaide stickers and leaflets being disseminated. This activity is entirely unacceptable. These sorts of things are attacks on members of our community that are targeted and should be strongly opposed. In supporting this select committee the parliament can send a signal that we take these matters seriously and want to get the solutions right. We look forward to supporting this inquiry and, if successful, to the good work of the inquiry.

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (17:04): I rise today on behalf of the opposition to speak on the private member’s motion moved by the Hon. Sarah Game. This motion calls on the Legislative Council to establish a select committee to inquire into and report on the prohibition of Neo-Nazi symbols in South Australia. I would like to indicate to the mover and other honourable members that the opposition strongly supports the establishment of such a committee because we believe that any forms of discrimination based on ethnicity, cultural or religious backgrounds have no place in our society.

This motion calls on a select committee to inquire on the activities of Neo-Nazi and other ideologically motivated extremist groups in South Australia. I believe honourable members were all shocked and appalled by reports in recent months of antisemitic and Neo-Nazi behaviour taking place in our own backyard in Adelaide, from a right-wing group posing with a fascist salute in front of the Adelaide Holocaust Museum and Steiner Education Centre, to flyers being dropped in letterboxes calling for ‘all white Australians to join the European Australian movement’.

We also saw incidents where Jewish students at the University of Adelaide felt unsafe on their own campus after the student newspaper On Dit published an article which called for ‘Death to Israel’ and students from Jewish backgrounds felt threatened during a subsequent meeting of the Student Representative Council.

More recently, it was reported that a South Australian Jewish community leader was verbally attacked and harassed while visiting Melbourne to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, with the assailant performing the fascist Nazi salute and yelling, ‘We should have killed all the Jews. We will kill the f [dah, dah, dah] Jews.’ Some of the language used was aggressive and offensive in the harassment incident, which I feel would be unparliamentary to repeat.

As many members would know, Mr Norman Schueler OAM is the long-serving past president of the SA Jewish Community Council and former Chair of the South Australian Multicultural Commission. He was left traumatised and distressed by the ugly confrontation. I personally reached out to Norman to express my support and concern. Such abhorrent acts should be condemned, and those who commit them must be called to account.

In light of such dreadful incidents and a seeming rise in antisemitism in our state, we as legislators have the responsibility to look into what discrimination is being faced by Jewish South Australians and other groups within the community who are targeted by Neo-Nazi and other ideologically motivated extremist groups. The South Australian community is calling for such symbols and activities to be banned, as has occurred in other states.

The select committee will give this parliament the opportunity to look into options that prohibit the display of Neo-Nazi symbols and take learnings from other jurisdictions into such prohibitions. This committee will hear evidence from experts and community leaders to help identify the breadth and scope of the problem. It will consider suggestions on how to resolve the issue and stop hate being spread in our community.

It is envisaged that this committee will provide an opportunity for consultation with a broad community of constituents, including the local Jewish community, people from multicultural and multifaith backgrounds and other diverse groups to consider their diverse views. Not only have all these groups historically been targeted by Nazis and Neo-Nazis but all have their own beliefs and views on how these issues impact their community members.

Likewise, it is important that any prohibition does not unjustly or unintentionally impact on legitimate displays for historical or educational purposes, or impede the cultural or religious use of symbols such as the swastika, which is an ancient symbol of peace, love and good fortune for religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Members of this select committee will have the opportunity to raise any concerns or suggestions within the terms of reference so that we can come up with recommendations to address these important issues and stand against all forms of hatred, discrimination and racism. The Liberal opposition strongly supports this motion, and it would be a privilege to represent the Liberal opposition on this committee should the motion be successful today.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:08): I rise to speak briefly on behalf of the Greens in support of establishing this select committee. The symbols of the Nazi regime continue to represent the ideology of racial supremacy that fuelled the Holocaust and continue to cause harm, especially to the Jewish community. We know that far-right extremism is on the rise as they try to capitalise on people’s fear and uncertainty, particularly during the pandemic.

I am particularly worried about the radicalisation of young people who are targeted online by extremist groups who seek to exploit vulnerable and isolated people. That is why it is so important that we get our approach to banning the public display of Nazi symbols right, and recognise that this is just the first of many steps that must be taken to combat Neo-Nazis, white supremacy and far-right extremism.

Of course, this is not the first time we have discussed the impact of antisemitism on our community in this place this year, and before I go on further I wish to briefly address some comments I previously made in this place. In that previous debate on 14 June 2022, when speaking to parliament on the debate of the adoption of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, I spoke to who is a Semite. I was referring both to the protest on the steps that had happened that day and a previous debate in this parliament where a motion to recognise the state of Palestine had been rejected.

I note that it could have been inferred from my statement that antisemitism was not directed just at Jews. Jewish members of the Greens have informed me that the intention I had was misinterpreted, and to raise that in the way I did, while discussing antisemitism, could itself be seen as antisemitic and, indeed, erasing Jewish identity. To be clear, they have assured me that no Jew identifies as a Semite, nor is any non-Jew a target of antisemitism. I accept that and understand the hurt that my words caused. It was not intentional; indeed, erasing antisemitism does amount to the cancelling of Jewish personhood.

I therefore wish to apologise to the Jewish community of South Australia for those words, and I do apologise for any offence caused. There is no room for antisemitism or any form of racism in our community. I accept those words caused distress. It was not my intent.

Nazi symbols are often a gateway to violence and are used as a recruitment tool by extremists, and banning them could be a game changer in tackling hate. The Nazi symbol is also used to direct intolerance towards other groups within our community. Bigots have used it as a cover-all hate symbol to vilify migrants and asylum seekers, Muslims, people of other faiths, the LGBTIQA+ community, First Nations people and multicultural communities.

Finally we will be able to properly address the worrying increase in Nazi symbols that are popping up in our capital city of late, particularly those stickers that show up in the CBD and the postering and stickering of election candidates who have had their corflutes targeted by Neo-Nazis. I hope that with this, together with hate crimes legislation that we passed last year—and I note that the hate crimes legislation was a Greens bill, and indeed my bill—we will have many more tools to tackle this scourge.

Legislation to ban the intentional display of Nazi symbols will help us tackle the increasingly public displays of hate we are seeing from extreme far-right and Neo-Nazi groups. These symbols have no place in our society, and we must strengthen our laws and resolve to tackle the actual and implied hate of Nazi symbols and the far-right movement more broadly.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say that people might view things such as displaying symbols or putting stickers around the city as, supposedly, fairly innocuous activities that surely could not do that much damage, but that is not the case. For example, earlier this year, The Sydney Morning Herald released an investigation into the methods Neo-Nazis use to organise, recruit and radicalise, and documented the use of these stickers, posters and graffiti featuring Nazi and far-right slogans and symbols as part of a recruitment drive.

Images and words have meanings, symbols are powerful. Whether we are seeing fascist salutes on the steps of the Adelaide Holocaust Museum and Steiner Education Centre or stickers in Rundle Mall, we need to recognise that the weaponisation of these symbols and the power they can have as recruitment tools can do real harm to real people.

Unfortunately, and although I wish it were not the case, Nazi symbolism, and indeed Nazism, does not exist solely in the past. Antisemitism, Neo-Nazism, white supremacy and far-right extremism are a scourge, and we cannot allow these forces to gain further footholds in our society.

South Australia would not be the first jurisdiction to legislate a ban on displaying Nazi symbols, but we should be the next one. I would like to acknowledge the work of my interstate Greens colleagues in this space, in particular Samantha Ratnam and Abigail Boyd. Their efforts have been vital to Victoria and New South Wales banning the public display of Nazi symbols, and I hope South Australia will follow along that path as well. I note that in both those states the legislation was preceded by an inquiry such as the one we are about to vote on today.

It is vitally important that as a parliament and as a community we investigate this matter properly to ensure any legislation we end up implementing is fit for purpose. We need to ensure that there are fair exemptions, so that, for example, we permit the continued use of the swastika by the people of Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and other faiths. This symbol was only co-opted by Hitler’s Third Reich last century, but has for thousands of years before been a positive symbol of faith. It is important that practitioners of these faiths can continue to use it.

There must also be exemptions for the good faith display of Nazi symbols by artists, academics, law enforcement and others, including for the display of this symbol in opposition to fascism, neo-Nazis and Nazis, and of course we must allow for the display of this symbol for educational purposes. There is so much work for this committee to do, and I commend those who are committed to taking these first steps.

The Australian Federal Police have previously called for a ban on extremist insignia and propaganda, and I look forward to South Australia taking this important step in halting the glorification of Nazis and stopping the intimidation of the community, particularly marginalised communities with targeted displays of this symbol. We can and we must continue to work to stop the slow creep of fascism, of hate, of racism and of discrimination in our society. I commend the motion.

The Hon. C. BONAROS (17:16): I rise on behalf of SA-Best to speak in support of the Hon. Sarah Game’s motion to establish a select committee to inquire into and report on the prohibition of Neo-Nazi symbols. I will speak briefly, but echo the sentiments that have been expressed today by my honourable colleagues in this place. As I have said time and again in this place, SA-Best supports equal rights for everyone, regardless of their nationality, religion or race.

I think I speak for all of us when I say that we look forward to considering the evidence of experts and those with lived experience to help inform us of what changes should be made to our legislative framework. It will be particularly helpful in considering the bill that has been introduced in this place, which seeks to prohibit the use of the symbol and which we understand has come about as a result of or in response to attacks on members of the local Jewish community that have been outlined today.

As has just been articulated by the Hon. Tammy Franks, it goes well beyond that one community, particularly when it comes to far-right extremism, which is absolutely on the rise, particularly when it comes to the bigoted views of people in some sectors of our community and in what can only be described as abhorrent racist ways.

I note that when the Hon. Ms Game introduced this bill into parliament it was quite coincidental that I think it was the ABC printed an article that there had been a local rally here by some of our First Nations people in the city, I think at Victoria Square. At that very peaceful protest a group of people came chanting, causing disturbances, under the guise of the Neo-Nazi symbol and Nazism. That is completely and utterly unacceptable.

I note also that just recently there were Neo-Nazi group displays and banners at a protest that occurred in New South Wales. I think there was a family event, a youth festival in Melbourne at Moonee Ponds, that attracted about a dozen men holding antisemitic signs, with things like ‘demon flesh’, with the star of David, and another saying, ‘Drag pedos groom kids’.

People who were at this youth fest were having, as they described, an absolutely fabulous day until these protesters—I do not know if we can call them protesters; I do not know what to call them—turned up and caused significant disruption, screaming things like, ‘Are there any Jews here? Give them a good old Nazi salute,’ and screaming at them for being ‘demon flesh’. They are the sorts of things that are being heard around the streets of Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney and that is completely and utterly unacceptable in anyone’s view.

I think it is fair to say, as other members have just pointed out, it is my hope that the committee will also, of course, hear the concerns that have been raised with us. I know during the election period, when I spoke to members of our Indian community, they expressed a lot of concern around the banning of the symbol because for those communities, for those religious groups, it has a very different meaning, which could not be further removed from Nazism, but rather a symbol of peace and prayer that is the equivalent of the crucifix for these religions.

Quite rightly, they do have concerns around the banning of that symbol because of what it means to their religions. However, I think it is also very fair to say that, when I raised those issues with the Hon. Sarah Game, there was every expectation that should a bill proceed there would be, of course, exemptions in place where it is for those purposes and for the purposes that have been outlined by the Hon. Ms Franks.

I think they are issues that can be canvassed during the select committee of inquiry and I hope are canvassed during the select committee of inquiry. With those words, I indicate our support for the committee and look forward to its report in due course.

The Hon. S.L. GAME (17:22): I am pleased to be bringing this motion to establish a select committee to a vote. Faith groups have a right to practice and maintain the integrity of their beliefs without fear. I have, since being appointed potential chair of this select committee, been approached by a range of faith groups asking for the select committee terms of reference to be expanded. They report being vulnerable to hate crimes and feel they are unable to practice their faith freely, openly and without the threat of abuse. I accept the government’s decision to maintain the current terms of reference and understand that the government will be supporting these other faith groups through other avenues, which I fully support.

There needs to be real consequences for people who target groups of faith in our society, and to find a pathway forward we need to clearly understand what is happening within our communities. This select committee will focus on a range of items brought forth by Jewish and other relevant communities in South Australia who are actively threatened by the rise of fascism and the Neo-Nazi movement. I look forward to building a strong list of witnesses and experts to ensure that this committee is effective and well informed. Symbols of racial hatred have no place in our society. With that, I bring this motion to a vote.

Motion carried.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Ms Game, you mentioned that you have been appointed as the chair of the committee. It was a little bit premature.

The Hon. S.L. GAME: Potential.

The PRESIDENT: Potentially—I missed that on the way through.

The Hon. S.L. GAME (17:23): I move:

That the select committee consist of the Hon. C. Bonaros, the Hon. J.S. Lee, the Hon. T.T. Ngo and the mover.

Motion carried.

The Hon. S.L. GAME: I move:

That the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to adjourn from place to place and to report on 30 November 2022.

Motion carried.