Dr Anne Aly MP
In 2007, David Eden Lane was serving a 190-year sentence at a correctional facility in Indiana. Lane, a self-confessed white separatist was a member of the US based domestic terrorist group The Order. He also holds the notorious title of being one of the Neo-Nazi movement’s most influential ideologues, having coined the 14 words that have become the far-right mantra- “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.” Those words are represented by the number 14, often seen in Neo-Nazi symbolism along with the number 88 which stands for Heil Hitler. The numbers in combination-1488- are a white supremacist hate symbol.
When Lane died in prison, his wish to be cremated and his ashes stored in a white homeland, led to Women for Aryan Unity to raise funds in order to build a monument in his honour. Having failed to raise the necessary funds, it was decided that Lane’s ashes would be separated into 14 small vials shaped like pyramids and sent around the world.
One of those vials made its way to Australia. To suburban Perth in fact, where it was received by a member of the Neo-Nazi group Combat 18. In 2010, two members of Combat 18 were arrested amid charges in relation to the shooting at a Mosque in the southern suburbs- around 10 kms from where Lane’s ashes are reported to be stored. Neither of the men were charged with terrorism or terror related offences.
The violent far right is not a new phenomenon in Australia. Far right organised groups have had a presence here since the 1920s. For at least the last two decades, they have been allowed to operate relatively free from any scrutinyemboldened by a political discourse that sways between being anti-immigration, anti-Asian and Islamophobic. Australia has seen a massive spike in violent far right activity. So much so that our top law enforcement agencies have admitted that it makes up 40 percent of their counter terrorism case load. And yet, until recently, Australia had not listed a single violent far right group on its proscribed terrorist list, despite our likeminded Five Eyes partners doing so.
Earlier this month, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced that the Sonnenkreig Division, a Neo Nazi group outlawed in the UK since 2020, would be listed. But there are a number of other groups who are active and who have already been listed in the United Kingdom, USA, Canada and New Zealand. To date, there has been a reticence on the part of the Australian Government to take the threat of the violent far right seriously. Scholars, community leaders and Members of Parliament have been calling for more action especially since the Christchurch a Mosque attack. Any action we are seeing now, including an inquiry by the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security, is largely due to the efforts of Labor’s Shadow Minister for Home Affairs Kristina Keneally, Ed Husic and myself.
For far too long, calls for a more comprehensive approach to tacking far right extremism fell on deaf ears. Meanwhile, leaders from Muslim, Jewish and Asian communities were reporting increased incidents of violent attacks, racist graffiti and threats to their security. The fact is that had any of these activities been carried out by individuals or groups affiliated to violent jihadist movements like ISIS, they most certainly would have been taken seriously. The onus now is on the government to demonstrate that our terrorism laws are fit for purpose and that we are prepared to deal with terrorism and violent extremism from wherever it arises.
Dr Anne Aly is the MP for Cowan FB