The maiden speech of Queensland One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts yesterday drew on well-established anti-Semitic myths for some of its major themes.

Roberts has previously been accused by fellow climate denialist and far-right commentator Andrew Bolt of “Jewish world conspiracy theorising” in his attempts to link a global climate change conspiracy theory to international financiers. Yesterday’s speech went further in outlining Roberts’ interest in similar ideas.

As he promised, Roberts spoke at length about “Agenda 21”. That’s the UN sustainable development blancmange document from the early 1990s that has been elevated to the status of a global conspiracy by the right and even some progressives, who insist it is aimed at imposing world government (like all such global conspiracies it has been a miserable failure, and was recently renamed “Agenda 30” to reflect the lack of progress). Agenda 21 can often be found among the concerns of climate denialists, anti-vaccinationists, anti-fluoridationists and chemtrailers (it was a particular favourite of South Australian anti-fluoridationist and former upper house MP Ann Bressington).

Agenda 21 is now also used heavily by anti-Semitic groups. A 2013 report by respected hate group researchers the Southern Poverty Law Centre explained how Agenda 21 had become a staple of anti-Semitic rhetoric, complete with links to the key anti-Semitic fabrication The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. According to a prominent US Christian hate preacher, “Agenda 21 is very evil. It’s extremely evil because it comes from the dark side. You see, the light side is Yahweh the Christ, which is truth, always truth. Then you have the dark side, which is Jewish international communism.”

[How to engage Malcolm Roberts in civil debate]

But another phrase used by Roberts links to older forms of anti-Semitism. In backing calls for a bank royal commission, Roberts said:

“Worldwide, privately owned central banks have greed as their creed and cannot be trusted to work in a country’s best interests. A royal commission into the banking sector and currency is just one tool needed to expose what the big international banks are doing to trash our country.”

“Privately owned central banks” is one of the core ideas of anti-Semitism — that Jewish banking families like the Rothschilds control the global economy via the financial system. Roberts has previously argued — in a screed on climate change in which the Rothschilds regularly recur — that many central banks are, in fact, privately owned.

“Like most people in business,” Roberts wrote in this 2013 document, “I was not aware that the Bank of England has been privately owned and controlled since its formation in 1694. I felt disappointed with myself yet now feel excited because events and politics now make sense.”

In fact, the Bank of England was nationalised by the Attlee government nearly 70 years ago. Nor, contrary to Roberts’ claim, is the US Federal Reserve privately owned: the Federal Reserve System in the US was established by Congress and is controlled by a US government agency.

What about other central banks? The Bank of Canada was privately owned for its first four years and has been government-owned and controlled since 1938. Like the Bank of England, the Banque de France was nationalised after the war. The Bundesbank is publicly owned. In fact, few major central banks are privately owned. The Bank of Italy is privately owned by Italian banks, but overseen by the Italian government. The Bank of Japan is majority-owned by the Japanese government, but other stockholders get no dividend or voting rights.

But the myth of “privately owned central banks” enables anti-Semites, including right-wing American evangelicals, to claim the global financial system is controlled by Jewish families via the banking system — a cabal centred on the Rothschilds, who also figure heavily in the climate change conspiracy theory. “The Federal Reserve Bank is a consortium of 9 Zionist Jewish-owned & associated banks with the Rothschilds at the head,” goes one typical anti-Semitic rant online.

Conspiracy theorists are also particularly fond of quoting a line attributed to Mayer Rothschild: “Give me control of a Nation’s money supply, and I care not who makes its laws” (he never said it). Roberts used that quote not once but twice in his 2013 screed.

For Roberts, it seems, everything is a conspiracy — climate change, the UN and Agenda 21, central banking, you name it. It’s not clear whether Roberts is suggesting that powerful Jewish financiers are at the centre of these conspiracies, but the ideas he proselytises definitely draw heavily on the bloody history of conspiracy theories about Jews.

Peter Fray

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