A Nazi flag flying over a private home in the Australian town of Beulah in 2020. (Screen grab/YouTube) (Screen grab/YouTube)
Nazi flag

Jews and lawmakers are concerned about rising anti-Semitism and neo-Nazi recruitment.

By Associated Press

Australia’s Victoria state is drafting legislation that would make it the first in the country to ban the public display of Nazi symbols as local neo-Nazi activity increases.

The proposed ban on Nazi symbols such as the swastika, except for educational or historical purposes, will be presented to parliament early next year, and appears certain to become law with opposition lawmakers expressing support.

The law was recommended by a parliamentary inquiry earlier this year that cited a recent rise in neo-Nazi activity in Australia’s second-most populous state.

“This announcement is a resounding triumph for the victims of the Holocaust, the survivors and our brave diggers (Australian soldiers) who died to vanquish the evil Third Reich regime, and a defeat of homegrown neo-Nazis who seek to keep Hitler’s legacy alive,” said Dvir Abramovich, chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission, a Jewish-Australian community organization.

Counter-terror intelligence chief Mike Burgess warned last month that Australians as young as 16 were being radicalized to support a white-power race war, and that half of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization’s most important domestic anti-terrorism cases now involve neo-Nazi cells and other ideologically motivated groups.

Burgess, director-general of ASIO, told media the shift in the national security threat away from religiously motivated terrorism was being fueled by disinformation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and other global events.

The legislation was triggered by an incident in 2020 when a couple in the Victorian town of Beulah flew a Nazi flag outside their home for several weeks. Neighbors who complained to the local council and police were told they didn’t have the power to ask the family to take it down.

Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said sales of Nazi memorabilia under the legislation will be “one of the more complex areas.”

“You wouldn’t want it to be a loophole to enable people to publicly display a swastika by virtue of having it on a piece of clothing, walking around in public, for example,” she said.

The legislation is part of Victoria’s anti-vilification reform, which is expanding hate speech laws against race and religion to cover gender, disability, sexual orientation and other forms of personal association.

United With Israel staff contributed to this report.