We know that, as the Israel-Hamas war continues, instances of antisemitism, along with Islamophobia, are rising in Australia. There has been verbal abuse on streets, alleged assaults and death threats, leaving communities distressed and fearful. Children are frightened and alert as they sit at bus stops, while other people cross streets to avoid making eye contact with some they believe they should fear.
Ms TINK (North Sydney) (20:12): We need to be really clear. The words we use and what we say matter. The symbols we use and what we use them to portray matter. While, as we’ve seen in the debates in this chamber today, we may argue about what constitutes Australian values, it must be beyond doubt that in this country any form of hate speech, any symbol of hate and, indeed, any showing of hate is to be condemned. It’s for this reason that I welcome the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures) Bill 2023.
We must be united in ensuring that no symbol of hate is deemed acceptable in our society, and we must be clear that free speech is not hate speech, and hate speech cannot ever be defended in this way. We know that, as the Israel-Hamas war continues, instances of antisemitism, along with Islamophobia, are rising in Australia. There has been verbal abuse on streets, alleged assaults and death threats, leaving communities distressed and fearful. Children are frightened and alert as they sit at bus stops, while other people cross streets to avoid making eye contact with some they believe they should fear.
In newspapers yesterday, a two-page advertisement, from more than 600 prominent Australians, condemned the increase in antisemitism since the horrific Hamas attacks on Israel. As the signatories wrote:
Whether directed towards Jewish Australians, Muslim Australians, Asian Australians, Indigenous Australians or any other minority, we will not tolerate such conduct in our workplaces and firmly reject it in our communities … We are unequivocal in our resolve that racism in all its forms is deplorable and abhorrent …
In my own electorate of North Sydney, I’ve had many discussions with people from the Jewish community and have seen and heard their genuine fear and alarm. It is not an understatement to say that many fear they no longer belong in this country. One woman shared with me the fact that her family originally fled to Australia because they did not believe they belonged anymore when it came to their country of origin. The story of her family’s migration is well known and has been shared across generations. Heartbreakingly, she recently received a message from a family member asking her, ‘Where do we go now?’ I say to her and to every person currently questioning their place in our society: you belong here; thank you for sharing your stories, your fears and your concerns, and I stand with you.
Our diversity is our strength. We all have a responsibility not only to recognise but to be prepared to fight for it. It is in this context we must do everything we can to prevent unacceptable behaviour and to call it out as soon as it is seen. That is what this legislation is all about. I welcome it wholeheartedly, and I thank the Attorney-General for moving it. There is no doubt that antisemitic incidents are on the rise and that this is both reprehensible and unacceptable. It’s profoundly frightening not only for Australia’s Jewish community but for all of us who wish only the best for our nation.
This legislation sends a very strong that there is no place in Australia for hatred, violence or antisemitism. Acts and symbols that glorify the horrors of the Holocaust and terrorist attacks incites hate speech, which, in turn, incites violence and intolerance. It must never be acceptable that these things or actions are considered a joke. A uniform worn at a party is not funny. A flag flown in the back of a car is not acceptable, and an arm thrown up as you leave a court is definitely not okay. It is not funny. Our children must not be taught that there is humour anywhere in any of these things.
We must do everything we can to stymie intolerance and promote social cohesion. Any threat to social cohesion is a threat not only to individuals and communities but also to our national security. It’s a threat to who we are. Recently, we’ve seen how fragile who we are actually is. We must restore and protect everything that we have worked so hard to create in this country, even though there are forces that would rather see us divided at this time.
Nazi symbols and the Islamic State flag are associated with hate, racism and terror and have no place in our society. The ban on publicly displaying these symbols is something that is arguably overdue. I say in this place: thank God we have finally gotten there. Groups who use these symbols in public places to intimidate, spread fear amongst the community, raise their profile and recruit new members are simply not what we want to see in our nation. They have the effect of depriving individuals of their sense of belonging and safety, which is demonstrably inconsistent with what we do know of Australian values and multicultural ideals.
Since 2022, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT have legislated offences for publicly displaying Nazi symbols, while Queensland and South Australia have similar bills before their parliament. Western Australia has announced an intention to introduce similar legislation. I welcome the federal government following suit. The federal government has the capacity to do three things: lead, coordinate and provide appropriate stimulus for our society as required. I believe this legislation does all those.
This bill includes exemptions and defence provisions where symbols are legitimately used for religious, historical or educational purposes, and these exemptions are important as they do provide room for genuine learning. We should never try to erase our history but learn from it. To erase it means we’ll be doomed to repeat it. But when these symbols are used to incite hate, racism and terror, it is only right that we make it clear that that is unacceptable, and we will not tolerate it. All Australians should be treated with respect, inclusivity and dignity, and banning Nazi salutes and hate symbols is a welcome step towards achieving this.