Australia is home to branches of right-wing extremist groups listed as terrorist organisations by our global intelligence allies but not here, leaving us “quite far behind” a growing threat, Federal Labor says.
There are currently 27 organisations listed as terrorist organisations in Australia including al-Qaeda, Islamic State and Jemaah Islamiah.
According to the Department of Home Affairs, there are two ways an organisation may join them – being found to be a terrorist organisation by a court, as part of the prosecution of a terrorist organisation offence, or being listed under the Criminal Code Regulations.
“Before an organisation is listed, the Minister for Home Affairs must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the organisation is directly or indirectly engaged in preparing, planning, assisting or fostering the doing of a terrorist act, or advocates the doing of a terrorist act,” the department states.
But Labor Senator Kristina Keneally argues the country is yet to have a “proper conversation” about the extent to which Christchurch mosque gunman and white supremacist Brenton Tarrant was radicalised by right-wing extremist groups in Australia.
Her comments come a fortnight after Tarrant, originally from Grafton, NSW, was sentenced to life without parole for killing 51 people and injuring 40 others in 2019.
She noted our Five Eyes intelligence allies – New Zealand, Canada, the US and the UK – have all listed right-wing groups as designated terrorist entities or proscribed terrorist organisations.
“Designating the offender is an important demonstration of New Zealand’s condemnation of terrorism and violent extremism in all forms,” Ms Ardern said.
She said it was a “very signification decision in New Zealand history and law”.
Ms Keneally, the opposition spokeswoman for Home Affairs, told Sky News on Thursday: “We’re the only Five Eyes country that has not listed a right-wing extremist organisation as a terrorist group.
“Some of those groups have branch groups in Australia,” she said.
“We haven’t even taken that step yet, to list any organisation as an extremist group.”
She reiterated such right-wing group “linkages” in a speech to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute regarding counter-terrorism on Thursday night.
“I accept that some argue that Australian right-wing extremist ‘groups’ – to use that term loosely – are too fractured to meet the proscription threshold, or savvy enough to stay just below the proscription threshold,” she said.
“But there are international groups that have been proscribed by our Five Eyes counterparts that have linkages to Australia and could be proscribed here.
“Such proscription would be symbolic, but it would be more than just symbolic.
“Some experts suggest that, in our increasingly networked world, any practical distinction between domestic and international terrorism has almost gone completely.
“Movements do not exist in isolation, but rather link and take inspiration from each other and from individuals within movements.”
RIGHT-WING EXTREMISM A ‘GROWING THREAT’
In February this year, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) director-general of security Mike Burgess said right-wing extremism had been in their sights for some time.
“But obviously this threat came into sharp, terrible focus last year in New Zealand,” he said in his first annual threat assessment, inside the spy agency’s headquarters.
Mr Burgess described the extreme right-wing threat in Australia as “enduring” and “real”.
“It is growing,” he said.
“In suburbs around Australia, small cells regularly meet to salute Nazi flags, inspect weapons, train in combat and share their hateful ideology.
“These groups are more organised and security-conscious than they were in previous years.
“We continue to see some Australian extremists seeking to connect with like-minded individuals in other parts of the world, sometimes in person. They are not merely seeking to share ideology and tactics.”
Mr Burgess highlighted extreme right-wing online forums such as US-based neo-Nazi network The Base which “attract international memberships, including from Australians”.
“These online forums share and promote extremist right-wing ideologies, and encourage and justify acts of extreme violence,” Mr Burgess said.
“We expect such groups will remain an enduring threat, making more use of online propaganda to spread their messages of hate.
“While we would expect any right-wing extremist inspired attack in Australia to be low capability, i.e. a knife, gun or vehicle attack, more sophisticated attacks are possible.”