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Speech: Nazi Salute and Symbols Prohibition Amendment

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I rise to speak on behalf of the Greens in strong support of this bill, the Summary Offences (Nazi Salute and Symbols Prohibition) Amendment Bill 2023. I do so because 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 times such as the pandemic or growing inequality. That is why it is so important that we follow our Eastern States counterparts in banning the public display of Nazi symbols and recognise that this is just the first of many steps that can be taken to combat Nazis or neo-Nazis, white supremacists and far-right extremism.

I would like to acknowledge the work on this of my interstate colleagues from the Greens, in particular the Hon. Samantha Ratnam in Victoria and the Hon. Abigail Boyd in New South Wales. Their efforts have been vital to both Victoria and New South Wales banning the public display of Nazi symbols, and I am proud to see that South Australia is now following suit.

The symbols of the Nazi regime that carried out undeniable atrocities continue to represent the ideology of racial supremacy that fuelled the Holocaust and causes harm. I note that we are now debating this because of concerns about extreme far-right activity across the world and here in Australia. As somebody who was a student in the 1990s, some three decades ago next week, Adelaide was the centre of neo-Nazi activity in this nation, something that has since been disclosed in the ASIO files that have been released through various cabinet documents federally and at state level.

On 26 March 1994, we saw 20 neo-Nazis goose step single file down Adelaide's Rundle Mall shouting 'Sieg Heil' and 'Heil Hitler' as they beat people up, kicked and punched them—one Asian man particularly being amongst the 15 injured. That day there were four arrests, only four arrests, of those 20 neo-Nazis, who certainly disturbed the peace and disrupted the fabric of our society in Adelaide, South Australia.

I was a student at the time, active in the progressive student movement, a faction known as the independents, but I was known as a progressive member of that. I studied at The Levels Campus after Salisbury was closed down. In my class were two neo-Nazis. They would turn up to class and they would wear swastika T-shirts, they would chant 'Sieg Heil' and 'Heil Hitler'. They would disrupt our classes. I had to be escorted by friends on and off campus. I was subject to stalking by some of them, and I was not alone.

I can rattle off the names of friends who were beaten up, who were harassed, who were stalked, who were persecuted by that Michael Brander led group, where Adelaide was the centre of far-right extremism in our country back in the 1990s. I am glad to see that those days have gone, and I hope that Adelaide never again has such a shameful experience. I believe that this bill will go some way to making sure we do not enter and go down that path again.

Of course, over the past few years we have seen an increase in hate crimes by self-identified neo-Nazis perpetrated against Jewish people, Asian people, First Nations people and people of colour. Mainstream politicians and media outlets have embraced their harmful fringe ideology for votes and clickbait, without a care for the fact that in flirting with the far right they do stoke the flames of hate in this nation. Normalising or even encouraging the growth of these ideologies continues to inflict harm on the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our community and it inflicts harm on our community itself.

This bill will ban the intentional display of Nazi symbols and will help us tackle the increasingly public displays of hate that we are seeing from extreme far right and neo-Nazi groups. The new offence applies to people in South Australia who broadcast a Nazi symbol to the public audience beyond our borders, such as on social media. People will still be able to publicly display swastikas for legitimate reasons, such as people of Jain, Buddhist and Hindu faiths; teachers; artists; and protestors. I put on record something that I raised in the briefing to this bill. I do seek assurances from the government that this will not be used to stop artists or legitimate protest and will not be used more broadly than has been outlined in this second reading contribution and debate so far.

Images and words have meaning, symbols are powerful, and the new offence sends a strong message that the South Australian parliament and the community will not tolerate the public display of symbols intended to incite such hatred. We do need to recognise that the weaponisation of these symbols and the power that they have as recruitment tools can do real harm to real people. All acts of discrimination based on race, religion or ethnicity are disgraceful, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 both bear testament to this.

Governments have a unique responsibility to set the tone, the laws and the expectations that create social cohesion in this country. I note that we are coming up to Harmony Week, but Harmony Week was, indeed, the watering down of the day for elimination of racial discrimination. While we all celebrate harmony we should remember that it comes because we need to eliminate racial discrimination.

In those duties being taken very seriously, today we balance the right to free expression with the right to be free from discrimination, and we can and we must work to stop the slow creep of fascism, of hate, of racism and of discrimination in our society so that we never again see the days that we have seen before, whether they were just decades ago or a century ago. With that, I look forward to the passage of the bill today, and I will have some questions at clause 1.

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