SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia said on Thursday it would introduce laws to the parliament next week banning public displays and sales of Nazi hate symbols, citing a rise in far-right activities at home.
The swastika, one of the most recognisable symbols of Nazi propaganda, and the insignia of Schutzstaffel (SS), the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party, will be outlawed to be used as flags and armbands or printed on clothes.
"We've seen, very sadly, a rise in people displaying these vile symbols, which are symbols that have no place in Australia, they should be repugnant," Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus told Channel Seven television.
"Regrettably, we have seen violence associated with some of the public events that these people have put on."
A ban on the Nazi salute will not be added to the federal law, the attorney-general said. He said state and territory governments can enforce that ban in a more effective way.
"State governments have got more responsibility for what you might call street offences, and our law goes to public display and includes online ... the salute we've left for the states."
Australia's spy agency has been warning far-right groups were on the rise in Australia and that they had become more organised and visible.
In March, a group of neo-Nazis clashed with transgender rights protesters in Melbourne and was seen raising their arms in a Nazi salute near the state parliament building. Last year, a soccer fan who gave the salute at the Australia Cup final was banned for life from any games sanctioned by Football Australia.
Dreyfus said all Australian states and territories had either passed laws or announced plans to ban Nazi symbols, and the proposed federal laws will mesh with the states'.
Offenders can get up to 12 months in prison, he said.
There will be exemptions for artistic, academic or religious use of swastikas, which has a spiritual significance in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.
(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Michael Perry)