27 May 2022
The Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies (QJBD), the roof body of Queensland Jewry, has welcomed the Queensland Government’s response to the Parliamentary inquiry into serious vilification and hate crime, in particular the recommendation to criminalise the public display of Nazi hate symbols.
QJBD president Jason Steinberg said the proposed new laws were a landmark step forward in the fight against hate in Queensland.
“This is a significant move to protect our community and it is very encouraging to know the government has no tolerance for hate in our society,” Mr Steinberg said.
“Hate begins with words and symbols. The Premier’s announcement that the Government will introduce legislation making it a criminal offence to display symbols promoting hatred and causing fear sends a clear message that those who peddle racism and hate have no place here in Queensland.
“For too long, right-wing groups and individuals who share Nazi ideologies have acted with impunity across Queensland. The display of these symbols impacts the sense of safety and security of all Queenslanders, including those who are members of groups and communities that have historically been the targets of Nazi policies of genocide, mass murder and other forms of persecution, such as Jews, Roma people, the disabled and LGBTIQ people.
“New laws will empower the police to be a useful tool in countering the proliferation of extremist ideologies.”
Incidents of antisemitism have been on the rise in Queensland, including the flying of a Nazi flag over a synagogue in Brisbane, and posters on the Gold Coast depicting the swastika and antisemitic stereotypes.
Sadly, the pervasiveness of antisemitism in Queensland was clearly demonstrated via a survey conducted in 2021 by the QJBD, which revealed that 6 in 10 Jews have been a victim of racial abuse and vilification.The banning of hate symbols, such as the swastika, was part of the QJBD’s submission to the Queensland Parliament’s Inquiry into vilification and hate crime laws.
Victoria and New South Wales have legislation banning Nazi symbols, as do a number of countries, particularly those which historically suffered most at the hands of Nazi tyranny.Most of these jurisdictions, which have introduced banning legislation, provide exemptions or exclusions for the display of certain symbols when the purpose is clearly not to promote hatred. For example, the swastika in certain formats has, for centuries, been a religious and cultural symbol in several eastern and European traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
Similarly, the use of Nazi symbols to educate the public about the appalling history of Nazism or for other genuine academic, research, scientific or artistic purposes, or other purposes in the public interest, should not be proscribed in the new Queensland laws.
In addition, the QJBD advocated that any banning legislation that is introduced in Queensland would need to be flexible enough to accommodate the constant evolution of new hate symbols.
“If legislation was in place before some of these recent incidents occurred, the perpetrators would have found themselves facing criminal charges, instead of getting a ‘slap’ on the wrist,” Mr Steinberg said.
“Hate symbols are like a cancer. If not treated, the environment in which they exist allows them to spread and flourish. The proposed new laws will prohibit this, which will benefit all Queenslanders and pave the way for a more safe, harmonious and tolerant society.”