Second Australian State Passes Law to Ban Swastikas

New South Wales joins Victoria in banning the display of the swastika as a hate symbol in public

Deborah Stone, Plus61J
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A swastika graffitied on the front of the Victorian State Parliament in Melbourne, Australia, in 2012.
A swastika graffitied on the front of the Victorian State Parliament in Melbourne, Australia, in 2012.Credit: David Crosling/AAP Image AP
Deborah Stone, Plus61J

The Australian state of New South Wales has joined Victoria on Thursday in passing a law to ban the display of the swastika as a hate symbol in public. Queensland and Tasmania have pledged to follow.

The need for the law was emphasized earlier this month when Jimeone Roberts, 29, was convicted of creating a public nuisance after he plastered Melbourne’s most Jewish suburb with more than 50 swastika stickers, the day after the Victorian government introduced legislation to criminalize public use of the hate symbol. Roberts, 29, is affiliated with the Australian far-right organization National Socialist Network.

Roberts caused a problem again last week when his display of tattoos with Nazi symbols antagonized pub workers at the Irish Times Pub in Melbourne.

Pub management allege the workers spat into Roberts’ beer. They sacked the workers and issued an apology to Roberts and to some of his associates.

The neo-Nazi members then bragged on secret and encrypted Far Right social media channels that the Irish Times Pub manager, Nitin Parashar, handed over $651 after they threatened the pub with complaints to regulators and flooded Google with negative reviews.

The number 51 is used by neo-Nazis to reference the number of victims in the Christchurch massacre.

Footage of the aftermath of the incident shows a male bartender being verbally confronted by the group of men.

“You started it when you got those tattoos,” the bartender told Roberts. “I’d like it if you’d leave.”

In response to criticisms over the firing of the staff, The Irish Times Pub issued a statement saying it won’t tolerate poor behavior from its staff, but it will also ban from the pub Nazi symbols and tattoos in the future.

“As a small business, still recovering from the impacts of COVID-19, we followed the legal advice in taking disciplinary action for the unprofessional conduct of our staff for spitting in a paying customer’s beer. We do not want to be in the center of any political views or topics,” the statement said.

CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute Andre Oboler said while he did not condone spitting, particularly in the time of COVID-19, the neo-Nazi’s display of hate symbols was provocative.

“It would certainly be appropriate for bar staff to say we don’t want the display of symbols of hate on our premises and to ask anyone wearing them to leave.”

The Victorian law banning the swastika has yet to come into effect, but Oboler said even if it had, it would not cover the incident as it explicitly excludes tattoos and does not include the black sun hate symbol Roberts displayed.

“Our submission called for the banning of alternative Nazi symbols. There needs to be some legislation that allows a minister or police or judge to exercise discretion because neo-Nazi symbols change rapidly. As one symbol is banned, other coded language is created on the fly.”

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Darren Bark welcomed the passing of the NSW law. “This is a historic day for New South Wales and a significant blow to those who promote hate and vilification in our community.

“Nazi symbols are a gateway to violence and are used as a recruitment tool by extremists. Banning their display is a long-overdue and much-needed law in our state. The perpetrators will finally be held to account.

“The legislation is also a game-changer in tackling online hate. It is time our tech companies step up and ensure these illegal symbols are removed from their platforms, and the offenders banned and prosecuted.”

Bark said Nazi symbols were an ongoing problem. Just last month, offensive stickers were found on a postbox in Redfern, Sydney.

In both NSW and Victoria, the anti-swastika bill makes an exception for educational, academic and artistic purposes and distinguishes between the use of the swastika as a Nazi symbol and its use as a religious symbol for Buddhists, Hindus and Jains.

Hindu Council of Australia national vice-president Surinder Jain said: “For the Hindu community, today is extra special. This legislation will not only protect our community from those who wish to cause harm, it frees our sacred swastika from its indoor prison.

“For too long, the Hindu community has not felt comfortable to display our symbol of peace because it resembled a symbol of evil. This is no longer.

“We were so pleased to work with the Jewish community to make this a reality.”

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