One striking fact about the anti-Muslim rallies over the weekend of 17-18 July is how the ABC reported them. It is well established that the United Patriots Front is on the lunar right. 

It aligns itself with locals like the Australia First Party, whose chairman was jailed in the 1990s for a shotgun attack on the home of an African National Congress representative, and foreign groups like the Greek neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn.

“UPF’s Neil Erikson pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates Court in February 2014 to stalking after he abused a Melbourne rabbi in a series of anti-Semitic phone calls.” [The Age 15 July] The ABC 24 and news services are consistently describing them as “nationalists.”

When it emerged that they had put up a video, advertising the rally, which appeared to support extreme violence, some Muslim leaders in Victoria warned activists to stay away from the anti-racism rally.

The United Patriots Front posted a video on Facebook showing “…CCTV footage of the killing of anti-racism activist Carlos Javier Palomino, who was stabbed in the heart by a neo-nazi on a packed train in Spain in 2007…..Neil Erikson, an administrator of the United Patriots Front, promoted the video as showing “one patriot versus a thousand unwashed filth”, in which he praises the man convicted of killing the 16-year-old and stabbing another man in the chest.” [The Age 15 July]

However, one of the organisers of the Melbourne counter-protest, Kieran Bennett, said the Reclaim Rallies could not be allowed to go ahead uninterrupted. “Reclaim Australia can’t be allowed to pursue a campaign of Islamophobia on the streets of our city because if they do the result is increased racism, increased attacks on the Muslim communities in this city,” he said, [New Matilda 18 July]

The rally had no surprises. The anti-Muslim rally attracted …”about 120 activists carrying Australian and Eureka flags, and banners opposing the “spread” of Islam, halal food and Asian immigration. Outside several rings of police officers, around 1400 counter-demonstrators had gathered from groups including No Room for Racism, the Socialist Party and Socialist Alternative.

Blair Cottrell, from the UPF, told the crowd it needed “faith” and called for the Prime Minister to become involved. Controversial pastor Danny Nalliah from Catch The Fire Ministries also spoke at the rally.” [The Age 18 July]  Around 60 supporters of right wing hardline group “United Patriots Front” also joined Saturday’s march.

One noticeable development, apart from the ABC’s use of “nationalists” to describe the neo-Nazis and religious bigots, was the refusal of the Abbott government to prevent or even advise LNP Member of the House of Representatives George Christensen, not to speak at the Reclaim Australia rally in Mackay Queensland.

In response to criticism from the electorate, The Nationals MP said a “Sharia-style dispensation of justice was being “quietly applied in Australian mosques”. “It’s a form of “justice” that perpetuates the oppression and abuse of women and yet we don’t dare speak of it because we will be instantly attacked as racists.” [New Matilda 18 July] This shows how in tune the MHR is with the general propaganda line of the bigots.

The silence of the Federal Government is thus a cause for concern. When compared with the government response to the Q&A program which allowed Zaky Mallah to ask a question, we get an indication of what the Liberal performance over “freedom of speech” is about.

Victorian Deputy Premier James Merlino stated: “Our diversity is one of our state’s greatest strengths … it’s up to all of us to protect our diversity, celebrate it, send a message to those very small number of people that the spreading of hatred, the spreading of bigotry, is simply not tolerated,” he said. [Guardian 18 July] Such a statement from the Abbott government would be welcome.

The Australian Federal Police seem to be aware of the threat presented by these bigots and neo-Nazis. At the University of Western Sydney’s Advancing Community Cohesion conference, Mr Kaldas expressed concern about upcoming rallies by Reclaim Australia but was reluctant to speak about the size of the threat because he was “loath to give them any oxygen”.

“There is definitely activity on the extreme right-wing of politics and people using events around the world to [justify] events in Sydney,” he said. “We are not taking our eye off that.” [SMH 17 July] However deeply troubling, in the same article we were told: “Ms Bishop revealed that none of the 400 extremists under government surveillance are right-wing, anti-Islam campaigners. “

This is like the period during the early 1970s when the Liberal government was declaring there were “no Ustasha in Australia” while there was an Ustasha bombing campaign going on. The moderate left were being investigated while military training by fascists was ignored. Justice Hope’s 1978 report on ASIO, released in 2008 under the thirty year rule is worth reading:

“Hope’s inquiry was partly prompted by ASIO’s relationship with the Croatian fascist group, the Ustasha. In the late sixties and early seventies, the Ustasha conducted the most serious terrorist campaign in Australian history, with bombings in Sydney in 1967, 1969 and 1972, Canberra in 1969, Melbourne in 1970 and 1972. Ustasha activities were discussed openly in the Croatian press but ASIO, while monitoring even the most mild-mannered activists of the Left, took no action whatsoever against these full-fledged terrorists.”  {Crikey May 28, 2008]