I rise to support the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures) Bill 2023, particularly in the current circumstances, and the provision to prohibit the display of some of the most confronting symbols of antisemitism—the Nazi swastika and what is known as the SS bolts.
None of us will forget Adolf Hitler’s deliberate, coldly calculated and organised mass murder of six million European Jews, as well as five million prisoners of war and other victims, or the full horror of the atrocities committed against the Jewish people, in what was clearly a state sponsored persecution—a very deliberate race based ideology—of a magnitude that horrified and appalled all decent people. When we saw the full evidence of the Holocaust, particularly from the concentration camps like Dachau, we saw evil, terror and inhumanity at their very worst. Like everyone who’s visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, I was profoundly affected and absolutely sickened by what the Jewish people endured.
One million Australians served in World War II, and 39,600 Australians in our defence forces paid the ultimate sacrifice. They did not come home. My mother was a World War II widow. Jack, her beloved husband and father of my two sisters, did not come home. That’s the price that we pay for supporting them, as we did in World War II. I remember my mother’s journal, in which she said that she would have walked off the end of the Bunbury jetty if it hadn’t been for her two little girls, who depended on her to bring them up. She also said that Jack would have wanted her to bring up their daughters the best way she could in those postwar circumstances.
So not only did my sisters not remember or get to know their dad but my mother had to live with the profound loss and grief without even the finality and closure of a funeral, like many of those who lost their loved ones. It took many years, until she was over 70, for her to finally meet the 2/28th soldier who shared Jack’s last hours. So my family, like so many others, has been directly impacted by the march of Nazi ideology that led to World War II. As we know, the Nazi movement started many, many years before that and directly involved the Nazi youth movement. By 1933 there were over 50,000 members of the Hitler Youth movement, and by the end of that same year there were more than two million. That was done with the goal of creating obedient and fanatical soldiers. This was one of the most chilling effects of the Nazis—indoctrinating children into an extremist ideology.
I’m very concerned about the serious and growing increase in antisemitism in Australia. There’s been a 482 per cent increase in the past seven weeks alone. It is the worst since World War II, and it is something I thought we would never see in Australia. Like so many others, I was profoundly hurt that Jewish families were unable to gather at the Opera House following the horrific attacks, killings and capture of hostages in Israel on 7 October. There were absolutely disgusting chants of ‘gas the Jews’ that invoked the Holocaust in support of Hamas. Hamas is a listed terrorist entity in Australia. The antisemitism that followed and the extreme vulnerability, fear and targeting of Jewish families are something that I’m absolutely ashamed of in this country. Hate has no place here.
We’ve also seen two students targeted by antisemitic activities on university campuses. I see this as profoundly disturbing. It’s an absolute disgrace. Shame on these universities that should be the bastions of protecting Australia’s beliefs and rights. As we know and value in this country, freedom of speech is a critical part of our democracy, as is peaceful protest, where a diversity of views can be shared in that way. However, there are laws in this country against threatening and inciting violence. In this bill we see further measures to support this approach, especially with regard to those that advocate terrorism.
As I said before, I’m really seriously concerned about students being used as political pawns and activists, and we’ve seen a real rise in that recently. It’s a form of indoctrination that concerns me. We’ve seen a lot of very pro-Palestinian school protests and we’ve seen our students exposed to antisemitic behaviour, hateful signs and chants of ‘from the river to the sea’, which actually calls for the destruction of Israel. That’s what it does and that’s what it says. I do not want to see any condoning of this type of antisemitic behaviour. There are measures within this bill to cover radicalisation, and I am very pleased to see this.
I want to warn parents to be aware of what’s going on online. Members of the House know that I’ve spent a lot of time doing online safety presentations in schools. At the height of what was happening in Syria, ISIS actually approached a young student and tried to draft him. They groom these young people online in various ways. They’re very clever at it. They had actually profiled him, amongst others, in Australia—he wasn’t the only one that they were profiling in Australia—with the direct intention of radicalising him and then encouraging him to join them in Syria. This is something that I just want to warn all parents about while I’m speaking today. With what we’ve seen in our universities and schools and at some of the rallies we’ve seen, can I encourage parents to talk to their children and to be aware of what they’re actually accessing and being exposed to, whether that’s online or in person.
It is really important in this country that we foster the wonderful society that we enjoyed ourselves as we grew up. This is the Australia that we want our children and our grandchildren to be able to enjoy. Every time I go to a citizenship ceremony and I hear the words that are spoken—the freedoms and rights that people come to this country for and are so proud to say—these are the freedoms and rights that we in this place should be very actively protecting. We should be making sure that those freedoms and rights are what we are prepared as part of our democracy to fight for.
My mother’s husband and all the others who died in conflicts while serving in our Australian Defence Force did so to protect those rights and our democracy. These are things that have to be fought for and protected, and they did so, with their lives. They did it with their lives. I do not want to see that sacrifice in any way compromised by what is happening not just now but at any time in the future in Australia. Every one of those lives was precious, as was that of my mother’s husband. But I suspect that, if he was alive today, he and those 36,000—nearly 37,000 —who lost their lives in World War II would be absolutely disgusted and appalled at what’s going on in Australia at this moment and at what we are seeing. They knew what gave rise to World War II.
I want to encourage all of us to do everything we can to protect the rights and freedoms that we have fought for and protected over so many years and that our Australian Defence Force members fought for and died for. For those of us in this place who value freedom of speech, freedom of religion and our democratic rights, we should be doing everything we can to preserve and protect them so that future generations get to live the way that we did and the way that we want to in the future.
Given what’s happening online, I want to say to parents: please do not take this lightly; please be aware that they’re very, very good at this online grooming, as it’s called. This young man who was groomed came from a single-parent family. He was looking, perhaps, for an experience that he wasn’t having. He was looking for all sorts of excitement. He was promised all sorts of experiences that he had never had, and that caused incredible problems between him and his mother and his family. I had to seek help from our federal antiterrorism organisations and bodies to help with that. Once wasn’t enough. They targeted him once, but because they had profiled him they kept at it until all of his sites and all of his contacts were shut down. You can imagine what that did to that young man.
I want to encourage parents to be vigilant, to look after your children and to love them. Encourage them to value the quality of life that they enjoy in Australia and the rights and democracy that we enjoy here.