Don’t forget the right-wing extremists in government

Police arrest an Extinction Rebellion 'terrorist' in Sydney last October. Photo: Peter Boyle

After Australian Security Intelligence Organisation chief Michael Burgess warned that right-wing extremists are a real and growing terrorist threat in Australia, Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton vowed that he would step up his efforts against “right-wing lunatics or left-wing lunatics”.

When a Guardian journalist asked who these left-wing terrorist groups are, a Dutton staffer mentioned the climate emergency group Extinction Rebellion. Extinction Rebellion is committed to non-violent direct action and disavows violence.

Dutton’s office later denied that any staffer had made such a suggestion.

But facts are not Dutton’s strong point, as a recent proves.

In a February 5 interview, ABC TV presenter Patricia Karvelas, asked Dutton: “Did the bushfires start in some regions because of climate change?”

“No, it didn’t,” he said. “It started because somebody lit a match. I mean there are 250 people as I understand it, or more, that have been charged with arson. That’s not climate change.”

Dutton’s response was straight out of the climate change denialists’ talking points on the recent and unprecedented bushfire emergency.

The RMIT ABC Fact Check found that Dutton’s 250 charged arsonists had absolutely no basis in fact.

“An examination of the public record and statements by law enforcement agencies does not support Mr Dutton’s claim that 250 people have been charged with arson during the current bushfire season.

“And as experts have noted, attempting to ‘criminalise’ the crisis misses a bigger point.

“Regardless of how bushfires are started, hotter, drier conditions are exacerbating their impact.”

Dutton is a reminder that right-wing extremists are not just in small cells meeting in suburbs “to salute Nazi flags, inspect weapons, train in combat and share their hateful ideology,” as the ASIO chief put it in his latest threat assessment. They are in government and are running some of the biggest corporations.

Dutton is notorious for his racism and misogyny. He’s notorious for his sick 2015 joke about rising sea levels in the Pacific Islands (where he was accidentally recorded saying “Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door” while waiting for a meeting to start in Papua New Guinea).

When he was immigration minister, Dutton criminalised refugees, branding them illiterate and out to steal Australian jobs.

Conservative governments have always used far-right commentators and ideologists to confuse, divide and demoralise resistance to their policies to make the corporate rich even richer and even more powerful.

Once upon a time, conservative governments would pose as being more moderate than these right-wing outliers. But, in recent times, government ministers spout the same right-wing extremist message as the SkyNews-after-dark right-wing nut jobs.

Because these people are all working for the same powerful corporate interests and — behind closed doors at least — they share the same reactionary and bigoted values, it should be easier to not get confused.

You can help combat the extremists inside and outside of parliament by of Green Left, the progressive outlet devoted to building struggles against right-wing lunatics.