Department of Home Affairs Secretary Michael Pezzullo has issued a warning to Australia’s “white supremacists” that “You are on our radar and you will not be able to incite the racial strife that you seek” adding “The scrutiny and pressure you are under will only intensify.”
Pezzullo gave this warning when appearing before a Senate inquiry at Parliament House. Furthermore, he told Senators his department which oversees the AFP and ASIO that it was “rededicating itself to standing resolutely against the extremist ideology of white supremacy and its adherence”.
Pezzullo had come under criticism for not mentioning home-grown right-wing extremists in his “gathering storms” speech about threats to Australia’s national security just two days before the Christchurch mosque shooting.
Pezzullo said post-Christchurch “The department has since been working ceaselessly with our colleagues in ASIO, the AFP and other agencies to assist our New Zealand comrades, with the investigation into this unspeakable act and with other elements of the New Zealand government’s response”.
Also under scrutiny at the hearing was the fact that Richard Howard a staffer for Senator Fraser Anning is also a Home Affairs Department employee currently on leave. Howard was accused by Fairfax and One Nation leader Pauline Hanson of writing in the “final solution” phrase in Anning’s maiden speech.
Pezzullo said he would investigate Howard’s employment with the department but said those with extremist views were not welcome in his department “Any association with groups that vilify minorities, that either normalize or incentivize violence is completely abhorrent”.
Pezzullo’s warnings comes as there is growing pressure coming from the media, leftist commentators and academics that governments and law enforcement aren’t doing enough to combat “far-right extremism” in Australia post-Christchurch. There was much horror expressed recently that the New South Wales “Bias Crime Unit” which investigates hate crimes only has one officer assigned.
There has been a media effort to link Christchurch killer Brenton Tarant to the Australian nationalist movement, but an ABC investigation could only uncover purported Facebook comments Tarant made on the now deleted United Patriots Front page praising the organization and its leader Blair Cottrell.
The ABC’s Four Corners program is airing a program tonight exploring how Tarant was able to fly under the authorities’ radar, with its promotional video implying more monitoring and surveillance needs to be done of Australian nationalist groups.
Free speech has also been attacked post-Christchurch with Richard Di Natale telling Andrew Bolt his network Sky News should be shut down for hate speech and the Greens also want a parliamentary code of conduct so MPs can be expelled for hate speech.
Just yesterday Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Scott McDougall said Australia should revisit it’s implied constitution freedom of political communication telling Fairfax “It may be that the implied freedom of political communication needs to be revisited to draw a line around what freedoms society ought to tolerate”.
McDougall went onto ask “What is the price that we are prepared to accept for allowing unchecked free speech?” and claimed that “The days of continuing to permit racial hate, to be perpetuated in the community unchecked, have simply got to come to an end.”
How such increased surveillance of the “extreme right” will be funded, resourced and implemented has not been further elaborated on. Neither has placing any further limits on free speech. After the hysteria settles any concrete new measures need to be severely scrutinized.