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Fears right-wing extremism inquiry will be weaponised by radical leftists to persecute and silence conservatives – Christian group raises human rights concerns

Australia right wing extremism

The Australian Christian Lobby has raised serious concerns about the Senate’s inquiry into “right-wing extremist movements”, warning it may be incompatible with United Nations international human rights norms, and that it could be weaponised by the far-left to silence their political opposition.

The Senate referred the inquiry to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee on December 7 last year, with a report due by 6 December 2024. Submissions were due on April 5 and are now published on the inquiry website.

The Christian group’s March 22 submission stated that according to UN human rights authorities “counter-extremism measures must relate to far more tangible, and real threats, involving violence, than the subject matter of this inquiry; and respect must be maintained for fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression”.

“The ACL is extremely concerned that this inquiry is not confined to key issues such as preventing terrorism, countering violent extremism, or the implications of radicalisation that leads to terrorism and violent extremism.”

The ACL went on to state that the Terms of Reference of the inquiry are “much broader than extremism associated with violence” as they only refer to “violence imagined at a remote point” rather than “threatened or actual violence”.

“Note that the Terms of Reference for this inquiry should be of major concern because they concern activities involving no violence, not even appropriately connected to violence. Submissions are invited on whether there even exists the ‘capacity for violence of extremist groups and individuals holding such views’.

“The inquiry appears to be concerned more with matters that have no current association with terrorism or violent extremism, namely harmless political, right-of-centre beliefs. The Terms of Reference could be construed as an exercise in identifying harm where it does not exist, and in creating the opportunity of associating politically ‘right wing’ views with extremism, to invoke justification for repressive measures against political opponents.

“The Inquiry is likely to appeal to the radical far-left elements that propagate narratives that those with a message contrary to their own are posing an extremist threat when, for example, protesting in support of women’s rights or other highly politicised matters, as a means of shutting them down.”

The inquiry has received 21 additional submissions, including from ASIO, the Australian Human Rights Commission, and the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), a New York-based “international” NGO set up by former US government officials.

The CEP submission, written by Joshua Fisher-Birch and Alexander Ritzmann, based in the US and Germany respectively, claims that “Australian right-wing extremists have become leading voices in the decentralised online neo-Nazi sphere”, and warns about the “Active Club strategy”.

The CEP recommends that the Australian eSafety Commissioner “address the broad re-emergence of Australian right-wing extremist individuals and groups with for-profit online platforms like Twitter/X”.

“These individuals or groups often violate the terms of service of the platforms, which generally claim that they do not allow the presence of White supremacists/right-wing extremists on their platform,” the CEP submission said.

“Strengthening the legal framework for platform regulation could be contemplated to ensure and enhance comparable content monitoring standards between platforms.”

The CEP submission also urges the government to crack down on “crowdfunding efforts from members of the Australian right-wing extremist community”, and suggests following the example of Canada, where bank accounts of “freedom convoy” protesters where shut down during the Covid pandemic.

Additionally, the CEP recommends “monitoring of changes in strategy of organisational models of right-wing extremist groups due to the proximity of Australian key extremist individuals to the transnational Active Club network” which it claims was “specifically developed to evade law enforcement monitoring and intervention”.

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