Far Right Parties:
Far-rights groups have been operating in Australia since the 1920s and were at that time primarily based around anti-communism and anti-Semitism. Since the 1990s and more recently, a large number of extreme-right groups have emerged in Australia. The first thing to notice is that the far-right in Australia is not characterized by a united radical right populist party but rather by a wide range of recent, small extreme right groups and movements, combining online organization and intimidating street activity.
The “Antipodean Resistance” hate group, first formed as a website and founded in 2016, is particularly representative of this tendency. The movement “Identity Australia” follows the same pattern. In addition, these groups are often registered as “non-profit organizations” such as the “Australian Defense League”, a white supremacist Islamophobic group founded in 2009. All these groups can be defined as neo-fascist movements. Furthermore, the majority of these extreme-right movements are xenophobic and racist. They target Asian, Muslim and native Australian communities. For example, in 2017, “Antipodean Resistance” initiated a campaign of posters in universities threatening Chinese students with deportation. In addition, on its website, the group “Identity Australia” calls for the “defense of European Australians” and talks about an “ethnocidal invasion of Australia”, referring to immigrants. This group denies the rights of natives and organizes environmental protection actions. This shows how the environmental issue can be recovered by the far right on the rhetoric of the “motherland”. The “Lads Society”, founded in 2017, directs its racism first towards the African-Australian community and the Muslim community. It is important to note that the leader of the Lads Society asked the perpetrator of the Christchurch attacks to join the movement but that the latter refused.
As a result, far-right in Australia is characterized by a wide range of small groups, often founded very recently, and which are deeply xenophobic and racist, primarily against Asians, Muslims and natives Australians. Their ideas are based on the nostalgia for the virgin land of the first European colonizers.
On the front of legitimate politics, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party is a powerful political force. While they have not had much overall political success, gaining only 4% of the nationwide vote in the 2016 federal election, they have seen some minor successes on local levels, with several members being elected to state legislative bodies. They seem to be marginally more popular in Queensland, but overall are not a politically powerful party. Where their strength comes in is through their rhetoric. While they have repeatedly denied claims that they are a racist party, through their policies and dogma it is clear that they appeal to a racist voter base. The party’s leader, Pauline Hanson, has stated “Criticism is not racism. There is real racism in this country: black racism, where you will get assistance because of the colour of your skin”. The party caused a large shock in Australia when they emerged on the scene, and their primary goal was not to necessarily have political victory, but rather put pressure on mainstream conservative parties to adopt more radical policy to not split the vote, a measure in which they found some success.
Despite the limited success of the One Nation Party, Australia lacks a centralized, powerful far-right group and instead consists of much smaller and often weaker groups. This is not to say that there is not any xenophobic or fascist sentiment in Australia, as indeed a large issue in Australia is the anti-immigration feelings that many people hold towards Asians, as well as the mistreatment of the aborigines. Smaller parties take advantage of these sentiments and attempt to grow support among the people. An example of a smaller far right party in Australia is “Australia First”. Australia First is an explicitly far-right party, currently led by Jim Saleam, a former Neo-Nazi and convicted criminal. Their flag incorporates the Eureka Flag, a flag from the Eureka rebellion and often used symbol in Australia of anti-establishment. In their electoral attempts, they have seen almost no success, only having two members be elected to city councils since their founding in 1996 and only securing 0.8% of the vote in the 2016 federal election. Most of their action is non-violent and mainly consists of online activity, protests and distributing pamphlets, although there have been many allegations of racism brought against them. Another example of a far-right party in Australia is the Yellow Vests Australia party, who renamed in April of 2019 and were previously known as the Australian Liberty Alliance. They run on an anti-immigration campaign specifically targeting Muslim immigration into Australia. Similarly, to Australia First, they have found little success in elections, gaining only small successes on a local level, and were even de-registered in the state of Victoria in 2019, meaning they cannot apply for re-registration until 2022. These two parties are prime examples of what sort of electoral power far-right groups have in Australia, which is to say, very little.
Currently, there are six major violent extremist far right groups in Australia. Those being: The Soldiers of Odin, the True Blue Crew, the Lads Society, The Antipodean Resistance, The Australian Defence League, and the Proud Boys. While grey area exists between many radical right organizations in Australia and the extreme right organizations, the six named organizations are all explicitly violent, with two of them, the Lads Society and the True Blue Crew being directly implicated in domestic terror cases from the past decade. In the wake of The Christchurch Shooting in March 2019, the leader of the Lads Society, Thomas Sewell literally approached the perpetrator of the shooting and asked him to formally join the Lads Society. Additionally, the perpetrator had previously praised the True Blue Crew online. The True Blue Crew itself was responsible for an attempted terrorist plot to firebomb an anarchist bookstore in 2016 which resulted in a member being charged for terrorism related offences. All Groups listed though, are known to be violent and don’t seek to work with the electorate to accomplish their ends, distinguishing them from the radical right in Australia.
The far-right in Australia has a history of looking for influence globally. Specifically, the far right looks for influence mainly from the UK and New Zealand. Overall, the far-right in Australia is extremely anti-immigrant and nationalist and in this way is very focused on global happenings as they claim dangerous acts committed by immigrants. A prominent example of global connections is the One Nation party. As a more successful electoral party, One Nation has tried to develop connections to the NRA in the United States. These can be seen from an Al Jazeera journalist who infiltrated the group and their meetings with the NRA. Although it does not seem like the connection was successful, One Nation was looking for a social media boost and potentially money as well. The leader of One Nation, Pauline Hanson, has also been quoted as saying that President Trump has heavily influenced her. The far-right, in general, is also heavily interconnected with New Zealand as prominently displayed in the ChristChurch shooting conducted by an Australian member of the far-right. Another influence that can be seen is that of the KKK. In 2016, the Australia First Party endorsed David Duke’s campaign for the U.S. Senate via Twitter, which was later reposed on Stormfront, a far-right site of which Duke is a member. The leader of Australia First used to be in National Action Australia and was convicted for plotting the assasination of a member of the Aftrican National Congress in South Africa. Another group in Australia, Combat 18, is a faction of the greater UK organization and obviously has had major influence from the parent organization in the UK.