Radio interview – 6PR Perth Mornings
Subjects: Nazi hate symbols ban.
GARY ADSHEAD: We know now that the Federal Government will move to ban Nazi symbols in public. This is something that's been put in place on a state level by the WA Government already, they're looking at introducing legislation that will prohibit the display and possession of Nazi symbols in certain circumstances. And of course, it's off the back of the well, the rise of the neo-Nazi outfits that are there in our communities. The Federal Attorney-General, who has told the media early this morning as to how this will all work, is Mark Dreyfus, and he joins me now. Thanks very much for your time, Mark.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL MARK DREYFUS: Good to be with you, Gary.
ADSHEAD: Look, I've got to say, I mean, the Nazi symbols and the insignia have been symbols for hate for a long time. Why is it now, and why is it taking so long to make these moves?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We've seen a rise, very sadly, in this kind of activity and that's why the Albanese Government is acting on bringing a bill to Parliament next week to criminalise public displays of the Nazi Hakenkreuz and the Schutzstaffel, that's the SS symbol, and also banning the trade in these items.
ADSHEAD: Yeah, the trade, actually before I was speaking to you I did have a quick look at places like Facebook Marketplace have got, I'm not saying the insignia there in its sort of pure form like an iron cross or a swastika armband or whatever but there is plenty of Nazi memorabilia and regalia, does that concern you?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yes, there's no place in Australia for symbols that glorify the horrors of the Holocaust and there's no place for seeking to profit from trade in those evil symbols. We've got to send the clearest possible signal.
ADSHEAD: How far will the new laws go? For example, you know, some of the hate groups, the right wing, neo-Nazi groups that are out there now, they have houses where they meet, where they have their symbolism up on walls. So I mean, would you go that far to go to those places and seize it and charge people?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: This is a law that prohibits public display, Gary, it's not about what people do in private and we think that we need to send a signal to those who are seeking to spread hatred and violence and anti-Semitism, that these actions are repugnant. We won't tolerate them. But it is dealing with public display, including online display.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: And it's a ban on trade.
ADSHEAD: Okay, so in other words, if a right-wing group that's got an online presence, has a swastika next to it, you would go after them.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yes, that's right.
ADSHEAD: And obviously, these groups meet and there's been some, in Melbourne particularly, there's been some recent heated sort of rallies of opposing sides of arguments around asylum seekers, or whatever it might be. You're saying to these people, you walk out and walk into a public place with something that is deemed to be Nazi regalia, they could be arrested.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: That's right, and charged, and they could get up to 12 months in jail. That penalty is an indication of the seriousness that we think is appropriate for this. This Commonwealth law is going to come on top of state and territory laws, most states and territories have acted in the last couple of years, and the remaining states have said they're going to. Our laws are going to mesh with theirs, in particular, the ban on trade is something that's appropriate for the Commonwealth to do because we've got the import export powers.
ADSHEAD: Now you had to consider the Nazi salute. Where did you arrive on that?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We think that that's something better dealt with by state and territory laws. It's state and territory police on the streets dealing with street offenders, whereas the Australian Federal Police doesn't have such a street presence.
ADSHEAD: So would you like to Attorney? Would you like to actually see the salute banned if there was a gathering at one of these rallies I've been talking about and they all started doing the Nazi salute. Would you like to see that an arrestable offence?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: In the city I'm speaking to you from my home city of Melbourne. It is banned and that's what I'm saying, it's a matter more appropriately dealt with by state and territory law.
ADSHEAD: Okay. And clearly, you know and I take it that some of the Jewish communities still have to live with some sort of level of concern about the rise of these right-wing neo-Nazi groups, don't they?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yes, these symbols glorify the horrors of the Holocaust and give direct offence, they spread hatred, and there's no place for them in modern Australia.
ADSHEAD: There's been a couple of areas where, of course, the swastika I think as it was originally known in the Hindu religion, how will you deal with those sort of grey areas there where that might be on display?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We've consulted carefully with representatives of Hindu, Jain, Buddhist religions, and their religious use of the swastika symbol which goes back thousands of years will be exempt.
ADSHEAD: So if they're out having some sort of Hindu festival there's not going to be any issue about that, no confusion?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: No issue, no issue at all. That will be exempt. And that's appropriate, they're not spreading hate Gary, they're practicing their religion.
ADSHEAD: Absolutely. Can I also just say, you know, I suppose the proof will be in the pudding in the policing of this. What's your message to those state authorities and even your Federal Police authorities to actually use this and police it? Because until we start seeing examples of it through the courts, you know, it could be a moot argument?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, we'll see but we think that just passing the law sends a very clear message, the clearest possible signal that people are seeking to spread hate and violence and anti-Semitism, that's repugnant. We're not going to tolerate it and of course, we'll see in practice whether it has the deterrent effect that we hope.
ADSHEAD: And just, if I could finally, so we talked about the swastika, and that's obviously a very well known symbol, perhaps the SS symbol is obviously very well known as well but there are a lot of Nazi insignia that could be used. I mean, how detailed is the legislation to capture those other symbols that might not be as well known to us, that might be to those right-wing neo-Nazi groups that that love it.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Our starting point is to ban the two best known and most used of the Nazi symbols. That's the Hakenkreuz and SS symbol but do not think of this as the end. If we need to do more, we will.
ADSHEAD: And is it off the back of some of the advice, and I know that some of the talk that's been going on from within the intelligence services about the right wing rise in Australia again, is it coming from that? Is it part of the tools to combat it?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yes. And it's something that the Director-General of Security, the boss of ASIO, has spoken about in each of the last three years in his State of the Nation Security Report, which he gives publicly he's talked about the rise of this far-right and violent extremism as being a concern, this is something that we can do to deal with it.
ADSHEAD: Okay. Last question, I promise. If someone's got a collection in their home because they are military collectors, and they have as part of it Nazi regalia, what would you feel about that?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, it's not the law against possession it's a law against seeking to profit from trading in these evil symbols. And after this law is passed, that will be prohibited.
ADSHEAD: Attorney-General, thanks very much for joining us this morning. Appreciate it.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thank you very much.