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The state with no hate: Queensland moves to ban Nazi symbols in free speech crackdown

Politics

People displaying, distributing or publishing Nazi, Islamic State and other extremist symbols will face up to three years in prison under proposed Queensland laws.

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Victoria and NSW have already criminalised the display of Nazi symbols while Tasmania and Western Australia intend to do the same.

Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman will introduce a bill on Wednesday to ban the display of hate symbols such as the swastika, including on social media.

The proposed laws will increase the penalties for crimes motivated by racial, religious, sexual or gender identity hatred.

They will give police the ability to seek access to stored communications, including phone records, when investigating cases of serious vilification.

“We can’t stop people from having this kind of really disturbing material, but if you display them and it causes people distress, then that will be illegal, and it will be a crime,” Fentiman told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

“These will be some of the strongest laws in the country. Recently in Melbourne there was an anti-trans rally attended by neo-Nazis giving the salute outside the (Victorian) parliament (in) just horrific scenes.

“You would never think we would see that in this country, so I think it’s really important we send a message so that it won’t be tolerated.”

There will be exceptions for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, for whom swastikas are religious symbols, and “sensible exemptions” for people displaying hate symbols for artistic or historical purposes, such as in theatrical performances or at the Queensland Holocaust Museum, which will open later this year.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk foreshadowed the planned ban last May after a Nazi flag was displayed near the Brisbane Synagogue and a train carriage was vandalised with Nazi symbols.

Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies vice-president Jason Steinberg said at the time there had been a notable rise in anti-semitism.

Some 60 per cent of the Jewish community had reported being vilified, while many feared police would not take the incidents seriously.

A parliamentary committee also recommended prohibiting hate symbols, including those representing Nazi and Islamic State ideologies, after an inquiry into serious vilification and hate crimes.

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