In the dying days of the Western Australian election campaign, Senator Pauline Hanson, who had been suffering under a week-long barrage of vaccination-related media coverage, was enjoying an afternoon among supporters at a Perth pub known locally as “The Paddo”.
Outside, a group of roughly 40 protesters were creating a nuisance. Punches were thrown at the protest on Thursday, and WA police say they issued two move on notices but made no arrests. Video footage showed a crowd of activists chanting “Nazi scum off our streets”, with a line of stern-faced police officers and pub security staff keeping them back from the crowd at the Paddington Ale House to see Hanson.
Standing in the protective line, with a Western Australian police officer on either side, was a man in a T-shirt of the True Blue Crew.
The True Blue Crew are a far-right nationalist group who have been involved in violent street clashes with anti-racism activists in Melbourne. One of the group’s former members, Phillip Galea, is currently before the courts on terrorism charges after police allege he planned to bomb “left-wing” premises in Melbourne.
Several social media videos show the man in a True Blue Crew shirt keeping protesters back. This Sky News clip shows him alongside police officers, all folding their arms and looking stern.
A spokesman for the True Blue Crew declined to comment on whether the man in the video was a member of their group, telling Crikey in a statement that both supporters and members wore the logo.
“There is no arrangement for TBC to provide security for Pauline Hanson, but it is our policy to always protect patriotic Australians to the best of our ability from the violence carried out by the ‘left’ as a silencing tactic,” the statement read.
“The True Blue Crew will not allow these Marxists to shut down free speech or any patriotic Australian’s opinion that goes against their leftist anti-Australian rhetoric.”
Sean Bell, a media staffer at Hanson’s office, told Crikey there was no co-ordination between One Nation and the True Blue Crew and that the event was open to the public.
“I’m very confident that no one from the True Blue Crew was hired or sought to control the crowd in anyway,” Bell told Crikey. “We clearly couldn’t control who showed up, judging by the protesters.”
When asked if police were aware of non-police security arrangements at Senator Hanson’s event, a WA police spokesman told Crikey the Australian Federal Police were primarily responsible for the senator’s security arrangements.
“WA Police responded to a disturbance at the venue. In such circumstances it would be normal practice for attending officers to liaise with any other persons providing a security function at the venue,” he said.
The Australian Federal Police told Crikey they do not comment on matters of protection.
Shortly after her election to the Senate in July 2016 Hanson become one of a handful of politicians to receive a security detail.
Along with a love of Putin and scepticism of vaccines, nationalists providing security assistance of their own accord might be another thing Hanson has in common with US President Donald Trump.
During Trump’s Republican primary campaign bikies and other so-called American “patriot” groups took it upon themselves to patrol Trump rallies to keep out protesters and trouble makers.
And WA might not have been the first time nationalist groups have kept a watchful eye on Hanson when she has been out and about in public.
Online anti-racism activist Andy Fleming, who tweets as Slackbastard, closely monitors far-right groups online, and says groups such as the Patriotic Defense League of Australia claimed to have provided security for Hanson at Reclaim Australia events in Queensland in 2015.
One Nation national executive secretary Rod Miles told Crikey he wasn’t aware of what had happened at Reclaim Australia rallies in 2015 because it was a long time ago, but that One Nation did not and never had engaged its own security.
“It’s not our job to go out and do that stuff. It’s our job to contact the local police and let them know if we are ever going anywhere and doing anything,” Miles told Crikey. “That’s what we got to do. So that’s what we do”.