Nazi Symbols and Gestures (Tas)

In 2023, the Tasmanian government passed legislation outlawing the public display of Nazi symbols and gestures in the state. The new offences were introduced following a spate of hate crimes and an increase in the visibility of neo-Nazi groups at public events in Australia. This page outlines the new offences and the responses they have been met with.

Display of Nazi symbols

Under section 6C of the Police Offences Act 1935, it is an offence to public display a Nazi symbol without a legitimate purpose if the offender knows, or ought to know, that the symbol is a Nazi symbol.

The maximum penalty that applies for this offence is:

  • for a first offence, a fine of 20 penalty units or imprisonment for three months
  • for a second or subsequent offence within a six-month period, a fine of 40 penalty units or imprisonment for six months

 A person has a legitimate purpose if they display the symbol:

  • reasonably and in good faith for an academic, artistic, religious, scientific, cultural, educational, legal or law enforcement purpose
  • reasonably and in good faith for the purpose of opposing Nazi ideology or a related ideology
  • is in an object or document produced for a genuine academic, artistic, religious, scientific, cultural, educational, legal or law enforcement purpose
  • is included in a fair and accurate report made in the public interest
  • is displayed for another purpose in the public interest.

A person has a defence to a charge under this provision if the symbol is tattooed onto or permanently affixed to their body.

What is a Nazi symbol?

A Nazi symbol includes:

  • a symbol associated with the Nazis or Nazi ideology
  • a symbol that so closely resembles a Nazi symbol that it could easily be mistaken for one
  • a depiction or recording of a Nazi gesture
  • a depiction or recording gesture that so closely resembles a Nazi gesture that it could easily be mistaken for one

Performance of Nazi gestures

Under section 6D of the Police Offences Act 1935, it is an offence to perform a Nazi gesture in a public place or in a place visible from a public place if the offender knows, or ought to know, that the gesture is a Nazi gesture.

The maximum penalty for this offence is:

  • for a first offence, a fine of 20 penalty units or imprisonment for three months
  • for a second or subsequent offence within a six-month period, a fine of 40 penalty units or imprisonment for six months.

However, an accused person has a defence if the gesture was performed reasonably and in good faith, for a genuine academic, artistic, religious, scientific, cultural, educational, legal or law enforcement purpose.

What is a Nazi gesture?

A Nazi gesture includes:

  • a Nazi salute
  • a gesture that so closely resembles a Nazi salute that it could easily be mistaken for one
  • a prescribed gesture.

Police powers

A police officer may direct a person to remove a Nazi symbol from display. A person who is given such a direct must comply. Failure to do so is an offence punishable by a fine of up to 10 penalty units.

If a person fails to comply with a direction to remove a Nazi symbol, the police may use reasonable force to:

  • detain and search the person
  • detain and search a vehicle
  • search premises where the direction was given or where the person was located
  • seize an object that appears to contain a Nazi symbol

Other jurisdictions

Several other Australian jurisdictions have passed similar laws prohibiting the display of hate symbols. Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland all have legislation banning the display of certain symbols, though the specifics of what is criminalised vary from state to state.

The federal government has also introduced legislation to make it a commonwealth offence to display Nazi symbols or the Islamic State flag.  

Responses to the laws

Some community groups have welcomed the laws, saying they will offer better protections from vilification for minority groups.

Other voices have expressed doubt that the new laws will be effective in suppressing extremism, or that criminalization is the right approach. The banning of specific symbols has also been questioned, given there is a wide range of other symbols that are also in use by violent extremists.  

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

Author

Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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