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Adjournment: Inquiry into the rise of far-right extremism in Victoria

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
3 December 2021

My adjournment matter tonight is for the Leader of the Government in this house, and the action I seek is for the Leader of the Government to write to the Legal and Social Issues Committee requesting that the committee undertake an inquiry into the rise of far-right extremism in Victoria with the terms of reference as detailed in notice of motion 691.

It was not long after I became an MP that I was followed from my office by a group of far-right thugs. As I was leaving my electorate office to get a coffee, these men, one with a phone camera in hand, walked up to me, shoved some sort of tube in my face and ask me if I needed help cleaning out my orifices. I felt surrounded, and it was frightening. I did not know where it was going to end. This event changed my sense of personal safety. I have been in public life for almost 10 years, but it has only been in the last four years that I have become increasingly concerned about threats. Those men who followed me that day are well known to police as the ringleaders of the growing far-right extremist movement in Victoria.

It is a movement that has been on the rise, and it is only getting stronger as we experience periods of social disruption. Most Victorians would have been shocked in January this year to see pictures of Neo-Nazis parading around in military clothing in the Grampians and giving Nazi salutes in front of a burning cross. Further in-depth research by the Age and Channel 9’s 60 Minutes revealed for all of us the horror of the ‘Nazis next door’, as they labelled their series of reports about the rise of far-right extremism. The reports revealed in disturbing detail the violent white supremacy and misogyny at the heart of these anti-democratic groups, how these extremist movements seek to recruit and their political ambitions. We must not forget that far-right movements can result in violent extremism, as we saw when worshippers were gunned down at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, by an Australian-born white supremacist. There is also evidence of connection between far-right groups in Australia and international extremist groups, including explicitly violent Neo-Nazi groups such as Combat 18 and The Base. Politicians around the world are starting to take notice. Last week the federal government banned The Base, described as a violent, racist Neo-Nazi group known by security agencies to be preparing terrorist attacks.

But bans are not the only solution; we also need other solutions. We need more tools in our toolbox to counter the rise of the far right. That is why it is so important for a parliamentary inquiry to look into what is happening. This has spilled out in the ugliest ways during the pandemic protests on the streets of Melbourne, appropriating the language of anti-vaxxers and of the conspiracy movements. The threat to our democracy is real. We only need to look at the United States and the Capitol insurrection to see how connections between the far right and other groups can lead to political violence. What I am intending with the inquiry referral is for us in this place to take this issue of the increasing presence of far-right extremism seriously. We need to better understand what is happening, why it is happening, what the role of economic and social insecurity and uncertainty is and how racist scapegoating and misogyny play out. As a Parliament we have a responsibility to make sure all Victorians feel safe and supported and to do what we can to tackle any dangerous agenda that threatens our social cohesion. History has shown us what will happen if we do not act.

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
3 December 2021
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