Sham, furphy or threat? Dutton’s enquiry into the far-right
Written by: (Contributed) on 3 January 2021
Those following the preliminary stages of the forthcoming federal parliamentary inquiry into far-right wing political organisations in Australia might have been led to believe the present Morrison Coalition government in Canberra is set on dealing with the problem.
Nothing, it would appear, could be further from the truth. In fact, the present Australian government appears to have already established the means by which they intend to divert attention away from the real problem.
Information already in the public domain has shown how Morrison and his supporters intend to concentrate their attention on small, fragmented far-right groups, without putting their powerful and influential backers in the spotlight, for obvious reasons.
Oh the irony! Dutton establishes enquiry into far-right
The enquiry was announced by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, acknowledged by all to be the leader of the extreme right-wing of the Coalition.
Following terrorist outrages conducted by Australian Brenton Tarrant in Christchurch, NZ, in 2019, the long-time problem of far-right violence suddenly became topical in Australia. ASIO even disclosed, on two occasions last year that far-right and neo-Nazi groups accounted for up to 40% of its counter-terrorism activities, an unusual claim by an organisation established in 1949 by Labor to spy on communists and labour activists.
Australia has maintained relative political stability for decades. Political studies of the far-right have, therefore, not been particularly common, even though occasional violent politically-motivated attacks have taken place. Information emerging into the public domain about Tarrant and his background, despite being heavily censored, revealed the Australian government was totally oblivious to is existence and to the dangers he posed.
Moves, subsequently, to convene a federal parliamentary inquiry in 2021, have to be seen as a possible way in which government officials will attempt to absolve themselves of responsibility and legal liability. The present Australian Coalition government has 27 organisations listed as terrorist, without a single reference to far-right political groups which often have strong links with gun-clubs and para-military type training, or those regarded as “respectable” and “mainstream”. (1)
Australia, furthermore, has stood alone inside the elite intelligence-sharing Five Eyes organisation for not taking the appropriate action against the far-right; the four other members all have suitable legislation which has been implemented to proscribe such organisations. (2) No official explanation has been provided, to date, about failure by the Australian government to even identify the problem; the silence, for sensible people, has, therefore, proved deafening.
Carefully worded media releases for mainstream outlets have also been designed to draw attention to problems arising with accurate legal definitions for government departments to use against perpetrators of violent political acts; they do not, however, even bother to use references in the manifestos of such groups which are readily available on-line and easy to access. (3)
Those planning the inquiry have, interestingly, already expressed the intention of using representatives of the far-right organisations to participate in general proceedings. One can but ponder on the nature of their submissions and the moronic platitudes their members and supporters will provide. Australian society should perhaps brace itself for endless diatribes and conspiracy theories from those who identify with the delusional and politically- perverted world of Donald Trump-types.
Those members and supporters of far-right political groups, however, are mere foot-soldiers and useful idiots for others better socially, politically and economically well-placed; their paymasters remain hidden in the shadowy nether world of relative anonymity.
The state a source of right-wing attacks on democracy
Concentrating on the dangers of violent actions by these foot-soldiers helps to conceal or to divert attention from the state’s own attacks on civil and democratic rights. The various proposals floated by Dutton pose risks on a par with threats from neo-Nazi organisations. They include:
• a fine of up to $50,000 and up to five years’ imprisonment for declining to provide investigators with a password to their smartphone, computer or other electronic devices;
• up to five years in prison for anyone (an IT professional, for example) who refuses to help the authorities crack a computer system when ordered to do so. If the crime being investigated is terrorism-related then the penalty for non-compliance increases to 10 years in prison and/or a $126,000 fine.
• up to $10 million in fines for Tech companies who refuse to assist authorities to crack encryption when asked to do so. If any employee of the company tells anyone else they have been told to do this, they will face up to five years in gaol. (4)
We have also seen how secretive National Security Instructions introduced by the Coalition in 2004, under which evidence used in a prosecution can be withheld not just from the public but also from the accused, the defence team and witnesses for the defence, have been used against whistleblowers exposing government spying on East Timor (Collaery/ Witness K.) and Australian war crimes in Afghanistan (David McBride). All of this power is put into the hands of a member of Cabinet, the Attorney General, to conceal whatever he or she wishes. (5)
Then there is the Coalition’s Journalist Information Warrants. These are issued entirely in secret. Journalists are not informed if a warrant is taken out against them and face jail if they publicise the fact. The laws have become so strict that journalists cannot write about security operations, or even surveillance of their reporting, without the risk of prison. The Australian Federal Police and ASIO have raided the homes of Australian journalists whose threats of imprisonment were only dropped after mass campaigns against such draconian measures. (6)
And in November 2019, Morrison said his government is looking at measures that would make it illegal to advocate so-called secondary boycotts of companies that do business with miners targeted by climate activists. (7) He has not yet withdrawn the threat.
And it is not just the Coalition. In Parliament's final few sitting hours of 2020, the Labor Party voted in lockstep with the Coalition to guarantee Peter Dutton and ASIO more power and less accountability. Provisions contained in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Amendment Bill give ASIO the power to compulsorily interrogate children as young as 14, to remove such interrogation safeguards as the lawyer of one’s choice, and allow ASIO officers to use “slap-on devices” – portable trackers that are easily attached to cars via magnets – without an independent warrant, but just on the authorisation of senior ASIO officers or the Attorney-General.
These are some of the threats to our civil rights and liberties. To these we should add the anti-union laws that are some of the most restrictive in the world.
Threats to holders of “radical” views
One far-right political organisation which has served politicians of a like-mind well is the World League for Freedom and Democracy (WLFD), formerly the World Anti-Communist League (WACL). Reliable research and studies of the organisation concluded:
if one wants to find Nazi collaborators, it is only necessary to examine the European Chapters of the WACL. With the creation of the WACL, there came into existence a worldwide network of fascism. Today, League conventions afford the opportunity for the old-guard war criminals to meet with, advise, and support the new-guard fascists. (8)
Former PM John Howard is known to have been involved with WACL/WLFD. Various WACL/ WLFD annual conferences together with their affiliate Asian Pacific League for Freedom and Democracy, were hosted in Australia by members and supporters. (9)
Needless to say, information about the Australian section of the WACL /WLFD is hidden inside locked internet-websites, with access only allowed for fully-paid members.
Under such circumstances a recent statement from Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, that the forthcoming parliamentary inquiry would be 'silly, stupid and petty' for 'focusing on right-wing extremism', leaves little to the imagination about the nature of the official submission the Morrison Coalition government will be making in due course to the inquiry. (10)
Nor will the enquiry restrict itself to the right. Dutton’s terms of reference state that it will investigate the “threat posed by, extremist movements and persons holding extremist views in Australia… including, but not limited to, lslamist and far right-wing extremist groups…” Among those to be included are “radical and extremist groups… fostering disharmony in Australia”.
Dutton’s very loose definition of radicalism and extremist groups is a reminder of the September 2015 Radicalisation Awareness Kit launched by the Coalition as an aid for teachers to identify radical views held by school students. One of the examples given was that of “Karen” from a “loving family” who becomes an anti-logging environmental activist. Her arrest during a protest followed involvement in the “alternative music scene, student politics and leftwing activism”. (11)
It remains, as yet, to be established whether the forthcoming federal parliamentary inquiry into the far-right in Australia will actually examine relevant background information on those holding extreme right-wing views, or merely pursue a politically expedient furphy designed to obscure the real and relevant facts.
A suitable beginning for the forthcoming inquiry to deal with might be to gain access to the locked information details about the Australian sections of the WACL /WLFD and to note which members of the inquiry and their associates object to the information being placed in the public domain.
A careful watch must be maintained on any extension of the enquiry to those who are legitimately defending people’s right to protest or holding socially critical anti-capitalist, anti-fascist and anti-imperialist views.
1. Crackdown on far-right groups opens a Pandora's box, Australian, 28 December 2020; and, Ted Serong, Anne Blair, (Melbourne, 2002), page 176, page 190.
2. Australian, ibid.
3. Ibid.; and, Justiciar Knights, The Global Intelligence Files, Wikileaks, March 2013.
7. Australia's threat to outlaw mining protests highlights industry split: Russell | Reuters
8. Inside the League, Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson, (New York, 1986), page 45.
9. See: WLFD – Wikipedia, 12 December 2020
10. Dutton eyes refresh of anti-terrorism laws, Yahoo News, 10 December 2020.
Print Version - new window Email article