By: Rachel Olding
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Right-wing extremism is emerging as an equal, if not greater, threat than Muslim radicalisation in Australia and multiculturalism is “close to death” at a federal level, academics have told a conference on social cohesion.
Violent extremism in Australia is beginning to mirror that of the US, counter-terrorism expert Anne Aly from Curtin University said.
She highlighted a New America Foundation study released last month that found right-wing extremists had killed twice as many people since September 11 as jihadists.
“Violent extremism isn’t just a Muslim problem in Australia,” she said. “The numbers are staggering and growing in right-wing extremism.”
Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas, the police force’s spokesman on cultural diversity, listed far-right extremism and marches and rallies “which encourage divisive notions of us and them” as some of the biggest challenges facing his troops.
He told the University of Western Sydney’s Advancing Community Cohesion conference that increased perceptions of discrimination and racial tension are having a “direct impact on policing and require us to continue to tailor [our] strategies and workforce”.
Mr Kaldas expressed concern about upcoming rallies by anti-Islamic group Reclaim Australia but was reluctant to speak about the size of the threat because he was “loath to give them any oxygen”.
“There is definitely activity on the extreme right wing of politics and people using events around the world to [justify] events in Sydney,” he said. “We are not taking our eye off that.”
Mr Kaldas said the police force had extensive community engagement strategies in place and praised the increasing number of bystanders responding to public incidents of racism.
On Thursday, federal Coalition MP George Christensen said he would speak at a Reclaim Australia rally in Mackay on Sunday to “support people who seek to defend our Australian way of life, our culture and our freedoms from the threat of radical Islam”.
“I made the decision to speak after reviewing the Reclaim movement’s 24 principles [which] include equality of law, equality of genders and freedom of speech as well as supporting Australia’s right to exile or deport traitors,” he posted on his Facebook account.
Dr James Jupp, director of ANU’s Centre for Immigration and Multicultural Studies, told the UWS conference that multiculturalism is “close to death” under the current government.
He said states are still championing the concept but the federal government’s decision to move immigration away from social services and into customs and border protection signalled its death at a federal level.
However Dr Jupp, who was awarded an Order of Australia in 2004 for his work on immigration policy, said the Labor party had also “slackened off a great deal in recent years” and played a very limited role in development immigration and multicultural policy.
Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane told the conference there had undoubtedly been a rise in far-right extremist organisations.
“What is concerning is that they are coming out in public and not confining their activities underground [as they once did],” he said.
Keysar Trad, chairman of the Islamic Friendship Association, took direct aim at right-wing columnists and shock jocks, saying they “take no responsibility for the hostile environment they have created” and had moved on from demanding assimilation from Muslims, to saying Muslims “had become unassimilable”.
“Blaming minorities is the laziest and nastiest form of deflection,” he said.
Dr Aly said there was a need to educate children on violent extremism in the same way we have done with other social issues like drugs and bullying.