The Australian state begins to legislate to ban the swastika

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia’s most populous state took a big step toward banning Nazi symbols on Tuesday when the New South Wales lower house of parliament passed a bill that would criminalize their display.

The bill must pass the upper house to become law.

Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state, in June became the first in Australia to pass a law banning the public display of Nazi swastikas.

The states of Queensland and Tasmania have announced similar laws which would mean half of Australia’s eight states and territories and most of the Australian population would be banned from displaying Nazi symbols.

New South Wales Attorney General Mark Speakman told parliament on Tuesday that the Nazi swastika had hurt and distressed members of the community, including those of the Jewish faith. In 2020, New South Wales police received 31 reports of Nazi flags being displayed, including one from a house near a Sydney synagogue.

“Hateful and defamatory behavior is totally unacceptable in our community,” Speakman said.

The use or display of Nazi flags or Nazi memorabilia bearing swastikas would be prohibited by law.

The legislation would allow the symbol to be used for religious and educational purposes. The swastika for Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and other religious communities is an ancient and sacred symbol.

Individuals face 12 months in prison or a fine of 11,000 Australian dollars ($7,670) for breaking the laws, while companies face fines of 55,000 Australian dollars ($38,350).

In an amendment to legislation, a review of laws should take place within 3.5 years after they come into force.

Victoria set sentences of 22,000 Australian dollars ($15,340) and 12 months in prison for displaying the Nazi swastika.

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