And to top it all off, police conducted anti-terror raids in Melbourne’s north-west that led to the arrest of one suspect who was charged with preparing or planning a terrorist act and collecting or making documents likely to facilitate a terrorist attack.
These are extremely serious charges, so serious that the Herald Sun will have splashed the face of suspect Phillip Galea across its front page with a headline, “TERROR” — below which, in smaller letters, the words “IN OUR SUBURBS”. Today’s Herald Sun will no doubt have a six-page wrap-around featuring articles detailing:
- Galea’s criminal history, including time served for possessing weapons;
- His history of involvement in extremist groups that have, in the past few decades, posed a threat to Australians of Chinese, Taiwanese, Singaporean, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, etc, heritage;
- The activities of groups like Reclaim Australia and the True Blue Crew including video on their Facebook page showing them using iron bars to smash heads “one leftie at a time”;
- Discussions among political leaders and security experts on the groups being declared terrorist organisations;
- Links between Australian right-wing extremists and similar groups in the United Kingdom, United States, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Greece, etc; and
- Op-eds from Andrew Bolt and Rita Panahi calling for right-of-centre parties to condemn right-wing extremist groups and their political wings, including Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the Liberal National Party branches in the Queensland seat of Dawson.
I could go on and on about the saturation coverage of the Galea arrest across Australian press and the discussion it should arouse among pundits and pollies. But I won’t bother. Just buy yourself a copy of the Herald Sun, the Daily Tele or whatever paper suits your fancy. You’ll find hardly any coverage.
Galea is no small fish in the Australian far right. Almost all the videos posted to the True Blue Crew’s facebook page were linked to WordPress blog RA Media. Many posts on that blog are authored by Galea, including one post welcoming the return of Pauline Hanson.
Last November, Galea pleaded guilty to possessing five Tasers and a quantity of mercury just days before an anti-immigration rally.
We don’t really know exactly what Galea was planning to do. The accused hasn’t been tried, and he should be granted the benefit of the presumption of innocence, not to mention quality legal representation and access to legal aid. And I would have much preferred Galea was charged under conventional criminal law instead of the new parallel criminal injustice system reserved for vaguely defined “terrorist acts”.
But what of those who agree with him on key issues relating to social cohesion, a key element of our national security? What about those who, like Galea, are right of centre, who want to end or curtail immigration of certain groups, who are against halal meat and/or new mosques? What about those who insist on a rock-solid link between Muslims — their religious and cultural identities — and terrorism?
Will we see the likes of Pauline Hanson, George Christensen, Cory Bernardi, Fred Nile, etc, loudly condemn Galea and his ilk? What about Andrew Bolt, Piers Akerman, Rita Panahi, Miranda Devine, Janet Albrechtsen, Alan Jones, etc? Will they acknowledge that their political theology has a problem with extremism and extremist violence?
When will moderate conservatives march through the streets protesting and loudly condemning violent extremism in their ranks?
Pfft. As if Australia’s white conservative elites will ever accept the possibility that one of their own could be a terrorist.
First published in Crikey on 08 August 2016.