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Motion: Select Committee on Prohibition of Neo-Nazi Symbols

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.

 

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.

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