'Expression of violent racial hatred': Should swastikas be made illegal in Australia?

The Swastika is outlawed in parts of Europe, should we ban it in Australia? Source: Ghetty Images

Police are investigating the spray painting of swastika symbols around Bondi beach over the weekend. The symbol is outlawed in some European countries - should it be illegal here too?

Around 20 swastika symbols were spraypainted across Bondi over the weekend and while those responsible could face criminal charges - the swastika itself is not illegal in Australia.

The anti-Semitic symbol was spray painted on a prominent mural at Bondi Beach and at the Bondi Junction shopping centre - an area with one of the largest Jewish communities in Australia.

However, if the offender is caught by police it's likely they would face charges related to malicious damage to property or graffiti – but not an offence related to racial vilification.

NSW criminal defence barrister Stephen Lawrence said that's because the use of the symbol may not be enough to prove in court that the intent is to instigate violence.

The CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Vic Alhadeff said he personally believes the swastika should be banned.

"The reality is that the swastika represents racial hatred," he told The Feed.

WHERE IS THE SWASTIKA OUTLAWED?

The symbol is outlawed across several countries in Europe - including Germany, Austria and France.

The director of the Waterloo Centre for German Studies in Canada James Skidmore said the Swastika - and other Nazi related imagery - was outlawed after World War Two.

"The simple reason was to clamp down on any attempt to resurrect Nazism in the region," he said.

He explained there are still cases of Nazi graffiti in Germany, but using the symbol itself in public is a prosecutable offence.

But Mr Skidmore believes a ban in Australia is complicated because a variant of the symbol is still used in Hinduism - and other cultures - to mean good luck and wellbeing.

"So an outright ban may not work in a multicultural society," he said.

The co-chief executive officer of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry Alex Ryvchin also said he isn't convinced outlawing the symbol would be an effective deterrent.

"It is questionable whether those who would be minded to deface a public place with the symbol of Nazi genocide would feel deterred by laws prohibiting such conduct," he said.

He says the best tools for countering this behaviour is mandatory education on the horrors of Nazism and condemnation of racism in all forms.

"This ensures that the severity of such acts is understood and that such behaviour never becomes tolerated in our society."