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Australia to ban public display of Nazi symbols

 A swastika flag is displayed for sale at a store at the Gladstone Harbour Festival in central Queensland, Australia, April 11, 2006. [AP Photo]

New legislation is set to be introduced next week in the Australian parliament that will ban the public display of Nazi symbols. Under the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill, offenders could face up to a year in prison.

Among other things, the proposed bill will ban flags, T-shirts, armbands and other symbols related to the Nazis, an extremist German 20th century political party led by Adolf Hitler, and the Schutzstaffel, or SS, which was a major paramilitary organization. The symbols' publication online will also be proscribed. The maximum penalty for breaching the ban would be 12 months' imprisonment.

The ban will not include the Nazi salute or the swastika, a symbol that has religious significance in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Australia's chief law officer, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, said tackling far-right extremism was a priority for the government and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

"The Albanese government will introduce legislation next week to criminalize public displays of the Nazi Hakenkreuz and Schutzstaffel, or SS hate symbols and ban the trade in these items," he said. "Let's be clear, the Nazi salute is an offensive gesture. It has no place in Australian society, but we think that the banning of these gestures is a matter for state and territory laws."

Experts have welcomed the proposed new laws. They believe that Nazi symbols are weapons of intimidation and can help radical groups recruit new members, especially online.

In April, Australia's intelligence agency told a parliamentary inquiry in Canberra that racist groups were using extremist symbols to raise their profile.

Jewish groups in Australia also support the legislation. They have insisted the public display of Nazi symbols has been distressing for survivors of the Holocaust. Far right extremists recently stood on the steps of the Victorian state Parliament House displaying the Nazi salute. Analysts have said it was evidence of a resurgence of Australia's white supremacist movement.

Laws that criminalize the public display of Nazi symbols came into force in Victoria in late December 2022.

New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, also banned the display of Nazi flags or memorabilia showing swastikas in 2022.

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