Parliamentary inquiry to examine extremism in Australia amid increasing far-right threat

The parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security is set to examine extremist movements in Australia, including the rising threat posed by right-wing extremism.

Far-right extremists are increasingly forming global links, according to a new study.

Far-right extremists are increasingly forming global links, according to a new study. Source: AAP

An inquiry into extremism in Australia will go ahead following a push by Labor for the government to look at the rising threat specifically posed by right-wing extremists. 

However, the inquiry will look at all forms of extremism in Australia, not just the increased threat posed by the far-right. 

The parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security has signed off on an inquiry to examine the concerns following a referral from Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton. 

This comes after vocal demands from Labor’s Home Affairs spokesperson Kristina Keneally for parliament to examine Australia’s preparedness against the increasing threat presented by right-wing extremism.

Senator Keneally said she welcomed the government’s move to back the inquiry. 

“The emerging threat of right-wing extremism demands that we take seriously the advice of our national security agencies,” she told reporters in Canberra. 

“And that we as a parliament to take serious hours was ability to keep Australian safe.”

Committee chair and Liberal MP Andrew Hastie said the committee would examine the nature, extent and threat posed by extremist movements and persons holding extremist views in Australia. 

This includes examining the motivations, objectives and capacity for violence of extremist groups including - but not limited to - Islamist and right-wing extremist groups. 

It will also look at how these have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic amid warnings far-right groups have attempted to exploit the crisis to recruit new members and push its ideology.  

The committee will also review the geographic spread of extremists in Australia and their links with international organisations. 

Another focus will be examining possible changes that could be made to the Commonwealth’s terrorist listing laws to address current and emerging terrorist threats. 

Labor MP Anne Aly said it was important the differences between right-wing extremism and other forms were recognised. 

“We know right-wing extremist groups [are] a real threat to Australia,” Dr Aly told reporters. 

“We know that there are young people who are being radicalised here.”

Amid these concerns, the inquiry will review the role of social media, encrypted communications platforms and the dark web in allowing extremists to communicate online.

It will also examine the readiness of Australia's counter-terrorism strategy to prevent radicalisation to extremist views and what steps could be taken to disrupt and deter hate speech.  

The rising right-wing extremist threat

Australia remains the only country within the five eyes intelligence network to so far avoid listing any right-wing extremist groups as banned terrorist organisations. 

However, the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation recently said up to 40 per cent of its counterterrorism caseload had become linked to right-wing extremism.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw has also identified a “steady increase” in operations directed towards right-wing extremism. 

An 18-year-old NSW man espousing neo-Nazi and other right-wing extremist was also arrested on Wednesday after allegedly encouraging a mass casualty terrorist attack.

He had been communicating on social media platforms, most of which were mainstream, about various extremist issues and had accessed material on bomb-making.

Additional reporting AAP

Published 9 December 2020 at 4:27pm
By Tom Stayner