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Police Offences Amendment (Nazi Symbol and Gesture Prohibition) Bill 2023

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 24 May 2023

Tags: Police, LGBTI, Racism, Legislation

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I thank Ms Haddad for her considered contribution on this bill. I thank the minister for bringing it forward. I note that the Greens have been advocating for this reform in parliament and across the Estimates table for some years now. It is regrettably a relief to see this bill come before us. I only say regrettably because, as Ms Haddad said, it is sad that we are in a position where we have to enact a reform such as this.

There is no question at all that fascism, Nazism, is on the rise in many western countries around the world, and we are seeing a hateful and unholy alliance between fascism, hard right Christian nationalists and anti-vaxxers who are being fed by - I do not know what - dark forces data harvesting, but certainly using all the tools of social media that are available to them to spread hate and fear in communities across the world.

These people, invariably white men, are anti-diversity, anti-progress, anti-science and anti-life. There is no 'both sides-ing' fascism. I have to say after the day and a half we have had in here so far it is good that we are debating legislation on which we can all strongly agree. All of us strongly agree that this is significant and necessary legislation. I know a number of other jurisdictions have acted or are acting.

As the minister said, the bill we are debating today which prohibits Nazi symbols and Nazi gestures is not dissimilar from the Victorian model. As I understand from the briefing we received - and I thank the Attorney-General's departmental officers - there is also planned legislation along these lines in Western Australia, Queensland and the ACT.

In Florida they are banning books: books by people like Mem Fox, the great Australian children's writer. So many beautiful, powerful and simple books are being banned in that weirdo Governor Ron DeSantis' Florida and we are seeing a really disturbing trend now around the world of fascists, Neo-Nazis, invariably with their faces covered - it is the one time they believe in masks when they are trying to hide themselves - targeting transgender and LGBTIQA+ people.

There has been a call from some of those right-wing evangelical, I think anti-Christian, pastors for the eradication of transgender people. Of course as the mother of a transgender child it genuinely frightens me that someone would go after my child, or anyone like Jasper, just because they have chosen to be who they are. We have to make sure that the law provides the greatest possible protection for transgender people, Jewish people, people of colour, people with disabilities, and all marginalised groups. In the context of fascism I would include women in those cohorts of people who are made vulnerable by the increase of hateful actions and rhetoric. There is no both sides in fascism and we cannot tolerate such wicked intolerance.

When we were at our old offices down near Elizabeth Wharf back in 2018 before the flood of biblical proportions in May or June 2018 that flooded us out, I walked out the front to the wharf side of the offices one day. Overnight a person or persons had put a Nazi symbol on our little shingle that said 'Greens Offices'. I did not really think too much of it at the time apart from, 'That's some hateful idiot who hates the Greens, what's new?'.

Ms Archer - I had one in my very first campaign.

Ms O'CONNOR - On your first campaign?

Ms Archer - Back in 2006.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, it is chilling. It is easy in the worlds that we occupy to forget about that dark underbelly Ms Haddad talked about. There is an organisation, a group of young, undoubtedly white men in Tasmania who are part of the National Socialist Network who were the Nazis 'sieg heiling' for transphobe Posie Parker when she was in Melbourne. This group is called Tasman Forth. There was some excellent reporting as result of research done by the White Rose Society by David Killick in the Mercury some months ago.

This Tasman Forth group is named after a very well-known Tasmanian Nazi sympathiser. fascist and anti-Semite, Alexander Rudd Mills, who died in 1964. This group has masked and posting pictures of their activities on social media, desecrated and painted on the transgender pink, blue and white flag, and has splashed swastikas on synagogues. It is really hard to understand what goes on in the mind of someone who could do that. There have been 'White Power' stickers splashed around Tasmania. This Tasman Forth organisation, being part of a national socialist network is one of about six distinct cells, if you want to call it cells, like a terrorist cell, operating across six capitals. We can disagree on many things but what we all do agree on is the importance of inclusion and protecting minorities. We can all agree that we need to delegitimise and make illegal, unequivocally, the activities like the National Socialist Network and Tasman Forth. It is too high risk to the people we represent and the fabric of our community to allow these activities to go on unchallenged and unchecked.

I take the opportunity to pass on my sadness and regret to Rosemary Harwood, the mother of the late Marjorie Harwood, who was a transgender woman who was allegedly gang raped while incarcerated in the men's prison at Risdon. Rosemary Harwood had set up a memorial for her daughter but a group of haters, Neo-Nazis, fascists, vandalised it with thick red paint with the transphobic acronym YNBAW, which means you will never be a woman. I do not understand this kind of brain, so full of hate. The poor woman suffered in her life to grapple with gender identity and then found her way through it and then to suffer this. As Rosemary Harwood said to journalist Teo Yuem :

I want whoever did this to know that if they do it again we will keep cleaning it off. They will not defeat us. We will keep Marjorie's memory alive, no matter what, Mrs Harwood said. 'Nobody can intimidate me.'

She asks:

Why have you got so much hate against transgender people?

There is a lot of hate in the world. It is a challenge for us as representatives in a democratic parliament in an inclusive multi-cultural, big-hearted Tasmanian community. We have the biggest hearts in the country. We are the highest givers per capita in the country, but it is a real challenge for us to deal with this hatefulness and make sure that our laws protect marginalised people.

I want to give the Attorney-General enough time to wrap up. Hopefully we can pass this legislation within the hour. I thank Ms Haddad. I believe you had much more to say and you truncated it. I will do the same.

Ms Haddad - I cut it in half.

Ms Archer - It would be good to get it through.

Mr O'Byrne - How long do you need? I want a couple of minutes as well.

Ms O'CONNOR - In the Saturday Paper, writer and host of Triple R Radio program, Clear View Mirror, Sam Elkin said:

Nazis are so obviously evil; some people may be tempted to see the Let Women Speak Brigade as comparatively benign. But Kelly J and her pathetic rag-tag band or supporters and spouting a hateful ideology that is a very significant risk of harm.

Far right extremists, Neo-Nazis and Christians alike - and when I use the word 'Christians' here, I do not believe these people are actual Christians in the spirit of the teachings of Jesus. Their intolerance, I think, precludes them from being actual Christians. Sorry, I digress.

Far right extremists including Neo Nazis and Christians alike -

Ms Archer - I tend to agree with you. I cannot understand it.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is not what is in the Bible and I went to multiple Catholic schools.

- and anti-trans campaigners and both spew hate under the guise of protecting women. They feed each other. No one who saw those pictures of that band of men in black, masked and giving the Nazi salute on the steps of the Victorian Parliament House will forget those images. While Kellie-Jay Keen and the anti-transgender people who she stands with later disavowed the appearance of that Nazi group, they did not at the time. They looked pretty happy that those young men were there.

This bill will prevent Nazi symbolism and symbolic actions or gestures. It will help to prevent such symbols and gestures from being part of a rallying point for hard-right hateful ideologies. Beyond the law itself, we all have a responsibility to name up hate and discrimination when we see it and remain vigilant to the circumstances faced by marginalised people in our community. Whether they be Jewish people or someone who lives with a disability, or a person of colour, or a transgender person, they are our fellow Tasmanians, Australian, citizens of the world. They face dangers in everyday life so we have a moral responsibility to be there to defend and protect.

Dr Kaz Ross, a researcher who has done some outstanding work at the University of Tasmania has said about this bill and this issue:

This is not about free speech. People use Nazi symbols to make other people afraid. The Nazi salute is a Roman salute designed to cause fear in the people watching. Any time a Nazi symbol is displayed in public, it can be used with intent. That includes body tattoos and people's chests and the Roman salute or the Nazi salute or the Sieg Heil - symbols which are used with Nazi intent can be covered under this legislation. That is really important. I think that is where Victoria was let down when they banned only the symbol.

This bill is well drafted; it is extremely well intended and a necessary reform. We do not see the need to go into Committee. It provides the two crimes of knowingly displaying a Nazi symbol or knowingly making a Nazi gesture but then it also provides those exceptions for education, arts, and for cultures such Hinduism, so this is good legislation.

I have not seen what all the other jurisdictions are doing but I think this is model legislation potentially for other jurisdictions. I am very glad that the Attorney-General has brought this forward and that we will all in this place agree to support this vitally significant bill for our times.