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24 November 2021



SUBJECTS: Right-wing extremism; threats of violence against politicians; Mr Morrison’s lack of leadership; ‘The Base’; National Socialist Network; Peter Dutton amping up the threat of war; climate change.
KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: A man has been charged with advocating terrorism over a series of online posts made about several politicians. The 37-year-old from Tamworth in regional New South Wales, is accused of a series of racist, violent, and extremist posts on social media. It’s alleged some of them advocated violent acts against multiple political leaders. The man was arrested at his home yesterday. Investigators seizing his devices, along with handwritten and printed material. He was refused bail and will face court next month. Police say there is no ongoing threat to the community. Let’s bring in the Shadow Home Affairs Minister Kristina Keneally. On that issue, first of all, that is a worrying development.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: It is a worrying development but sadly and unfortunately, not surprising. We know from ASIO that 50; half of their priority counterterrorism work is now really fuelled by ideological motivated violence, right-wing extremism. And you know, what we see with his arrest today is unfortunately, the consequence of what we're seeing happening on social media and, Kieran, I regret to say, in this Parliament.
For three days now I have asked in Senate Question time about George Christensen’s posts on Telegram, which have incited the exact type of threats of violence and murder against state and elected federal officials. Some of those matters are now at the AFP. And, yet for three days we have yet to hear that Mr Morrison has even spoken to Mr. Christensen.

GILBERT: Well today he’s followed those telegram posts with a statement in Parliament calling for civil disobedience. What's your reaction to that?  What are the mechanisms to censure him?

KENEALLY: Well, my first plea, Kieran, is that everyone who serves in the Parliament understands that we have a responsibility to foster social cohesion, to maintain community order and to support our democracy. What the extremists want to do is up-end democracy through violent means. And when we see protesters marching through the streets of Melbourne with gallows, when we see the Premier of WA being threatened with beheading, and I regret to say I'm aware of several federal parliamentarians who have received specific and credible threats. We all have a responsibility to tone down.
Now in terms of what will happen with Mr. Christensen, we will examine those comments and we will consider our options, but we shouldn't have to. There is a Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister who sit in the House of Representatives who would have heard those comments who have now been made aware of Mr. Christensen’s social media activity, and it is incumbent on them to show calm, thoughtful leadership that brings the country together.
GILBERT: These developments today with those comments and this arrest that we've seen, it comes at the same time as the Home Affairs Minister, and you touched on it earlier, has listed two groups as terrorist organisations, but one of them very relevant to the scenario we're talking about here. That group called ‘The Base’, a neo-Nazi group.

KENEALLY: So, ‘The Base’ are a neo-Nazi group. They are largely active overseas. They had earlier this year sought to start recruiting activities in Australia that had some media attention. It's my understanding though that they are not currently very active or, in fact, may well be inactive in Australia.

GILBERT: The neo-Nazis are a big part of ASIO’S work. What sort of percentage are we talking about?
KENEALLY: Absolutely. Well, we’re talking - as I said earlier, 50% of what ASIO is now calling ideologically motivated extremism, but it is being fuelled by the rise of right-wing extremism. There really is very little else in that space. But let's be clear about something here. ‘The Base’, while it's important that we list groups and send a clear message of what we reject, and they are listed in the UK and in Canada. There are groups that are listed overseas, in our Five Eyes partners, that have local chapters here that are active and are not listed in Australia.
There is the National Socialist Network where we have all seen in media reports on 60 minutes and the Nine Newspapers horrifying stories about what they're up to. It really does beg the question this listing today, while it is welcome, why has the Government not yet acted on some of those more active and identifiable groups here in Australia.

GILBERT: You have been strong on that point and quite aligned with the Government on national security though in broad terms. This week, Penny Wong has really had a crack at Peter Dutton, specifically along with others like Mike Pezzullo, Home Affairs Secretary. Do you think that that is a risk heading into the election? Picking a fight on national security like this.

KENEALLY: Well, I think the risk here is inflaming tensions for domestic political purposes, and using foreign policy for domestic political purposes, which is what Mr Dutton is doing. Talk of war is not what we need during a time where we are heading not only into an election campaign, but indeed where we have to have calm and thoughtful leadership.

GILBERT: He says he's not putting his head in the sand. Labor is being weak on this and showing your willingness to be weak on national security.

KENEALLY: What Mr Dutton is doing is walking away from a bipartisan foreign policy position on Taiwan. Now the people of Taiwan should not be used as some pawns in Mr Dutton’s domestic political games. What we need here is a calm approach when it comes to dealing with the strategic defence and foreign policy issues; particularly in relation to China and what we have seen for far too long is a lot of talk about China but not a lot of ‘doing’ from the Government. What we have seen here is a Government that is willing to ramp up talk of war, when what we really should be doing is talking to our own national interest, seeking to have a strong and clear relationship…

GILBERT: He says it's it would be inconceivable that we wouldn't support a US action in the event of an invasion. What's wrong with that?
KENEALLY: Well, first of all, he is pre-empting a discussion; he is creating a hypothetical and committing ourselves to a course of action that ANZUS does not commit us to, and indeed AUKUS does not commit us to. But yet he is seeking to play a political game here.
We don't need to talk about the drums of war. What we do need to talk about is what is in our national interest, highlighting where we have concerns with China around human rights, around coercion, but being clear  - being clear that we insist that China play by the rules of trade, and may I also say Kieran, diversifying our export markets. This Government has allowed us to become more trade dependent on China than ever before. So, there's so much little that they have done and so much tough talk they tried to do to promote for their own domestic political gain.

GILBERT: One quick one before you go, and this is one I guess we're waiting to hear from Labor on. And you're a pragmatic politician. I guess you don't want Labor to go too crazy when it comes to the 2030 target. When are we going to see that? is it going to be sooner rather than later? We’ve been told its coming.
KENEALLY: It is coming. And it is it to quote my colleague Chris Bowen, it's my melancholy duty to inform you Kieran that I will not be announcing Labor's policy and climate policy here on your program. It's a valiant effort you made.

GILBERT: Yeah, but sort of what range are we talking about?

KENEALLY: Chris and Anthony will make our position clear and soon. But I think it's fair to say here Kieran, we have failed to see any legitimate modelling from the Government, any actual plan.
And what we have is a Prime Minister who almost hours after he left COP26 in Glasgow, seems to be weakening in his resolve. So, you know, if Australia's going to be able to realise the benefits of a decarbonised economy. And that is where the world is moving. We should be up here, as the windiest, sunniest continent on earth, making use of that, investing in jobs, creating opportunities for Australians.
GILBERT: Appreciate your time.
KENEALLY: Thank you.