Thursday, 18 June 2020
I draw to the attention of this House that, in the last 24 hours, the Ukrainian secret service has undertaken raids on a neo-Nazi group, or a cell, that operates in that country, discovering guns, explosives, ammunition and a range of material that included a translation of the Christchurch shooter, Brenton Tarrant's, 74-page manifesto. It was a very extensive operation. A statement by the secret service said that 'the group was headed by a Russian and shared extremist literature online, at secret meetings and theme parties as well as with up to 3,000 people via secret groups on the messaging platform Telegram and social media networks. The statement—which appeared online through the Sydney Morning Heraldin the last half-hour—continued:
During the searches of the leader's residence and clandestine print works, the law enforcement seized more than 300 copies of Nazi editions, the Third Reich flags, arms and ammo, explosive devices, computers administering the closed communities and receipts with confirmations of literature deliveries from abroad.
So it is a fairly serious operation. What these groups have demonstrated continually is the fact that they are very organised, they are widespread, they are working closely together, and they're using the internet to spread hate speech but, importantly, inspire action.
The Global Terrorism Index of 2019 discovered a 320 per cent increase in right-wing extremism over five years. In Australia, we've seen people approach mosques with machetes. We've seen racist tropes linked to genocide being graffitied on the walls of places of worship. We've seen instances of anti-Semitism played out in the community. We've seen swastika flags being flown out of residential homes. In February this year, after much urging, ASIO finally recognised this growth. ASIO, through the course of the coronavirus, indicated that there has been a massive leap in online activity. In fact, the number of domestic ASIO investigations into far-right individuals is second only to Sunni extremists.
When this was raised earlier this year, we had some really bizarre responses. The Minister for Home Affairs, in responding to ASIO's revised threat assessment back in February, started to equate left-wing terrorism with Islamist groups and argued that he was after left-wing and right-wing groups. We know what needs to be done to tackle Islamist terrorism. We need more of an effort by the government on right-wing extremism. We saw the reaction from some members of the Right in the coalition in the Senate, like Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who confronted ASIO's director-general, saying:
'Right' is associated with conservatism in this country, and there are many people of conservative background who take exception to being tarred with the same brush.
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So I think the time has come, Director-General, especially from you, to ensure that you are very careful with the terminology that you use, so that ordinary Australians, particularly those of conservative background, are not offended.
Senator Stoker, the chair of the committee, then thought she had struck a great vein in arguing that far-right extremism groups hadn't been prescribed because they weren't operating on foreign soil. That is despite the fact that it doesn't matter whether or not you operate on Australian soil; you can be prescribed if you're urging acts of violence, as these groups are.
I want to know not only why the government isn't taking this seriously but why the chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is not taking this seriously either. He has not called for anything to be done on this issue. There is no study being done by his committee. There is no action being taken. In 2015, he was quite vocal in calling on Muslims to call out what he called 'Islamic terrorism' and saying that we should use 'clear, concise and strong language' to condemn it. I am arguing the same thing. I don't care if it is an Islamist or a right-wing extremist: if they are threatening the lives of Australians, it should take it seriously. The PJCIS should be investigating this. It should be given the remit to look at what right-wing extremist activity is happening in this country and what actions should be taken to tackle it.