Right-wing extremism is on the rise in Australia with the potential for violence to be used, according to experts.
Professor Geoff Dean from Griffith University is the co-author of a recent study published in the Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism.
Prof Dean says there is evidence of a significant shift in Australia’s right-wing movement towards a more extreme far-right ideology and, in some instances, violence.
The study identified six core themes to the “new” right-wing groups; anti-immigrant, anti-establishment, protection of western values, commitment to democratic reforms, traditional values and a “strong state”.
It examined the online comments of four “new” groups (Reclaim Australia, United Patriots Front, Australian Liberty Alliance and Nationalist Alternative) as well as four “old” groups (Blood and Honour, Southern Cross Hammerskins, Women for Aryan Unity and Australian Sovereign Citizens).
Prof Dean told AAP there had clearly been a rise in right-wing extremism not only in Australia but globally.
“It’s spread through America and France, and Australia is not immune to that,” he said.
“And Pauline Hanson is riding on the back of that.”
Prof Dean said right-wing extremism represented three types of threat to western society; political, security and community.
“The political threat is about gaining political support and a broad base. Their populist politics resonate well, especially when globalisation has taken peoples’ jobs away.
“Remember it was the rust belt of America that put Trump in.”
He said the security threat was about inciting violence and it was the “old groups” or disaffected members of the radical right who were more likely to be involved.
“The security threat is minimal, but it’s there,” Prof Dean said, pointing to last year’s arrest of a Melbourne right-wing extremist for plotting a bomb attack.
The community threat is illustrated by Senator Hanson’s campaign for a ban on Muslim migrants.
“If they can create a backlash against all Muslims … all (right-wing political groups) have something to gain,” Prof Dean said.
“They want to create a community out of fear.”
He said right-wing groups were not a homogenous movement, but there were some basic steps governments could take to reduce their support base.
“Long-term solutions have to be at the political level – where people feel the government is helping them rather than just delivering political spin,” Prof Dean said.
Tackling the rising cost of living and unemployment, taking on the banks, providing a more nuanced picture of Muslims, and explaining globalisation were some of the steps which could be taken.