ASIO’s seen a growth in investigations related to far-right extremism, with groups and individuals in this category making up between 30 and 40 per cent of its ‘priority counter-terrorism’ workload, according to the security agency’s latest annual report, released in October 2020.
That’s up from 10 to 15 per cent in 2016, with ASIO saying that extremists including neo-Nazis represent a “serious, increasing and evolving threat to security” and that the 2019 Christchurch attack is continuing to be drawn on as “inspiration” for right-wing extremists across the world. ASIO director general Mike Burgess has also stated that COVID-19 is further cultivating the threat.
A reminder also that the Christchurch shooter who murdered 51 people in that 2019 terrorist attack was born and raised in Australia.
But according to Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, the threat is being “over-emphasised” by the Opposition, especially by Senator Kristina Keneally. He said he rejects Keneally’s “thesis” that there’s a rise in far-right extremism occurring in Australia.
And on Thursday, the Coalition – supported by One Nation and Centre Alliance – successfully edited a Senate motion that aimed to call out “far right” extremism”, to instead see “far right” mentions removed and “far left” mentions included.
The motion, in its original form proposed by Senator Keneally, aimed to have Parliament recognise that there’s been a “significant increase in far-right extremism”, and also sought to have Coalition MPs George Christensen and Craig Kelly called out for “promoting a range of conspiracy theories and misinformation campaigns.”
The motion was watered down, considerably, by the Coalition. Its final version saw mentions of Christensen and Kelly removed along with various other edits.
The original motion’s line that “there has been a significant increase in far-right extremism in Australia” was deleted, replaced with the line: “Australia is one of the most successful multicultural countries in the world”.
Another line that “far-right extremism tears apart the social fabric of Australia’s multicultural community” was replaced with, “extremism in all its forms tears apart the social fabric of Australia, in particular across our multicultural communities.”
Senator Kristina Keneally had originally proposed the motion and is outraged by the edits, that consequently passed through the house 34 to 27.
“Today in the Senate, we saw the government literally white-out a motion about right wing extremism,” she said.
“They took out references to white supremacy and white right wing extremism. They sought to do a whatboutism an equivalence with groups like Antifa.
Earlier, Hawke had actually suggested that Australia is currently witnessing increasing “social cohesion, not increasing extremism.”
“What we have here is increased social cohesion, not increasing extremism,” he said in response to the Scanlon Foundation’s 2020 Social Cohesion Report which found strong support for multiculturalism in Australia, but also revealed a large portion of Australians have “negative” feelings towards people from some backgrounds.
Yesterday’s Senate motion came just as Canada became the first country in the world to list Proud Boys as a terrorist organisation, coming in response to the January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill in the United States which Canada says the group played a “pivotal role” in promoting.
The move means that the group’s assets can be frozen by banks, and that it’s now a crime for Canadians to knowingly deal with any assets related to Proud Boys. Those belonging to the group can also be barred from entering the country.