Opinions divided on whether Australia could effectively ban extremist far-right organisations
It's good that such bans are only talk at this stage. The big issue is in defining who is "extremist far-right". In America, conservative family-oriented organizations are sometimes branded as "white supremacist" or the like simply because they are conservative. One man's moderate can be another man's extremist.
To me all American Leftists are racist extremists because of their support for "affirmative action". So any bans should be founded on a very clear definition of "far right" and "extremist" that is widely agreed on both sides of the political spectrum.
To me the only justifiable bans, if any, are on people who actually practice violence. Big talk is common but it is mostly just hot air. And where do we find any Australian Rightists practicing violence, let alone ones who are members of a violent group? The repeated acts of violence by Muslims surely make them a group of political extremists but that seems to be OK somehow.
The only Australian "Far Rightist" who actually attacked and killed people as far as I can remember was Brenton Tarrant and he was very much a lone wolf. And he was as much a Greenie as a Rightist. And he didn't even carry out his attacks in Australia, sadly for New Zealanders.
So there are undoubtedly some Australians with views that could be described as "far Right" but what harm have they done? They don't seem capable of energizing even one-another into violence, let alone people in the population at large.
Neo Nazis are undoubtedly extremists with some views that identify them as Rightist so what harm have they done in Australia? I did a close-up study of them some years ago (See here and here) and found not even advocacy of violence among them. They would say "I wish.." for violence against someone but showed not the slightest disposion to do anything about it personally.
So if even Australian neo-Nazis are non-violent in practice where are the "extremist far-right" organizations that need to be banned?
Terror analysts say there is growing pressure on Australia to ban extremist far-right organisations as other nations take decisive action on the issue.
Labor's home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally this week called on the Morrison government to send a signal that extremist views won’t be tolerated by officially listing and banning right-wing organisations.
The United Kingdom, the United States and Canada have all moved to ban extremist right-wing groups in their jurisdictions.
Deakin University counter-terrorism expert Professor Greg Barton said Western democracies around the world are increasingly being forced to consider taking stronger against the extreme far-right.
“There certainly is increasing pressure from Western democracies to ban right-wing extremist groups both in the political realm and the social media realm,” he told SBS News.
“(But) this is the very challenging area, we don’t have such clear egregious examples that we can easily move – often I think in practice this will apply to individuals not organisations.”
Currently, there are no such groups on Australia’s banned terrorist organisation list.
There are currently 26 groups on the Australian list - 25 of those are Islamist organisations and the other is the Kurdistan Worker's Party.
ASIO has warned that right-wing extremism poses an increasing threat in Australia as groups become more organised.
Counter-terrorism expert Leanne Close from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute told SBS News there were at least a dozen right-wing groups emerging in Australia.
She said they can be defined by a nationalistic and anti-Islamic approach, a focus on cultural superiority and behaviour that trends towards violence.
“I know ASIO will always be keeping an eye on whether these groups are moving to a call to action,” she said.
“(But) the situation in Australia at the moment is... not as dire as places like the US and the experience that possibly the UK is having in relation to right-wing extremism.”
Earlier this week, the British home secretary Priti Patel moved to outlaw the far-right terror group Feuerkrieg Division, which has advocated the use of violence and mass murder as part of an apocalyptic race war.
In February, the United Kingdom also formally banned extremist right group the Sonnenkrieg Division and recognised the System Resistance Network as an alias of National Action – another right-wing group on the list.
In April this year the United States designated the Russian Imperial Movement, a white supremacist group, as global terrorists.
Canada has itself listed right wing extremist groups Blood and Honour and Combat 18 as terrorist groups.
Senator Keneally said the time has come for Australia to take stronger action against those that posed a right wing-extremist threat.
"The proscription of a right-wing organisation - international or domestic - would send a powerful message that these extremist views will not be tolerated,"" she wrote in an article for ASPI's The Strategist.
The coronavirus pandemic has also fuelled the spread of extremist messages.
Counter-terrorism analyst Professor Clive Williams has warned against specific bans on targeted groups.
“I don’t think it is a good idea to ban right wing groups because once you ban them it drives them underground and makes them much more cautious about their communication,” he told SBS News.
“The threat really from right-wing groups can be monitored fairly well because at the moment they are not particularly security conscience and they are relatively easy to infiltrate.“
Under Australia's national security laws, before an organisation is listed, the home affairs minister must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that it "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".
Mr Barton said the splintered nature of right-wing extremist groups means authorities in Australia remained more likely target the behaviour of individuals rather than implement targeted bans.
“Most of this is not going to be about banning a group … it’s going to be working out the individual behavioural level and communications,” he said.
“There does seem to be an awareness we are going to have to do something.”