Australians could be jailed for three years for hateful social media posts

The Queensland government says its proposed hate crime laws will be the strictest in Australia   (PA Archive)
The Queensland government says its proposed hate crime laws will be the strictest in Australia (PA Archive)

Australians in the state of Queensland could be jailed for up to three years for sharing social media posts that violate sweeping hate crime laws.

The Criminal Code (Serious Vilification and Hate Crimes) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 proposes tougher penalties for those who commit crimes motivated by prejudice on the grounds of race, religion, sexuality or gender identity.

The proposed laws would increase the maximum prison time for making bigoted statements from six months to three years.

Inflammatory social media posts fall under the purview of the bill, which prohibits the vilification of specified groups through “any form of communication to the public,” including via electronic means.

Sharing a Nazi symbol on social media, or carrying it around publicly, will also result in jail time.

The bill introduced into the Queensland Parliament in March would modify the criminal code to introduce a “prohibited symbols offence”. This would ban the display of hate symbols, including those tied to Nazism and the Islamic State.

As part of the clampdown on hate symbols, Queensland will ban the display of Nazi swastika tattoos. The Queensland government says its hate crime laws will be among the strongest in Australia.

Displaying a swastika is already illegal in Victoria and New South Wales (NSW), with Western Australia set to follow and South Australia also considering the issue. In NSW, it results in a year-long jail term or a $100,000 (£81,000) fine.

Like NSW and Victoria before it, Queensland will exempt Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, for whom swastikas are religious symbols. There will also be an exemption for when hate symbols are used for educational purposes.

The Queensland Law Society (QLS) opposes the increased maximum imprisonment for serious vilification. In its submission to the government, the QLS urged it to closely examine how effective and practical the higher penalty would be.

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) has previously welcomed bans on the Nazi symbol in NSW and Victoria. It also pushed Queensland and other Australian states and territories to move quickly to adopt similar legislation.

“These bans are an important tool to deter open displays of antisemitism and further marginalise racist extremists, and will help strengthen communal cohesion and harmony across Australia,” the AIJAC said in June 2022.