The Australian state of Victoria is set to become the first in the country to outlaw the displaying of the swastika and other Nazi symbols, after a meeting of neo-Nazis earlier this year was deemed lawful by police.

Anti-Nazi symbol laws are expected to be introduced to Victoria’s state parliament in early 2022, where they will receive bipartisan support. Under the laws, it will become an offence to publicly display Nazi symbols in Victoria – and the state is also expected to extend its hate speech laws to protect sexual orientation and gender identity.

Those with a legitimate historical or educational reason to display Nazi symbols will be exempt from prosecution.

Australia’s federal police have been pushing for a ban. In April, Mike Burgess, the director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), called for the “criminalization of the public display of flags and other extremist insignia.” He told a parliamentary intelligence committee that a terrorist attack in Australia is likely within the next 12 months and that it could be nationalist in nature.

In 2020, a homeowner in Victoria was reported to police for displaying a Nazi flag in his garden, but officials ruled that it was not a crime.

In January, a group of far-right extremists were photographed performing Nazi salutes at Victoria’s Grampians National Park, where they also reportedly shouted slogans including “White Power!” – and some had Nazi symbols tattooed to their bodies. Despite complaints, police said no visible crime had been committed by the group.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews claimed at the time that “antisemitism is on the rise,” both in Australia and around the world.

Victoria Attorney General Jaclyn Symes argued on Thursday that a swastika ban would “send a strong signal” to extremists, and stressed that such symbols have “no place in our state.”

“The fact that you’re having to ban something that shouldn’t be happening in 2021 is quite sad, but it’s necessary,” she added.

In March, after a parliament report recommended banning Nazi symbols in the state, Israeli-Australian Dvir Abramovich – the chairman of Australia’s Anti-Defamation Commission – called it “a thunderous day for the history books” and “a triumph for the victims of the Holocaust.”

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