Who were the right wing fringe groups at the carbon tax rallies responsible for the images that will cause grievous attack ad pain for Tony Abbott in the lead-up to the next election?

The alternative prime minister has done his best to distance himself from yesterday’s rabidity, issuing a statement to put some clear air between himself and some of the bluer language on the Parliament House lawns. But if the ALP has its way, the visual and vocal involvement of a who’s who of the scorched earth set will continue to haunt him throughout the 43rd parliament.

The main fracas this morning concerned the attendance, repeatedly highlighted by Greg Combet on Radio National Breakfast, of the Australian League of Rights, the famously anti-Semitic fringe dwellers whose website rails against an “extravaganza of Jewish power”. A separate post lists those climate change questioning scientists bravely bucking the global warming consensus, like 2GB favourite Professor Bob Carter and Professor Freeman Dyson.

In the lead-up to the 2007 election John Howard and Peter Costello copped sustained heat for penning speeches and meeting with Danny Nalliah’s Catch the Fire ministries. Nalliah had previously addressed a League of Rights meeting, but the one degree of separation wasn’t really enough to tag the Coalition with its racialist brush.

But as Guy Rundle ably demonstrated in 2009, the ideological connections between the coalition’s rural wing and the ALOR runs deeper than most imagine.

After Barnaby Joyce was elevated to shadow cabinet following Abbott’s knifing of Malcolm Turnbull, he gave numerous interviews talking up a splitting of the banks and reiterating a hostility to foreign capital — all bugbears of the League and their wacky theories of social credit.

(Social credit is the idea that free-floating finance ends up skewing production away from the social base. Instead, that wealth and power must be disaggregated to individuals).

That theory sees global initiatives like a global carbon market as antithetical to the rural idyll, leading inevitably to accusations of a “one world government” imposed by Copenhagen through their local ciphers in the ALP.  Yesterday, Tony Abbott stood in front of placards suggesting Julia Gillard’s carbon tax was in fact a United Nations conspiracy.

But the LORers would have been peeved with the staunch LaRoucheian anti-monarchists at the Citizens Electoral Council, who, in their version of the coming global conspiracy, lay the blame for the tax squarely at the foot of the Queen. At the rally’s Melbourne chapter yesterday, adherents handed out fresh copies of their New Citizen rag plugging a “war against the British Empire”.

Meanwhile, dismay in today’s Daily Telegraph over the attendance of “far right” groups like the National Civic Council should probably be coupled with the fact of Abbott’s membership of the nuclear family vanguard at Sydney University in the late 70s — at that point dedicated to destroying the left on campus. Front group the Australian Family Association remains active in national debates, most recently over the ACT’s apparent plans to legislate for gay marriage.

The common thread tying the two groups together stems from a hostility to environmentalism based on unwillingness to recognise limits to material progress. For this part of the Right, anything that allocates value to the non-human is a problem, given our position at the centre of history and society.

A further curio came from the involvement of former Rose Tattoo frontman Angry Anderson and veteran youth worker Les Twentyman at the Canberra and Melbourne rallies respectively. Both are middle-aged men sick of government lies and cynical about any plans to do anything given the failures they see every day in the community. Both seemed more concerned with the tax’s impact on the working class, rather than broader debates about global warming.

Twentyman, who argued on the steps of state parliament yesterday that Labor’s tax would increase pressure on battlers despite the slated financial compensation, also delivered some offbeat lines on intergenerational “ethnic gangs”.

Anderson, who famously recorded an ad for the Liberal Party in the lead up to last year’s federal election complaining about the construction of the Epping-Parramatta rail link, seems fixated on the issue of gangs to the exclusion of the poverty and inequality (and the lack of public transport) that breeds them.

As Slackbastard has helpfully pointed out, the ageing rocker, in addition to his conservative spruiking,  last year lent his vocal talents to a group called T.H.U.G., whose label contains some questionable links to the skinhead movement.

And One Nation, well, we know all about them.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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