Senate debates

Thursday, 8 September 2022


Intelligence and Security Joint Committee; Report

3:56 pm

David Shoebridge (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek to speak to the government response to the Intelligence and Security Joint Committee's Interim report: inquiry into extremist movements and radicalism in Australia.

The government has responded to the recommendation that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security consider an inquiry into extremist movements and radicalisation in Australia. The growth, in particular, of right-wing radical extremism in Australia has been a matter of very real concern, I know, to my party and to many people in the community that we speak to. It is particularly troubling, though, that this inquiry will be done under the cloak of the secrecy of this committee, without the broad representation that is necessary to deal with the threats of extremism. This will, of course, go to the club that is the Parliament Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security—the club that's been established between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party; the club that has fed the beast that is the growing surveillance state, the growing security laws, the increased resourcing and empowering of security and intelligence agencies in this country.

But, of course, that growing body of laws, agencies, budgets and staff that is there, apparently and purportedly to keep us safe, has been conspicuously failing to deal with the growth of right-wing extremism. We have seen repeated calls from across the community for some of the most offensive right-wing extremist organisations to be dealt with as terrorist organisations, as they have been in other, comparable countries. But there is the inexplicable refusal of the previous government or this government to step up and do the same.

What do we know from this very brief interim report into extremist movements and radical movements in Australia? Well, we know—and this is from the Director-General of Security—that, in the two most recent annual threat assessments and, in fact, as recently as March of last year, the Director-General stated:

In addition to the enduring threat from religiously motivated violent extremists is a growing assortment of individuals with ideological grievances.

So-called right-wing extremism—

And I stop there to ask: why is it 'so-called'? It just is right-wing extremism. It's not so-called right-wing extremism; it is right-wing extremism. But I continue:

So-called right-wing extremism has been in ASIO's sights for many years, and last year I called out what we have been seeing.

Again, I'm just going to stop there. It may have been in ASIO's sights, but there's no evidence that, having viewed it, ASIO has taken the steps appropriate to deal with it, or, if they have, they haven't persuaded the government to make adequate responses, having observed it. I go back to the comments of the director-general, who said:

Since then, ideological extremism investigations have grown from around one-third of our priority counter-terrorism caseload, to around 40 per cent. This reflects a growing international trend, as well as our decision to dedicate more resources to the emerging domestic threat.

Then, in February 2022, the director-general stated:

The most likely terrorist attack scenario in Australia over the next 12 months continues to be a lone-actor attack—and that fact weighs heavily on my mind and the minds of our staff …

He then says:

Most of the radicalisation occurs online …

So it is inexplicable, in those circumstances—given the threats of right-wing extremism and given the appalling attacks we've seen on democracy and on civil society by right-wing extremist elements—that, whilst Canada and New Zealand have moved and listed the right-wing extremist organisation Proud Boys as a terrorist threat, there's been zero action from the Australian government. Indeed, when this government was in opposition, as I'm sure you will remember, Acting Deputy President, we heard a lot of noise from the then Labor opposition shadow, saying: 'Why isn't the government listing these extremist right-wing organisations? Why haven't they taken action?' Where's the action from this government? New Zealand and Canada have listed Proud Boys. We're still waiting. Right-wing extremism is growing, our security agencies are not addressing it and this government, to date, has been silent.

Question agreed to.