In the last few years, the far right of the political spectrum has been taking up a disconcertingly large space in the public discourse. Please “enjoy” part one of our catalogue of the fractious, pitiful and scary parties of the far right in Australia, including a brief summary of exactly how worried you should be about each group.
Antipodean Resistance (2016 — present)
The explicitly Nazi youth group Antipodean Resistance has made international news for targeting universities with xenophobic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and queerphobic propaganda, particularly during this year’s marriage equality postal vote. Their website is full of photos of the lads holding swastika flags, doing Nazi salutes, and — brave Aryan warriors that they are — using cartoon skulls to hide their identities.
While based largely in Melbourne, Antipodean Resistance has members across Australia, but for now appears relatively small. They describe themselves not as a political group but “closer to a 21st Century Hitler Youth,” with a focus on “abstaining from degeneracy such as alcoholism, drugs and race mixing, encouraging things like … postering, stickering, hiking/camping, martial training, and creating murals.”
They have produced material calling for the murder of Jewish people to be legalised and claiming same-sex couples are more likely to molest children.
The group has held radicalisation camps in both the Grampians National Park and Sunshine Coast. Because of the group’s youth focus, Antipodean Resistance mostly targets universities, with posters appearing at Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Tasmania campuses. However they have also vandalised public spaces and churches such as Victorian Trades Hall Council Victorian Labor Party headquarters, Birrarung Marr park, RMIT University and St Michael’s Uniting Church.
How scared should we be? While the group has thus focused on distributing propaganda, they have included martial training as part of their radicalisation camps and were listed in a September briefing by ASIO as a group “willing to use violence to further their own interests.” So … at least a little?
National Action (1982 — present)
National Action was a fringe white supremacist group, most famous for being a brief stop off point for several prominent figures of the scene. They include Jim Saleam, who founded the group before being jailed for property offences, fraud and planning to murder anti-Apartheid activist Eddie Funde and Jack van Tongeren, who similarly joined the group before quitting for the Australian Nationalist Movement.
On top of Saleam’s imprisonment, members have flamed out for a number of offences including their use of terrorism and intimidation against perceived enemies and rival “racial-nationalists”, and plans to firebomb a political rival’s home. Saleam later joined the Australia First Party, and his replacement (and rival) Michael Brander has floundered in his attempts to resurrect the party.
How scared should we be? Although a branch of National Action apparently still remains in Brisbane, the group appears to be largely defunct.
Australian League of Rights (1946 — present)
Founded by Eric Butler in 1946 (described by The Australian as a “fascist fruitcake” upon his death in 2006), the group is both heavily anti-Semitic and anti-centralist, a philosophy members use to distinguish themselves from the Nazi party. They have referred to what they call the “alleged’ holocaust” as well as supported David Irving. They also believe Prince Charles is a victim of a Jewish plot to end the monarchy.
Designed with a heavily philosophical bent, a “veneer of respectability” meant to disguise its deeply anti-Semitic core, the Australian League of Rights has multiple international offshoots, including groups in Canada, Great Britain and Canada.
It actually has a long, storied history in Australia, including a failed attempt to infiltrate the National Party in the 1970s, and former treasurer Peter Costello arguing that One Nation’s policy of a state bank was lifted directly from the league — Butler apparently agreed, saying of Pauline Hanson in 1997 “she stole my policies”.
How scared should we be? Described by Andy Fleming, Australia’s pre-eminent fascist cataloguer, as the “Grand Old Man of Australian fascism”, the league still puts out a newsletter today on its gloriously mid-90s website, but seems largely quiet apart from that.
Australia First Party (1996 — present)
Australia First Party was formed in 1996 by former WA State Labor member Graeme Campbell. Campbell was expelled from Labor in 1995 after years of criticising the direction the party was taking under Paul Keating regarding economic policy, immigration and Aboriginal land rights. They spent much of the late 1990s in the shadow of One Nation, and in 2001 Campbell resigned (to run unsuccessfully on the WA Senate ticket for PHON).
After a brief interlude, AFP was taken over by Jim Saleam (see National Action above) in 2004, and the party splintered several times over 2007 — over lots of several totally sane accusations, on a blog associated with the party leadership that various branch presidents are members of Zionist global government. Saleam was expelled from the main party in 2007 and formed a separate NSW party. The remainder of AFP crumbled by 2010 and all it’s assets were transferred the Saleam’s control. Since then, they’ve joined Glen Druery’s minor party alliance and pledged their support for Golden Dawn and David Duke.
In the 2016 federal election, Australia First fielded two candidates for the Senate from Western Australia, and four candidates for the House of Representatives — two in New South Wales, one in the Northern Territory and one in Victoria. None were elected.
How scared should we be? While electoral success has thusfar been elusive (they have two members elected to local councils, both of whom then resigned their membership) the party has lasted, and the fractious splintering of a decade ago seems to have calmed. This, combined with Saleam’s history of violence and neo-Nazi ties could be a serious cause for concern.
Stay tuned for part two of Crikey’s fringe-dwelling far-right groups…