08 December 2020




SUBJECTS: Right wing extremism; Foreign Relations Bill.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN, HOST: We'll get into what Australia should be doing in just a moment with Labor’s Shadow Home Affairs spokeswoman, Kristina Keneally, but keep in mind the tactics. He told---yes, he told his mum, the murderer, not call him a neo-Nazi online. Not because he didn't want to be called a neo-Nazi because he was worried about surveillance. They know how to avoid surveillance, they're trained in that in a way. They're obsessed with things like White Replacement Theory. And they deliberately set out to leave a manifesto for others to follow. This man followed the manifesto from the Oslo killer. Remember the attack in Norway? More than 70 young people killed? Have a listen, before we get to Labor's approach here in Australia, have a listen to New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, apologising to the Muslims in her country.
JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: "Muslim New Zealanders should be safe. Anyone who calls New Zealand home, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, should be safe. New Zealanders deserve a system that does its best to keep you safe and that is what we are committed to building."
EPSTEIN: Kristina Keneally joins us, she is the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, part of Anthony Albanese's team. Thanks for having a word to us.
EPSTEIN: What did you--what caught your attention the most out of the Royal Commission's findings?
KENEALLY: First of all, let's acknowledge that the Royal Commission into the Christchurch shootings has been comprehensive and it is significant. One of the things that caught my attention, though, is the recommendation that New Zealand needs fit for purpose laws and policy to keep pace with the evolving threat that the country faces. It acknowledges, the Royal Commission acknowledges that there was a systemic failure in New Zealand to recognise the terrorist threat posed by right-wing extremists. And when we look at that recommendation and think about what's happening in the Australian context, you know, it's it's proper and appropriate that we now think, do we have a similar blind spot? Do we have a similar need to determine if our policies and procedures, if our programs are fit for purpose for the threats of right-wing extremism? And we know, Raff, we know because ASIO is telling us, because the AFP is telling us that right-wing extremism is a growing and present threat in Australia. It now accounts for some 40% of ASIO's counterterrorism work. But what we also need to ask as a Parliament is: do we have the right programs in place to prevent radicalisation? Do we have the right---
EPSTEIN: I'm just curious--because you're saying that ASIO and AFP acknowledge the problem, but then you say, but then you say we have the right programs? What on earth does that mean? Like, what do you think needs to be done?
KENEALLY: Well, first of all, let's talk about preventing radicalisation. All of those programs that we've had in Australia for the past 20 years, understandably, have been targeted at preventing radicalisation in violent Islamic jihadism. It's all geared towards working with the Islamic community. It's all geared towards a particular ideology. Now, ideology matters when you're going to prevent radicalisation, community coordination and partnership matters. And if we're talking about right-wing extremism, we're talking a very different set of motivating ideologies, aims and objectives and methods of organisation. So that's one area. Another is the laws that we have to proscribe or list groups of terrorist organizations. We currently have 27 groups listed, 26 of them are Islamic, one of them is the PKK. Not one right-wing extremist group is listed, and as you said in your intro, sometimes it's because these groups are savvy enough to know just how to stay just below.
EPSTEIN: Can I ask a question about registering? I noticed you said today that Australia is the only Five Eyes country that hasn't listened to white extremist group as a terrorist organisation. Why does that even matter? I mean, ASIO says, you know, 40% of their work is focused on far-right groups, why does it matter if a group is called a terrorist organisation or not?
KENEALLY: It matters on a few levels, and when we passed these proscription laws in the wake of September 11, the Parliament noted that we were passing them: one, to give some legal tools to our national security agencies so that being a member of a group could be outlawed, promoting a group and its ideology could be outlawed. And there are some other control orders and things that can be applied to people who have received training from groups that are proscribed. But it is also, as the Parliament noted back in the wake of September 11, about sending a clear message as a Parliament and as a country about the ideologies and the hatred and the violence that we reject. So some of the groups that we have currently proscribed in Australia have no presence in Australia, they may have very, even, very little interest in Australia. But we have proscribed them because our allies have or because we want to send a very clear message to the world: this is a hatred and an ideology that we reject. So when it comes to right-wing extremism, where there are groups that have been proscribed overseas in Canada and the UK, that have local chapters here, there might be very good legal reasons for us to give the tools to our national security agencies. But there are also very strong reasons that we should send a clear message as a Parliament and as a community that we reject the hatred, the ideology and the incitement of violence that comes from right-wing extremist groups.
EPSTEIN: It's really interesting to me what media companies do, because we want media to say what they like, we don't have free speech in our Constitution, but we believe in it very much. The Royal Commission in New Zealand found that this bloke, who was Australian, he committed this horrible crime, he gave money to people like Stefan Molyneux and Richard Spencer, he also donated money to a company linked with Lauren Southern, Lauren Southern receives money from Australia's Sky News. Do media organisations need to be careful about who they give money to?
KENEALLY: Well, I would say that all of us, particularly people in public life, whether that be in the media, or in Parliament, or in other, whatever role of public life, they have a responsibility to think about how this speech will affect others. And I think your opening statement where you talked about the way in which these groups and individuals sometimes associated with these groups, and I think I'm thinking specifically of a CPAC conference that was held here in Australia, last year, where some fairly extreme people with fairly extreme views came out to speak, and other people in our community, parliamentarians and media figures, you know, lined up next to them. I would say that, these groups, they know how to take and some of these individuals, they know how to take what are generally positive notions of, say, you know, community, ethnic pride, being pro-family, being patriotic and yet use those as ways to draw people in, to massage and nurture hatred and more extreme views, and as a subversion of what are generally positive notions into what can become a tool for division and hatred.
EPSTEIN: Is that a government issue? Or is that a media issue? Do you think the media need to actually say, 'no, we're not going to talk to people like that?'
KENEALLY: Well, I think government has a role to play. If you think about after Christchurch, the Morrison Government moved the violent content laws that went to the streaming of violent acts, the live streaming of violent acts, there is a role here for government to provide guidance, particularly to social media companies, as well as mainstream media companies, about hate speech and online hate symbols. The United Kingdom right now is doing up a white paper on hate speech, and specifically with a focus on right-wing extremism. Because what we know, and you were so correct, when you pointed out, this is not just happening on the dark web. This is happening on mainstream social media platforms, where people know certain terms to search for or when people are searching for certain terms, the algorithm presents them often with groups that have extremist views.
EPSTEIN: I noticed that the New Zealand Royal Commission said, basically, they didn't think there was anything that could have been done, the evidence was too fragmentary. But this man grew up here. He went and he lived most of his life here. He went to New Zealand to commit this crime. Could Australia have picked up what he was doing? Can you--are there enough pieces in that report to say maybe our intelligence agencies could have put some of the pieces together?
KENEALLY: It's possible that they could have and I think it's fair to say that these days they are more alive and more alert and more focused on the growing threat of right-wing extremism. But that being said, we as a country haven't had a proper conversation about the extent to which the Christchurch shooter was radicalised in this country. What were the groups that he was interacting with here? What are the voices that he was hearing here, whether it be in mainstream media or within some of these extremist circles? What were the prompts? What were the conditions that prompted him to seek out the types of views? He is not alone. Unfortunately. What the Australian Federal Police told us as recently as Friday is that these right-wing extremist groups, both overseas and here in Australia, are aggressively targeting younger and younger, usually men, because it's quite a misogynistic movement, younger and younger men for radicalisation and propaganda, and really with the view to provoking them into violent acts. And so this is another thing that a review by the Intelligence and Security Committee could be looking at, and making recommendations in terms of giving our agencies the support, the tools, they need to disrupt and deter radicalisation, and particularly when it happens online.
EPSTEIN: Just a quick one that may be a bit outside your portfolio, but the Foreign Relations Bill has passed. It's very clear, one of the main reasons the Morrison Government wants the Foreign Relations Bill is they want to use it to get rid of the agreement Victoria has signed with China over Belt and Road. Do you think it's inevitable that that agreement is going to get torn up? The one that Dan Andrews signed?
KENEALLY: Well, this is a decision for the Government, but what I can speak to, Raff, is that Federal Labor has made it clear we would not sign up to the Belt and Road initiative, and the Morrison Government, of course, now has that power. We supported the legislation to veto the Victorian BRI as well as other international deals---
EPSTEIN: Would Labor complain federally if the Prime Minister said, 'right, we're tearing that up'?
KENEALLY: Well, as I said, we made clear we wouldn't sign up to it and we have supported the legislation. What we do now urge the Government to do, the Morrison Government needs to use the power responsibly and we would say that includes talking directly with the Victorian Government rather than having a fight in the media about it.
EPSTEIN: Do you think it'll be counterproductive to tear it up?
KENEALLY: Well, this is the power of the Morrison government wanted. We supported it. We believe that the federal government should have this power. And what we are saying to the Morrison Government quite clearly is that they should talk to the Victorian Government responsibly and calmly; I think a bit more---
EPSTEIN: Forgive me, if I can, Senator. It's not quite an answer to my question. I don't know if you want to answer but clearly these relations as they are, if we tear up a contract with China right now, do you think that'll be counterproductive?
KENEALLY: Well, this is why we are urging calm, Raff. This is not a decision for the Labor Opposition. This is a decision for the Morrison Government and a calmer approach, a more thoughtful approach and one that seeks to work constructively with the state Government rather than to create a political fight and a headline is what we are urging the Morrison Government to do.
EPSTEIN: Thanks for your time.
KENEALLY: Thank you.