Over the weekend, an alleged white supremacist shooter killed 10 people - mostly Black - in a New York state supermarket in what authorities are labelling racially motivated violent extremism. This is yet another horrific act of right-wing extremist violence that has targeted minorities in white-majority Western countries over the past few years.
The shooter's manifesto points specifically to the actions of the Christchurch killer as a direct source of inspiration and radicalisation leading him down a path of far-right conspiracy theories, racial hatred and white-supremacist extremism.
It chills me to my core that an Australian man who massacred 51 innocent Muslims in two Christchurch mosques little over three years ago has since inspired multiple mass killings and numerous other violent plots that were thankfully averted. But what is even more unsettling is that since Christchurch, there has been virtually no self-reflection - let alone action - on the part of Australian politicians, that one of our own not only committed the atrocities of March 2019, but has inspired even more extremist violence.
Over the term of the last parliament, I repeatedly stood up in the Senate to speak out about the horror of Christchurch and the need for reflection, accountability and action. On three separate occasions in question time alone I asked the responsible minister directly what Australian authorities were doing following the publication of the New Zealand royal commission report. I received very little in response.
The Morrison government has tried to wash its hands of Christchurch and neutralise attempts to understand, name and tackle far-right extremism, including what in our politics and culture might be leading young white men down a violent, racist path.
It is a government that oversaw a shift in the language used by authorities to describe far-right extremism, reframing it instead as the banal-sounding "ideologically motivated violent extremism". This has already had a clear impact on how far-right racism is spoken about, both by government figures and in media reporting.
It is a government that rewrote a Senate motion condemning far-right extremism to instead praise Australia as a great multicultural country.
And this week, it has emerged that the government disbanded a taskforce set up following Christchurch that was supposed to provide ongoing reports to government on its efforts to tackle online far-right extremism and white supremacy.
Far-right extremism is on the rise, and Islamophobia is growing in our country. A refusal to acknowledge this, or even worse, downplay far-right extremism while it is growing, has consequences that are reverberating here and around the world.
In 2019, I was dismayed that the March attacks on Christchurch mosques did not cast a shadow and dominate the politics of the May election that year. It should have been a moment for us to seriously unpack and understand the attacks and what led to them. In the three years since, I have been completely appalled, time and again, by the unwillingness of the government to do anything proactive to seriously address the dangerous growth of far-right extremist ideologies.
A national anti-racism strategy has remained unfunded for the past seven years. Our federal criminal laws contain no prohibition on hate speech. There is no coordinated or systemic approach to anti-racism training in government and for parliamentarians. And, perhaps most shamefully, there has been no reflection on the clear political and cultural impact that dog-whistling, opportunistic politicians and media figures have on the mainstream validation and normalisation of far-right ideas.
Muslims and other racial and religious minorities in this country can only hope that with a new government there will be a much stronger focus on tackling the scourge of far-right extremism. I, for one, will be pushing for this with everything I have.
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