Swastika: Victoria bans display of Nazi symbol in Australian first

·2-min read
Protests hold a banner saying "you'll always lose in Melbourne" next to a crossed-out swastika
Australia has seen demonstrations for and against the far right in recent years

Victoria has become Australia's first state to specifically ban the display of the Nazi swastika.

Under a new law, people who intentionally exhibit the symbol face up to a year in jail or a A$22,000 (£12,300; $15,000) fine.

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said "nobody has the right to spread racism, hate or anti-Semitism".

Like many places globally, Australia has seen a sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents in recent times.

Victoria already has anti-hate speech laws - but they have been criticised for having "gaps".

A push for reform intensified in 2020 when a couple raised a swastika flag above their home, angering the local community.

State officials called the new legislation a "proud moment". Three other states have said they will introduce similar laws.

"The Nazi symbol glorifies one of the most hateful ideologies in history - its public display does nothing but cause further pain and division," said Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes in a statement.

There are exemptions for showing the symbol in historical, educational and artistic contexts. It can also be used in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religious contexts - as it has been for millennia.

People will be prosecuted only if they defy a first request to remove the symbol.

Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich - who campaigned for the law - called it a "thunderous blow" to the neo-Nazi movement.

"As our nation confronts the deep stain of a resurgent white-supremacist movement that peddles a dangerous and dehumanising agenda, this parliament has declared that the symbol of Nazism will never find a safe harbour in our state," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The number of anti-Semitic incidents around the world dramatically increased last year, according to a study by Tel Aviv University. Australia had 88 in one month alone - a national record.

In 2020, Australia's intelligence chief warned of a "real threat" to the country's security from neo-Nazis. He said "small cells" of right-wing extremists were meeting regularly to salute Nazi flags and share their ideology.

Since the pandemic began, unions and others have also accused far-right groups of "infiltrating" large protests about lockdowns and other restrictions.

The new laws will come into effect in six months.

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