Michelle Ananda-Rajah MP – in support of the Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures Bill 2023

Photo of Michelle Ananda-Rajah MP
November 28, 2023

Make no mistake: the Albanese government will do whatever it takes to defend our social cohesion by tackling antisemitic and terrorist symbols head-on. Once associated with genocide, these are again emerging on our streets and in our suburbs.

Dr ANANDA-RAJAH (Higgins) (18:16): On a recent historic parliamentary visit to Israel with the Speaker of the House, I had the privilege of visiting Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. The place was teeming with visitors—school children, youth and elders—from across the world, coming to comprehend the incomprehensible. Through those black-and-white images, we gazed at faces with only moments to live or of those who had endured a purgatory between life and death waiting for a salvation that never came. Arresting was the Book of Names, a book filled with tiny writing listing the names and places of origin of those who died. This book was nearly the length of the room, with reams of blank pages. Why? For the known unknowns whose stories continue to seep out from the pages of history through testimonials from survivors, allies and upstanders around the world.

The children’s memorial is particularly poignant, dedicated to 2½-year-old Uziel. It sits in a bunker-like structure akin to a place that children would hide in. It is as solemn as a tomb, but, once inside, a glistening multiplicity of candles blink within mirrors in homage to the 1.5 million children who died, some as old as half an hour. One in three of those children remains unknown but not forgotten in those flickers of light. Standing outside like a vanguard is a stylised version of a class photo—columns of varying heights but lopped at the top, symbolising lives cut short and futures terminated. If you can’t get to Yad Vashem, its digital collection is worth viewing. We also have the Melbourne Holocaust Museum, its equivalent in Sydney and a new centre in Brisbane that are well worth a visit.

How? How? How? Like a stone turning over in my hand, I kept asking this question on this tour. How did this happen? How could humans do this to their brothers and sisters? How was genocide committed under the nose of polite society as ash rained down in neighbourhoods, casually swept from doorsteps? Manipulation, misinformation, disinformation, fear, threats, excuses, the weakening of public institutions, media censorship, demagoguery, dehumanisation, experimentation, propaganda and scapegoating—these lessons from the past grab our shoulders, shaking us from our slumber and demanding that we pay attention.

Never did I think I would see the Nazi symbols and salutes on our streets in Melbourne, in inner-city suburbs and indeed on the steps of our Victorian state parliament. The rise of this movement has been alarming. It is repulsive to Australians, antisemitic, divisive and racist—a desecration of our values under the pretence of free speech. Free speech has its limits, especially when it threatens public safety—physical or psychological. Australia has a degree of social cohesion that is the envy of the world, but it has not happened by accident. It has been cultivated over decades, because of waves of migration, a strong democracy, universal access to education, and opportunities for social mixing in our schools, workplaces and sporting teams. We can’t and won’t take the bonds between us for granted. This is why we in the Albanese government are taking action to further strengthen democracy and protect our community.

This bill creates new offences for publicly displaying prohibited Nazi and terrorist organisation symbols or trading in their use. The trading offence targets selling, renting or leasing these paraphernalia. Both offences are associated with a maximum of 12 months imprisonment. There are exemptions where a symbol is displayed for genuine religious worship or for academic, artistic or scientific purposes. Importantly, the sacred swastika used in the Buddhist, Hindu or Jain religious observances would be exempt.

Schedule 1 also amends the bill to criminalise performing the Nazi salute in a public place. This amendment is to address the significant harm toward the Australian community caused by the representation of a gesture which is fundamentally incompatible with Australia’s multicultural, democratic and inclusive society. It is also a denouncement, in very clear terms, of antisemitism.

Schedule 2 of the bill would criminalise the use of a carriage service for violent extremist material. A carriage service would include a range of platforms including webpages, social media, email, chat forums and text messages. This measure would allow law enforcement to take action against people who are using the internet to recruit, spread propaganda or incite violence. The offence is associated with up to five years imprisonment. We are not going to make it easy to radicalise young people. Early intervention, with this provision, also provides greater opportunity for rehabilitation and diversion.

Schedule 3 of the bill criminalises instruction on how to perform an act of terrorism and criminalises praising the performance of a terrorist act, when there is a risk that the praise would be enabling. Again, we want to prevent the radicalisation of young people. The glorification of terrorism or terrorist acts can lead to copycat behaviour if it is not dealt with. In recognising that advocating for terrorism can incite like-minded behaviour, leading to widespread harm, we are increasing the maximum penalty for this offence also.

Schedule 4 removes sunsetting requirements around the listing of terrorist organisations. Of the 29 terrorist organisations currently listed, the majority have been relisted multiple times—some as many as eight. This change will streamline matters. Appeals can be made to the AFP minister if there is a case to delist an organisation. In addition, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security would have the ability to conduct independent reviews regarding the appropriateness of these listings.

There will always be divisive forces trying to pry us apart. Sexism, antisemitism, extremism, homophobia and racism are a toxic family that is not welcome at our table. To those involved in these activities: I urge you to return to the normal rhythms of your lives—to your sporting teams, faith groups, workmates and families. This flawed search for identity and belonging will take you to a spiritual dead end, with buyer’s remorse writ large—a buyer’s remorse that is associated with criminal penalties and a moral debt that will reverberate throughout your lives, sweeping up your loved ones also.

Make no mistake: the Albanese government will do whatever it takes to defend our social cohesion by tackling antisemitic and terrorist symbols head-on. Once associated with genocide, these are again emerging on our streets and in our suburbs. If people don’t know why these are so offensive and destabilising then they need to do their homework. Wilful ignorance is not an excuse. Get educated using the plethora of online tools. That same digital platform that spreads hate could—should—be a tool for enlightenment. The banning of these symbols will disrupt the marketplace of this extremist ideology. I commend this bill to the House.

Link to Parliamentary Hansard