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Second reading — Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Prohibited Hate Symbols And Other Measures) Bill 2023

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Everyone can, and must, call out hate.

Until recently, it would have been unthinkable that neo-Nazis would burn crosses and openly chant white supremacist slogans in a popular national park or perform Nazi salutes in the front of the Victorian Parliament.

But over the last several years, we have seen these incidents and more. Today, the Albanese Government is taking a significant step towards sending a message that Australia is united against displays of hate.

The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures) Bill 2023 makes critical changes to the Commonwealth Criminal Code to support law enforcement in their efforts to manage and protect the community from those planning, preparing and inspiring others to do harm.

Criminalising the public display and trading of the prohibited Nazi and Islamic State symbols

Mr Speaker, Schedule 1 of the Bill makes it a criminal offence to publicly display prohibited symbols—the Nazi hakenkreuz, the Nazi double sig rune, and the Islamic State flag—and trade items bearing these symbols.

The Nazi hakenkreuz and the Nazi double sig rune, also known as the Schutzstaffel insignia, represent the vile ideology of the Third Reich and conjure fear in many parts of the Australian community whose families suffered the horrors of the Holocaust. These symbols are also used to promote hatred of other groups, including LGBTIQ+ Australians.

Similarly, the Islamic State flag is representative of abhorrent actions taken by one of the world’s deadliest and most active terrorist organisations. Despite no longer controlling territory in Iraq and Syria, Islamic State remains an active terrorist organisation, conducting regular attacks on security forces and civilians. Islamic State continues to incite and carry out violent acts against Muslims and non‑Muslim religious minorities within the region and globally.

Extremist insignia are an effective propaganda tool because they are easy to remember and understand. They also transcend language and cultural divides.

The new public display offence in this Bill is designed to stamp out the harassment and vilification of innocent Australians whose communities are callously targeted by Nazi, neo-Nazi and Islamic State supporters.

The trading offence ensures that a person cannot profit from selling, renting or leasing paraphernalia containing these symbols of hate.

The Bill also enables law enforcement to issue a direction to a person requiring the removal of prohibited symbols from public display.

These offences have been carefully considered and crafted so as not to capture legitimate uses of these symbols. The Bill expressly excludes conduct that is done for a religious, academic, educational, artistic, literary, scientific or journalistic purpose. Significantly, it will be the responsibility of the prosecution—not the defence—to prove that the alleged conduct fell outside those exemptions.

For example, public display for the purposes of education is permitted so the horrors of the Second World War are not forgotten, and can continue to be taught as a lesson for future generations.

The Government similarly acknowledges the continued importance of the sacred swastika as a symbol that has immense significance to the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and other communities of faith. The Government recognises the distinction between the sacred swastika and the misappropriated Nazi hakenkreuz. The Bill protects the use of the sacred swastika for the purpose of religious observance in recognition of its immense significance to these faith communities.

Further, in criminalising the public display and trade in the Islamic State symbol, the Government recognises the important distinction between Islamic State, which is a terrorist organisation with a violent ideology, and the Islamic faith which is deeply respected and valued as part of Australia’s multicultural society. The Government condemns Islamophobia and stands with the Australian Muslim community in opposition to terrorism in all its forms.

Mr Speaker, this Bill complements the efforts of state and territory governments around the country who have legislated similar prohibitions in their respective jurisdictions. The Bill extends to matters where the Commonwealth has particular responsibilities, including those with respect to trade and the online environment.

Criminalising the use of a carriage service to deal with violent extremist material

Mr Speaker, violent extremist material, which is used to incite violence and instil fear in the community, has no place in our society.

While it is presently a crime to possess material that is connected with a terrorist act it is not a crime to possess violent extremist material where, for example, planning for an attack is not underway.  Schedule 2 of the Bill addresses that gap by creating new offences for using a carriage service to possess or disseminate violent extremist material, noting the harmful nature of the material itself.

The offences, punishable by up to five years imprisonment, will facilitate law enforcement intervention at an earlier stage in individuals’ progress to violent radicalisation.

Strengthen the ‘advocating terrorism’ offence

Schedule 3 of the Bill strengthens the offence of advocating terrorism in the Criminal Code.

The promotion and idealisation of extremist views is of increasing concern, particularly with respect to young people becoming radicalised online. Glorifying terrorists or providing guidance on the commission of terrorist acts can incite others to imitate or seek to engage in similar behaviour, and further their radicalisation. To address this, the Bill expands the offence for advocating terrorism in the Criminal Code to include instructing on the doing of a terrorist act or praising the doing of a terrorist act in circumstances where there is a substantial risk that such praise might lead someone to engage in a terrorist act.

Recognising that advocating terrorism is a serious act that can lead to violence against innocent Australians, the Bill increases the maximum penalty for this offence from five to seven years imprisonment. The new penalty more appropriately accounts for the severity of potential offending.

Indefinite listings of terrorist organisations

Mr Speaker, Schedule 4 of the Bill amends the Criminal Code to provide that regulations that proscribe terrorist organisation do not lapse after three years but continue indefinitely unless revoked by the AFP Minister.

The current sunsetting date of 3 years is unnecessarily short and does not reflect the longevity of terrorist organisations. Some of the 41 organisations listed since 2002 have been re-listed as many as eight times.

To ensure the appropriateness of the listing of organisations, the Bill requires the AFP Minister to take steps to remove the organisation from the list as soon as practicable if they become aware that an organisation no longer meets the listing threshold. Any person can make an application to the AFP Minister to revoke a listing instrument in relation to a terrorist organisation.

The Bill also grants the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security an own-motion power to commence a review as to whether an organisation continues to satisfy the threshold to be listed as a terrorist organisation.


Mr Speaker, I find it almost unthinkable that this legislation is even necessary. Thousands of Australians fought and died to defeat the evil that some within our community now seek to promote. But we do need to act and we do need to make it clear that we will not tolerate this kind of conduct.

Australia’s diversity is our greatest strength.

To those who are targeted because of their faith, we stand with you.

For those who face abuse simply for being who they are, we stand with you.

We will act to keep you safe and free to live your lives without fear.

If more is required to ensure the safety and security of all Australians from hatred and vilification, the Government will act.

I commend the Bill to the House.