Kim O’KEEFFE (Shepparton) (11:25): I rise today to speak and make a contribution on the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Salute Prohibition) Bill 2023. The bill before the house follows on from the government’s commitment to legislating a ban on the Nazi salute by prohibiting the public display or performance of any symbol or gesture used by the Nazi party and its parliamentary arms.
Acting Speaker Hamer, it has been very emotional hearing others speak on this bill previously and hearing the personal contributions and experiences that have been shared, and I acknowledge your contribution as well. There has been much reflection on the reason why we are here today in support of the bill. It is shameful to think that 80 years later we are still fighting against such acts and displays of hatred. This bill sends a very clear message that such acts of hate will not be tolerated. We live in such a diverse and multicultural state. Everyone should feel safe, respected and valued.
The government’s intention in introducing this bill before the house is to send a clear message, one that denounces Nazi ideology and the use of its gestures and symbols, which are intended to cause fear, intimidate and incite hate. The bill seeks to focus on the harm that is caused with such hateful conduct and to make change. The Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Salute Prohibition) Bill 2023 amends the Summary Offences Act 1966 to make the public display or performance of the Nazi salute and other gestures used by the Nazi party an offence and to extend the application of the offence of public display of Nazi symbols and for other purposes. The purpose of this amendment is to address the recent increase in the public display and performance of the Nazi salute in Victoria.
During the 59th Parliament last year the Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol Prohibition) Bill 2022 was introduced and passed. The government has been committed to working with the Victorian police and other relevant agencies to ensure the monitoring of the public display of other hateful symbols to determine whether further symbols should also be prohibited in Victoria. Since coming into effect as an act of Parliament and a law of Victoria there have been several incidents where the public display or performance of the Nazi salute has taken place. These included a group of people who performed the Nazi salute and posed for photographs in a public space to commemorate Adolf Hitler’s birthday and also, on the steps here at Parliament House, an anti-immigration rally where the Nazi salute was performed repeatedly. Unfortunately, there have been numerous incidents which clearly show the limitations of current laws in combating this behaviour, and this therefore needs action. Because of this, this bill contributes to this improvement that is needed.
Furthermore, it is clear from these events that have taken place in the Victorian community that Nazi symbols and gestures, in particular the Nazi salute, are being used as a means of conveying messages, as we have said, of hatred and intimidation, causing much trauma and pain. The Jewish Community Council of Victoria, along with many others in Victoria, have also highlighted their experiences with the harm that has been caused through such hateful conduct. The highly visible nature of these expressions, including significant and sustained media attention, has left Jewish Victorians feeling vilified, vulnerable and anxious about their safety. These emotions are heightened for Holocaust survivors and their descendants, people like Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter, who survived six Nazi concentration camps. Today he is a Holocaust educator sharing his stories in film and live events and the traumatic events of his childhood, and he calls for a world without discrimination or hate – exactly what we are all standing here for today.
The offence through this bill will be accompanied by powers for the Victorian police to direct a person to remove a Nazi symbol or gesture from public display where this has been under limitation in the past. Members of the Victorian police force have had no such powers to authorise this, and this amendment to the Summary Offences Act is a much-needed improvement to current powers. In addition, the bill will enable Victorian police force members to apply to the Magistrates’ Court for a warrant to enter premises to search for and seize a Nazi symbol and, in relation to the additional amendments, to provide a police officer to have power to direct a person to cease performing a Nazi gesture in a public space with the same criteria as applies to a direction to cease displaying a Nazi symbol in public spaces.
Any Victorian that is found guilty of the offence of intentionally displaying or performing a Nazi symbol or gesture will face a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment or a fine of up to 120 penalty units, which also carries monetary value. However, whilst there are important exceptions that apply to the display of the Hakenkreuz and Nazi symbols, the main exceptions have been amended in relation to the display or performance of Nazi gestures. In addition, exceptions will also apply where the display or performance of a Nazi gesture was engaged in reasonably and in good faith for genuine purposes, such as academic, artistic, education or scientific. As such, in making or publishing a fair and accurate report of any event or matter that is in the public interest, these exceptions are intended to apply broadly to protect freedom of expression and to ensure that Nazi gestures can continue to be used and displayed only for appropriate purposes.
It is important that Victorians have the fundamental right of freedom of expression. However, everyone must know and understand that there are limits on free speech. People who engage themselves in actions and perform gestures that involve hatred will never be accepted across our state. I commend this bill to the house.