Shayne Neumann MP – in support of the Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures Bill 2023

photo of Shayne Neumann MP
November 28, 2023

We can’t ignore the bigger context in which this is happening. It is worth noting, since the atrocities of 7 October in Israel and Israel’s incursions into Gaza, regrettably, there’s been an alarming uptick of antisemitism in this country. Many Jewish Australians are feeling fearful and anxious, and this has stirred up long and painful memories of the Holocaust. That should not be happening in a land that offered them refuge then and embraces them now.

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (17:08): There are two experiences that I recall, as a politician in this place on overseas trips, that really struck me and really affected me. The first one was visiting Yad Vashem, which is of course Israel’s national Holocaust museum, a place dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust—to preserve the memory of those Jewish people who were murdered by the Nazi regime in Germany and their allies—and also those non-Jewish people who selflessly assisted the Jewish people to escape and aided them in their efforts to flee the Nazi regime.

I recall that occasion, walking around—by myself—and being there with a bunch of young men and women, who were conscripts in the Israeli military, who were being taken through Yad Vashem and being reminded of what happened. It was very profound, as a person with my surname, a Germanic surname, whose ancestors, on my dad’s side, had come to Australia in the 1880s, fleeing religious persecution themselves. I felt very moved on that occasion.

The second occasion was when I was visiting the German parliament. In the German parliament you can see the bullet holes in the wall, and there is a little stand there with a book that looks like the Torah or the Talmud or the Bible or the Koran. But, when you open the pages, on each page there is a biography of those members of the German parliament who were slaughtered by the Nazis when Hitler came to power and in the years after that. This could have been many people in our country: Social Democrats, Labor MPs, Christian Democrats, conservative Liberal and National Party MPs. There was no discrimination.

The Nazi regime burned down their parliament and blamed the communists and then proceeded to persecute Jews, Catholics, trade unions, and any civil organisation and politicians who opposed the regime. The ferocity of the denunciation by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran pastor, on national radio—almost on the night that Hitler came to power—was a great demonstration of standing up for freedom and liberty by a person who followed their moral core and compass and who, by ethical and strong convictions, from a religious point of view, opposed the Nazis.

I will never forget those two occasions in my life. So I rise to speak on this particular legislation that deals with Nazi symbols. I agree with the member for Sturt that it is a shame that we have to do this in a liberal democracy. But we need to do it, because there are people out there on the extremes of our society who do the wrong things, who venerate and idolise and admire the Nazi regime, Nazism, fascism and militarism. It is just abhorrent.

Many people gave their lives. Six million Jews and many others, including gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and people who opposed the Nazi regime, were slaughtered. This legislation that is before the chamber shows that there is no place for this, and I hope this parliament decides to support it unanimously. There is no place for violence and hatred and antisemitism—and there is absolutely no place for symbols that glorify the Holocaust or human rights atrocities. We can never allow people to profit from the display and the sale of items that celebrate Nazism and its evil ideology. To that end, in June, this government, the Albanese Labor government, introduced a comprehensive package of reforms to protect the community from those who want to spread hate and radicalise others to commit acts of terror.

This bill before the chamber, the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures) Bill 2023, makes it clear that there is no place for those who seek to profit from these symbols.

The bill makes it a criminal offence to publicly display Nazi and Islamic State symbols or trade in items bearing these symbols. The bill criminalises public displays of the Nazi hakenkreuz, the hooked cross; the Nazi Schutzstaffel; the double sig rune, the SS bolts; and the Islamic State flag, hate symbols, as well as banning the trade of these items. The bill will exclude public displays of these symbols for religious, academic, educational, artistic, literary, journalistic or scientific purposes.

These symbols are widely recognised as symbols of hatred, violence and racism. The ban includes but is not limited to the trade and public display of flags, armbands, t-shirts, insignia and the publication of symbols online promoting Nazi ideology. The ban will not in any way apply to the display and use of the swastika, which is of spiritual significance to religions such as Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. We consulted with these communities to ensure nothing in the bill would impinge on the use and display of these symbols in association with legitimate religious expression and worship.

The bill also creates offences for accessing and sharing violent extremist material online. These new offences will allow law enforcement to intervene earlier and disrupt violent extremists before their actions place the community in danger and inspire others to follow these dangerous paths of radicalisation. The bill also amends the terrorist organisation listing framework. It provides that the listing of a terrorist organisation will apply indefinitely unless revoked. This is because the current sunsetting date of three years is unnecessarily short and does not reflect the longevity of terrorist organisations.

I’ll just outline some of the key provisions. The bill amends the Criminal Code—that’s the Commonwealth Criminal Code—in light of the evolving threat environment, particularly the threat of ideologically motivated violent extremism. Firstly, it criminalises the display, as I stated, of prohibited hate symbols. These symbols are associated with recruitment activities of violent extremist groups and have the effect of harassing or vilifying targeted groups. The offence will apply to a broad range of settings, including online. There will be specific exemptions, as I said. The bill does not prevent the private ownership of such material. However, anyone seeking to pass on such items will not be able to seek payment unless an exemption is applied for, because no-one should be able to profit in this way. The Federal Police and the state and territory police enforcing Commonwealth offences will be provided with a new power to issue a direction that materials containing a prohibited symbol be removed from public display.

Secondly, it would criminalise the use of a carriage service to deal with violent extremist material, including instructional terrorist material. This would facilitate law enforcement intervention at an earlier stage in an individual’s progress to violent radicalisation and provide greater opportunity for disruption of such networks. A carriage service would include a range of platforms such as webpages, social media applications, email, chat forums, text messages and the like. We’re introducing these provisions because this type of violent extremist material is used to radicalise people and has no place in our society. There’ll be punishments of up to five years imprisonment, and this will facilitate law enforcement intervention at an earlier stage. It complements existing frameworks for regulating online service providers, including offences for hosting abhorrent violent material, and the eSafety Commissioner’s powers to require providers to remove or cease to host certain content.

Thirdly, the bill will align different ‘advocating terrorism’ definitions in the Criminal Code and expand the advocating terrorism offence in section 80.2 to include providing instruction of the doing of a terrorist act and praising the doing of a terrorist act where there is substantial risk that the praise will lead to another person engaging in a terrorist act.

Fourthly, the bill will increase the maximum penalty for the offence of advocating terrorism from five to seven years, which recognises that advocating terrorism is a serious, intentional act that can incite violence against innocent Australians. This is more appropriate in my view. This is because the promotion and idealisation of extremist views are of increasing concern, and it’s not just here in Australia. A few short weeks ago I was in Trafalgar Square and saw legitimate people protesting in relation to Palestinian issues. But there were—I saw them clearly—symbols of Nazi glorification that clearly identified with antisemitic views. It was quite confronting to see that in a place that is so beloved by Londoners and by the world generally—a place that celebrates that great cosmopolitan city. It is absolutely legitimate to protest and to express your views in a liberal democracy, but antisemitism and the glorification of Nazism are not. They simply are not.

At present, can I just say that in this country we have real problems. It’s not just overseas; you can see it by watching any news—Al Jazeera, BBC, France 24. On any form of news network, you can see it. We have major problems that we have to work with, and we’ve got to work with state and territory colleagues and law enforcement agencies to keep our communities safe and to make sure that we stamp out hatred in all its expressions. We’re sending a clear message through this legislation to those who seek to spread hatred, violence and antisemitism: we find it repugnant, and it will not be tolerated.

This bill was referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for an inquiry, and the Attorney-General requested the committee consider the bill promptly. The committee has reported back, and I understand that tomorrow the Attorney-General will introduce amendments in the House, based on these recommendations, to strengthen our legislation by making the Nazi salute a criminal offence under Commonwealth law. It’s important that the Commonwealth provide leadership in this space; under the amendments, the Albanese government will ban the public display of the Nazi salute, making clear there’s no place for that expression in our polity. The Attorney-General, I’m sure, will have more to say about that tomorrow.

We can’t ignore the bigger context in which this is happening. It is worth noting, since the atrocities of 7 October in Israel and Israel’s incursions into Gaza, regrettably, there’s been an alarming uptick of antisemitism in this country. Many Jewish Australians are feeling fearful and anxious, and this has stirred up long and painful memories of the Holocaust. That should not be happening in a land that offered them refuge then and embraces them now. The Chifley government brought in 35,000 Jewish people fleeing the horrors of Nazism after World War II. I want to thank Jason Steinberg, the president of the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies and Board Chairman of the Queensland Holocaust Museum and Education Centre, for the work that he does and many others do with the Jewish community in my home state of Queensland.

As this conflict continues, it appears antisemitism is on the rise and we are determined not to let it get a foothold in this country. We should always denounce it and reject it utterly, as we do with all forms of racism and prejudice. With this legislation, the government is taking a strong stand. There is no place in Australia for symbols that glorify the horrors of the Holocaust and there is no place for those who seek to profit from the trade of these evil symbols or to use them to promote their hatred. We owe it to our multicultural society and to our Jewish community and their survivors. In the words of a Holocaust survivor Peter Gaspar, who lost 40 members of his extended family:

The Holocaust didn’t start with gas chambers and murders and executions. It started with stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination, hate speech …

These are words we need to heed even today and every day. We need to remember Australians are stronger when we work together.

Sadly, right now, events in our world seem to be tearing us apart. Now more than ever, we must remind ourselves of Australia’s fundamental strength. The cohesion of our multicultural society is one of our greatest national assets. This asset is something we should all contribute to every day. Generations of Australian migrants, from all over the world, have given us this very precious gift, and today we are the most successful multicultural nation on earth. These trailblazers worked across languages, cultures and faiths to build a country that we love, and everyone from politicians to people attending protests need to play their part in protecting it. Legitimate protest is fine; displaying Nazi symbols is not. That means being considerate in what we say to our friends and our colleagues and in those things we choose to post and share online. It means: pause and consider your fellow citizens during this time. In doing so, we are supporting a safer community.

Our intelligence agencies have made it very clear they see a direct relationship between language and violence. We see it in domestic situations, and we see it in our polity. In this febrile environment, it behoves us in this place to choose our actions and our words very carefully. Everyone is in a leadership position in this parliament, all 151 of us. We have a special responsibility to build national unity, not to amplify or create division, and safeguard our social cohesion. We should stand with people, not against them.

Let’s be clear: we stand with both the Jewish community and our Muslim community. No Australian should experience terror or horror as a price of their faith. The government continues to monitor the domestic security situation closely. We should always do everything we can to not only oppose Islamic extremism but also protect legitimate expression for Islamic people as well. We should be protecting both our Jewish community and our Islamic community locally. They contribute to our society, our economy and our polity. We should be a beacon of light and faith and hope and love.

Link to Parliamentary Hansard