….Academics have warned of the emerging threat from right-wing extremism at the Conference on Community Cohesion held by University of Western Sydney this past week.
….According to a report by The Age’s Rachel Olding, attendees framed right-wing extremism as a threat on par with Muslim radicalization in Australia, while a police spokesman admitted racial tension was having a direct impact on policework.
….At the conference, counterterrorism expert Anne Aly from Curtin University argued that violent extremism in Australia was starting to mirror that of the United States. Aly presented a recent New America Foundation study which found twice as many people had been killed by right-wing extremists than jihadists since 9/11.
….But what is driving increasing numbers of Australians to far-right views and organizations? Chairman of the Islamic Friendship Association Keysar Trad noted the influence of right wing pundits, suggesting they “take no responsibility for the hostile environment they have created.”
….In the age of the soundbite and 24 hour news cycle, are incautious comments and Islamic terrorism’s presence as the dominant security narrative actually making us less safe? And do we need to reflect on the role of our political leaders and media outlets in amplifying the perceived magnitude of these threats?
….Speaking to the conference, Deputy Commissioner and police force spokesman on cultural diversity Nick Kaldas said that increased perceived discrimination and racial tensions were having a “direct impact on policing and require us to continue to tailor [our] strategies and workforce.”
….A 2014 Ipsos Mori poll found that Australians wildly overestimated the number of Muslims in Australia. Respondents estimated that an average of 18% of the Australian population were Muslim, a full 16% higher than Australia’s actual Muslim population of 2%.
….Could certain views expressed by public figures and the media have enticed Australian citizens to more radical thinking? Furthermore, is it appropriate for members of parliament and the media to broach these issues in arguably indelicate ways, given the tensions that already exist?
….In September of last year, ABC Radio listeners heard Attorney General George Brandis’ contention that Daesh “represents or seeks to be an existential threat to us.”
….South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi recently won a six-month inquiry into food certification after expressing concern about where money for halal certification “ends up.” Some anti-halal campaigners have expressed concern that the money “funds terrorism” while others have ironically boycotted iconic Australian products like Vegemite in response to its halal certification.
….Even our Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made controversial remarks, stating most notably last year that he found the burqa “a fairly confronting form of attire” and “wish[es] it weren’t worn”.
….It seems possible for a person to contrive, from these and other statements, an extremely negative view of Islam and Muslim people. One that does not contextualize the insignificant number of extreme voices against the whole, the complexity and achievements of the Islamic world, nor the myriad positive contributions of Islamic Australians.
….At the Conference on Community Cohesion, Mr Kaldas labelled far-right extremism and protests which “encourage divisive notions of us and them” as some of the largest challenges facing Australian police. The Deputy Commissioner’s comments follow on the heels of Nationals MP George Christensen who, at time of writing, plans to attend a Reclaim Australia rally in his electorate this coming weekend citing his support for people defending the Australian way of life, culture, and freedom from radical Islam.
….For anyone whose political views stop short of “send them back where they came from,” social cohesion and a respectful multicultural society seem necessary for a prosperous Australia. Not just in these fraught young years of nationhood, but into the future as our country continues to grow.
….It’s imperative that our leaders and media outlets be mindful of their influence, and feel accountable for the extreme worldviews they might inadvertently promote. Australia, we need to talk about extremism, but our own extremist tendencies, and the way we shape debate, shouldn’t escape criticism.
….Australia’s Coalition government announced today the implementation of its
12.4 24 billion AUD Pensioner Heating Assistance Programme (PHAP). In a rare show of bipartisanship the government will go ahead with the plan, formulated under the previous Labor government.
….The announcement comes just days before the public release of the government’s Commission of Audit. The report is expected to recommend vast changes to government expenditure with big-spend welfare programmes slated to be cut. PHAP has been described by political observers as a move by the government to assure Australia’s ageing population that they will be no worse off under the changes.
….Under PHAP, pensioners will be moved en masse to state of the art nursing home facilities in Williamtown, NSW and Tindal, NT. Tarmacs enclosing the nursing homes will see constant sorties of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, especially during the winter months.
….“It is of the highest importance that we uphold the social contract to our elderly,” said government spokesperson Massif Fanker. “We will not let the people who built this country go cold because of rising electricity costs. We simply won’t allow human suffering for some kind of frivolous and utterly unnecessary government expenditure,” concluded Fanker.
….PHAP will also enable pensioners to supplement their incomes by salvaging broken parts of the jets and selling them for scrap. Head of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme Lieutenant Chris Bogdan stated during a recent visit to Australia that as more planes enter active service parts are coming off the aircraft “too frequently” for maintenance.
….“It’ll be a bit like an easter egg hunt,” said Fanker. “The F-35 hasn’t even met its reliability goal of 50 percent. Currently the aircraft operates for four hours between critical failures, so there’ll always be some kind of malfunction to keep the elderly busy.”
….Some members of the left have criticised the move saying that the money could be better spent on trees, rescuing wallabies or returning the budget to surplus. The criticism lead to a response from the Coalition stating that they had found the Jets in the wine cellar at Kirribilli and if anything it was Labor’s jet-debt.
….“Of course the PHAP programme does have a secondary function,” said Fanker. “These are state of the art vehicles of destruction, no doubt about it. With the continued forced liberalisation of ethnically Australian people in New Zealand, PHAP is a necessary deterrent. The rehabilitation of Australians who return as pro-gay-hobbit-lovers is a continuing and acute drain on the taxpayer purse,” he concluded. When asked if Australia would consider the Annexation of New Zealand Fanker winked and replied; “We’ll see.”
…Trial PHAP programmes have seen such great success that the Coalition government is looking into other methods to increase the quality of life for at-risk groups. One such programme, still in its developmental stage will aim to provide much needed mobility for disabled individuals by transporting them on the hulls of a new Australian submarine fleet. The Disabled Underwater Mobility Baseline (DUMB) aims to insure that no disabled Australian is negatively affected by budgetary cuts.
….After years of posing as conservative, special agent codename Bernardi is ready to hang up his boots and return to his ecologically sustainable commune in Tasmania.
….“It all started with the formation of the Greens in 1992,” said Bernardi (whose real name will not be used to protect his identity). “The idea was to create the perfect sleeper agent to create a schism within the right wing and highlight to swing voters how outrageous their views were.”
….I asked codename Bernardi what the most difficult part of his mission was.
….“Pretending I was South Australian,” he replied laughing. “All jokes aside I’m very sorry to the people of South Australia for tarnishing your name, you’re alright,” he continued with a smile.
….For years Bernardi has had to relentlessly stay in character, admitting in this interview that he had no idea how successful he would be in discrediting Australian right wing politics.
….“To be honest when Sacha Baron Cohen and Stephen Colbert gained notoriety I thought the game was up,” Bernardi confided. “I didn’t know how Australians could believe that someone would be that callous or ignorant of decades worth of research and social progress but I suppose we lucked out,” he said with a shrug.
….Asked why he would reveal his secret plan now, Bernardi stated that he thought the damage and ridicule he had recently brought upon the Liberal party was a nice place to stop. “Plus I really miss my goats,” he added.
….“It took a team of writers over a year to put together that book,” Bernardi said referring to the jocular Conservative Revolution. Which belittled among other topics, same sex, adoptive and step parents, gay marriage and climate change.
….“We had again a lot of problems with writers not being extreme enough with the subject matter or accidentally writing chapters that had a sense of decency, compassion or basis in fact. There was a point where I had to tell the writing team to take a step back and just watch some Fox News,” he said.
….Conservative Revolution has caused a huge stir with a barrage of negative reviews on Amazon and Liberal party members taking umbrage.
….“The book was supposed to be the punchline, but then Warren Entsch got really worked up and we thought, okay, let’s push this a little further. I felt really bad about it since Entsch was vocally against mandatory internet censorship, good guy for a Lib.”
….I asked Bernardi about the threat of litigation he leveled at Entsch.
….“We all sat around in the office and thought, what would Bernardi do, we always thought of the character as a person who has had or still does perhaps harbor some feelings of same-sex attraction that mix with his religiosity to fuel his guilt and fervor. Essentially we just thought it would really do the character justice.”
….On Thursday Liberal Senator Sue Boyce accused Cory Bernardi of lacking compassion and genuine Christianity.
….“I hadn’t seen that yet,” chucked Bernardi. To be honest we really hadn’t counted on common sense views rising from the Libs to oppose the character. I like it here where she says ‘I find it immoral to pontificate on the topic of abortion without looking at some of the reasons behind why a woman might seek to have an abortion’, that’s a really good line. Sue’s alright with me,” he concluded.
….I asked Bernardi to summarize his experience and tell me what the next phase of his life would be like.
….“To be honest it’s going to be hard to let go of the character. You put a face on long enough and it starts to seem true, you know? It’s a little bit scary. To be serious though I think we’ve had an incredible run, I got removed from minor front bench positions twice by two leaders, managed to garner the animosity of the entire left wing and I think somewhat discredited conservative thinking,” he said.
….“Like I mentioned before I’m really looking forward to getting back to the commune, smoking some dope and tending to my goats and vegetables,” he concluded, pulling out a kingsize joint.
“It just worries me that some people out there actually supported the Bernardi character,” codename Bernardi said with a frown.
….“It just really fucking worries me.”