The Palaszczuk government will introduce legislation into Queensland parliament to ban swastikas as part of a suite of changes to strengthen the state’s response to hate crime and vilification.
The legislation would make it a criminal offence to display symbols promoting hatred and causing fear.
However, there would be an exemption for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains for whom swastikas are religious symbols. There will also be an exemption for when hate symbols are used for educational purposes.
The state’s premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said late last year police seized a Nazi flag flown near the Brisbane synagogue and that months earlier a train carriage in the suburbs was graffitied with swastikas.
“Nazism is evil. Evil triumphs when good people do nothing. We will not do nothing and allow this angle to grow,” Palaszczuk said in parliament on Thursday.
“… They deserve to be punished. Their crimes are not harmless, nor are their ideologies. They ought to be called out ...”
The Palaszczuk government has accepted all 17 recommendations of a parliamentary report that advised hate crime laws should be strengthened to curb “the devastating effects of vilification”, and will introduce a bill into parliament during the second half of the year.
Some of the recommendations from the legal affairs and safety committee included banning the display of hate symbols relating to Nazi and Islamic State ideology, working with the commonwealth to address online vilification and relocating the section of the Anti-Discrimination Act that deals with serious hate crimes into the state’s criminal code.
The report followed an extensive #BetterLaws4SafeQld campaign in 2020 by the Cohesive Communities Coalition, a collective of organisations representing more than 20 of Queensland’s diverse communities.
On Thursday, the coalition welcomed the announcement, dubbing it an “important first step.”
“Law reform is urgently needed to ensure every hate crime is called a hate crime and treated as one,” the group said in a statement.
“Every Queenslander deserves to peacefully enjoy public spaces without being terrorised, denigrated or humiliated based on their religious, ethnic or First Nations background.”
Queensland’s attorney general and minister for justice, Shannon Fentiman, said “depictions of hate symbols have no place in Queensland”.
She said some of the recommendations will require more detailed analysis once the Queensland Human Rights Commission’s review of the Anti-Discrimination Act is complete.
“As a community, we cannot tolerate the deliberate use of these symbols to promote hatred towards communities that have been persecuted and cause those people fear,” she said.
“ … That’s why we will be accepting all recommendations of the committee.”
The multicultural affairs minister, Leanne Linard, said she supported the introduction of the legislation.
“I meet and work with people from across our ethnically diverse state every day and have heard first-hand of the devastating effects of vilification and hate crimes,” Linard said.