The federal government is facing accusations it has failed to do enough to curb right-wing extremism, after a man with a swastika painted on his forehead allegedly attacked an Aboriginal woman with a makeshift flamethrower.
- Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton described the incident as “disturbing”
- Labor and Greens MPs have urged the government to do more on right-wing extremism
- Australia’s spy agency ASIO says up to 40 per cent of counterterrorism efforts are focused on right-wing groups
Western Australian police alleged a man approached the woman while she was with her teenage daughter on the way to the shops in a Perth suburb on Saturday evening.
They allege he yelled racial obscenities at the woman before trying to burn her by using a can of deodorant and a lighter as a makeshift flamethrower.
“The racially motivated attack on a First Nations woman is another instance of a disconcerting trend in right-wing extremism and white supremacy in Australia,” said Linda Burney, federal Labor’s spokeswoman for Indigenous Australians.
“We cannot brush this aside or be complacent.”
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has dubbed the reports of the incident as “disturbing”, but his comments have failed to appease the Opposition’s concerns.
“The actions of this individual as reported are disgraceful and have no place in our society,” he said on Facebook, while sharing a post from the WA Police Force.
Federal Greens’ First Nations spokeswoman Lidia Thorpe said in a statement that politicians of all parties needed to send a clear message that racism is unacceptable.
Police said the woman was treated for minor injuries.
The local federal MP, Labor’s Matt Keogh, told Parliament on Wednesday that he was revolted by the incident.
“It’s not OK for this cowardly, atrocious and unprovoked attack to occur in my community, it’s not okay that it happened in this country, it’s not OK that it happened at all,” he said.
“ASIO says far-right terrorism is an enduring threat that is real and growing, but like many things this Government is just burying its head in the sand.”
Labor wants the federal government to establish a national anti-racism strategy that adopts a zero-tolerance approach to racism.
The ABC emailed Attorney-General Christian Porter’s office with two questions regarding the comments made by Labor and the Greens.
His office told the ABC to contact four separate Ministers for responses, including the Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General, who has oversight of the Human Rights Commission.
Australia’s domestic spy agency, ASIO, last year revealed a dramatic rise in the number of violent right-wing extremists under surveillance, while warning some groups were now employing Islamic State-style radicalisation tactics.
ASIO deputy director-general Heather Cook told a Senate committee in September that up to 40 per cent of the agency’s counterterrorism efforts were now focussed on thwarting violent plots by right-wing groups or individuals.