The Queensland government has vowed to make it illegal to display Nazi swastika tattoos as part of its ban on hate symbols that it says will be among the strongest in the country.
Queensland will join New South Wales, which has already implemented a ban on displaying the symbol, in applying the restriction to tattoos. Western Australia and Tasmania are also moving to include tattoos in their proposed bans.
It will join New South Wales, which has already implemented a ban on displaying the symbol, in applying the restriction to tattoos. Western Australia and Tasmania are also moving to include tattoos in their proposed bans.
But Victoria – which was the first state in Australia to ban the public display of the Nazi swastika – has excluded tattoos. An Australian Capital Territory bill has a similar exclusion.
The Queensland government told Guardian Australia that proposed ban will be introduced into parliament within a fortnight.
A spokesperson for the state’s attorney general, Shannon Fentiman, said the laws would “strengthen Queensland’s hate crime laws” and make it illegal to display hate symbols “such as those related to Nazi ideology”.
“The government is committed to protecting our diverse communities,” the spokesperson said. “Unlike the Victorian and ACT approaches, we do not intend to provide a specific exception for tattoos.”
Victoria considered a ban on swastika tattoos but it was considered incompatible with the state’s charter of human rights, given it would restrict a person’s rights to freedom of movement and expression, as well as to take part in public life. It also was considered difficult to enforce.
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The president of the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies, Jason Steinberg, said the proposed legislation was a step in the right direction. “The banning of Nazi hate symbols, including tattoos, is a really welcome initiative,” Steinberg said.
“They’re symbols of hate that represent the murder of six million innocent Jewish people and five million others that were industrially slaughtered by the Nazi regime.
“People who have these symbols … should know that it’s a criminal offence and our society shouldn’t and can’t tolerate it.”
The anti-fascist group the White Rose Society said the state’s legislation was a “welcome improvement” on current laws but called for the introduction of an extremist symbol database that is regularly updated.
“We’ve seen that white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups use graffiti and stickering as a tactic to claim public space and exclude those they deem as undesirable others through creating an intimidating atmosphere,” a White Rose Society spokesperson said.
“We’ve also seen where swastika bans have been implemented in other states that they’ve quickly been subverted through the use of alterations and alternative symbols.”
Guardian Australia revealed in January that three men had been charged with wilful damage in relation to the displaying of neo-Nazi material after police conducted raids on three separate addresses across south-east Queensland.
It came after separate unrelated incidents in which Nazi propaganda was distributed throughout Brisbane suburbs last year and a pig’s head was left outside Arundel mosque.
The White Rose Society said combating white supremacy required a “whole-of-society approach”.
“Our concern is that the Queensland government will pass these laws and then think the job is done,” they said. “We can’t jail our way out of the rise of far-right extremism.”
The attorney general’s spokesperson said the list of symbols banned under the legislation would be prescribed by regulation after consultation, “meaning our laws will extend to all hateful ideologies that seek to invoke fear”.
But there would be an exemption for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains for whom swastikas are religious symbols. There will also be an exemption for when hate symbols were used for educational purposes.
The state government will also introduce reforms to include a circumstance of aggravation for a range of offences, including public nuisance, where the offence is motivated by hatred or prejudice.
“This will mean that a court is able to impose more severe penalties for these offences,” the spokesperson said. “Whether the offences will apply to certain behaviours or situations will depend on the specific circumstances in each case.
“While decisions on whether to charge will remain a matter for police, initiatives will be in place to educate and train police officers about the new laws to improve police responses to hate crimes and vilification.”