In recent days and weeks, we saw that with Hamas on 7 October and, since then, in the Middle East. The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures) Bill 2023 goes some of the way to addressing some of the wrong that is in the world, that is in Australia and that still exists today. It’s people’s legal right to have protests, but when people are actively calling out ‘gas the Jews’ and ‘kill the Jews’ in those gatherings in front of the iconic Sydney Opera House, it is beyond the pale to think that could still happen in Australia at any time, let alone in 2023.
Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (16:35): Sadly, there is much that is wrong in the world, and some people say some dreadful things. In recent days and weeks, we saw that with Hamas on 7 October and, since then, in the Middle East. The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures) Bill 2023 goes some of the way to addressing some of the wrong that is in the world, that is in Australia and that still exists today. It’s people’s legal right to have protests, but when people are actively calling out ‘gas the Jews’ and ‘kill the Jews’ in those gatherings in front of the iconic Sydney Opera House, it is beyond the pale to think that could still happen in Australia at any time, let alone in 2023.
It wasn’t that long ago, in August 2021, that the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes combined to put an infiltrator in Australia’s largest Neo-Nazi group, the National Socialist Network. They filmed, recorded, published and broadcast what they saw. What they saw shocked the nation. The network’s leader was recorded comparing Christchurch terrorist Brenton Tarrant to Nelson Mandela. We all remember the long walk to freedom. We all remember how he united South Africa after apartheid. He’s held up, along with Mother Teresa and other modern-day saints, as somebody who united the world. But this network leader told his followers that Tarrant would stay in jail ‘until we win the revolution’—a reference to the race war or societal collapse that the group trains for. This group was active in regional Australia. Well done to those media organisations for infiltrating the network and exposing this dreadful truth that there are people out there.
I know that people have weird ideas—they’re mad, bad, sad people, and they exist. This bill aims to ensure that Nazi symbols are not glorified. The coalition supports this bill. I remember as an editor of the Daily Advertiser in the 1990s, early in my tenure, praising the fact that the government of the day had refused an application by historian revisionist David Irving to enter Australia. A little bit of research tells me that Irving applied in 1992 and was refused in 1993. He applied and was refused again in 1996 and in 2003, failing the immigration character test. An English court found that Irving was an active Holocaust denier, an antisemite and a racist, who for ‘his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence’. Furthermore, the court found that Irving’s books had distorted the history of Adolf Hitler’s role in the Holocaust to depict the Fuhrer in a favourable light.
The day Hitler died, 30 April 1945, was a good day. Six million Jews lost their lives because of the Final Solution. They still hurt today. The world remembers and should never forget what happened at Auschwitz and elsewhere. That anybody would glorify a Nazi symbol is beyond the pale. But when I wrote those editorials in the 1990s, I was gobsmacked that two people in my readership not only wrote letters to the editor agreeing with Irving’s views but were quite happy to put their names to them. I printed those letters to show that it’s amazing that people think like that. I think my community has moved on from that, but I well remember going to inspect a prospective house which was up for sale and seeing a Nazi flag draped over the double bed in the main bedroom. I suppose you could argue that people can hang what they like in their own homes, but, seriously, the Nazi symbol is a symbol of evil. It’s a symbol of hatred and it’s rightly reviled, as is, quite frankly, the ISIS flag.
What has been done to the beautiful Yazidi people, who have been subjected to dreadful torture and death in many parts of the world where our soldiers have bravely gone to fight for democracy and freedom even in recent years, is quite sad. Then we look at some of the things that were done in Afghanistan by the ruthless Taliban regime and the fact that 42 of our best and bravest laid down their lives so that girls and women could have a better opportunity. Sadly, some of that, and some might argue a lot of that, has now gone.
But the most important parts of this bill prohibit the public display of, let’s face it, some of the most powerful symbols of antisemitism our world has ever seen. When I say powerful, I’m talking about that revulsion that people have for the Nazi symbols—the swastika and the double-sig rune. I’m talking of the evil that those symbols portray. I get absolutely infuriated when people on X, formerly known as Twitter, suggest—and it’s happened to me—that people that they do not like are in some way Nazis. They depict them as members of the Third Reich. They put the little moustache on them. It is beyond belief what people will write on Twitter, and it’s not just the extreme right; it’s also the extreme left. This parliament is the best for coming together to agree on something like this, and I know the coalition supports this bill. I commend the government for bringing it forward, and let’s hope that it rightly passes before we rise for the year. I’m sure it will. The member for Watson, the Leader of the House, said that it would.
As I say, these symbols are associated with the murder of more than six million Jews and countless others in concentration camps during the Second World War from 1939 to 1945. It’s not just about the deaths in those concentration camps and in those gas chambers—those places of extermination. You could only imagine the number of Jews who died in the decade that followed. One of the most famous utterances about war is by Dr Brendan Nelson, perhaps the best prime minister we never had, who talked of the 60,000 Australians who lost their lives in the Great War. We all know that no war is great, but in the Great War, also known as the First World War, from 1914 to 1918 we lost 60,000 men. We lost women too, but they were mainly men. In the 10 years that followed, another 60,000 died from the effects of shell shock, war wounds and just basically the effects of war. So, if six million Jews died in World War II, you can imagine how many more of their family members perished in the decade that followed. Those Nazi hunters were right to pursue them and chase them down into South America and other places. They needed hunting down, because they were vile, dreadful, evil people; they had to have justice served upon them. A million Australians served in the fight against the race based ideologies of the Nazis and Imperial Japan during World War II.
I have to say that Germany and Japan are some of our greatest friends now, as they should be. I know that Cowra, which is in my electorate in the Central West, reached out the hand of friendship. It’s one of the greatest towns of international understanding, peace and friendship. They have a peace bell that they gong regularly. They have a festival. They have beautiful Japanese gardens—the best outside Tokyo, Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku, Japan. They have the best gardens. For those who haven’t visited them, put it on your bucket list.
This is how it should be. It should not be the fact that we think of Japan and Germany in a bad way, but we have to, and we must always remember the atrocities caused by elements within those countries during the Second World War. It was a state-sponsored campaign by the Third Reich to eliminate an entire people. But it was worse than that. The Nazi regime’s industrialised extermination resulted in the Holocaust. It was one of the worst crimes, if not the worst crime, committed in history.
The public display of Nazi symbols is abhorrent to the Australian way of life. Anybody who does that should be locked up immediately. The New South Wales government has moved to make progress in this field. I commend Premier Minns for that. This has to be above politics. We as a parliament should always—and we do—abhor genocide, mass murder, and any of these forms of persecution. All too sadly, Australia is seeing the biggest upsurge in antisemitism in generations after the 7 October attacks by Hamas, by that terrorist group within Palestine, against Israel. What has followed around the world is quite disgraceful.
It saddens me that schoolchildren are being encouraged to leave their classrooms to go and protest about something which, quite frankly, they know nothing about. The teachers who encourage this should take a good, hard, long look at themselves because it kindles hatred. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Palestinian baby or whether you’re a baby born in Israel, you’re a baby; you’re an infant—you deserve every chance and every opportunity to live a full and happy and healthy life. And yet the antisemitism has followed.
There has been a 482 per cent rise in antisemitic incidents in seven weeks—482 per cent! The figures are just remarkable. Jewish people are being told to stay home. This isn’t the Australia I want to say I’m proud to be in. The police shouldn’t have to tell Jewish people to stay home. Jewish people are worried about their children wearing the Jewish school uniform out and about in public. It’s bad enough that the Nazis put the symbol on the Jews and tattooed them so that they would be easily identified by the SS, but that’s not Australia. This antisemitism has to stop. It must stop!
I speak to Josh Frydenberg, the former member for Kooyong, who’s one of my best friends, every day. He’s so upset by all this—so upset—and rightly so, and I know that is shared by the Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus. It’s just extraordinary that this is happening in Australia. So that is why the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures) Bill 2023 is important. The Nazi symbol should be remembered but only in history books and only in movies depicting what was one of the worst incidents, if not the worst incident, in history.