PETER KHALIL MP
MEMBER FOR WILLS
ABC RADIO NATIONAL
SATURDAY 21 MARCH 2023
Subjects: Anti-trans rally, Neo-Nazis
PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: In the aftermath of the confronting protest outside Victoria’s parliament, the state government is moving to ban the Nazi salute. On Saturday, a group of about 30 men from the Nationalist Socialist network marched along Spring Street in Melbourne, disrupting counter rallies held by anti-transgender activists and pro-transgender rights activists, but experts are divided over whether a ban on the Nazi salute will have an impact on far-right extremism. Labor MP Peter Khalil is the chair of the Federal Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. He joins us now, Peter, welcome.
PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Good morning, Patricia.
KARVELAS: This isn’t the first time Neo-Nazis have publicly saluted in Victoria. Are we seeing a rise in far-right extremism?
KHALIL: The answer unfortunately is yes. All the security and intelligence agencies have indicated that one of the increases in threats and their assessment is that far-right extremism, Neo-Nazis and other groups, white supremacist groups, are one of the groups that are on the rise as far as they’re a threat to our social cohesion, our society, and this is really, really disturbing, Patricia, for a whole host of reasons, obviously. As we all know Nazism and that fascist kind of ideology is built on hatred, on ignorance, on violence, on discrimination, against not just trans people, but gay people, right throughout all identities, ethnic identities, Muslims and Jews. This is an ideology that has been responsible for the deaths of 6 million Jews, millions of others based on their identity during World War Two and this salute itself is a kind of symbol of that hatred that there’s been a continuum of this since World War Two. No one can be under any illusions about what that means. So, I think the Premier of Victoria is spot on by saying there is no place for Nazis in our state, in our country and they’re taking some actions around that, but we shouldn’t think that banning the salute will be the only thing that is necessary to address this problem.
KARVELAS: What else will be necessary?
KHALIL: There are deeper and structural problems here. Often, the rise of the far-right occurs when there might be issues around inequality or socioeconomic issues, people are manipulated in the community. Let’s not forget what they are trying to do here. They are picking, in this case, it was targeting the trans community. They pick out minorities to attack, they try and sew division and hatred and fear of the other, that is their ideological playbook. We should be aware of that and the way that they try and manipulate and get oxygen in their actions and trying to manipulate the community, we need to address that.
Now the security intelligence agencies play a role in that, but more broadly, as a society, we have to address some of those underlying issues, and it starts with education, it starts with people at a younger age not being captured by or radicalized by these types of groups. There’s a lot of work being done by the federal government across not just the Security Intelligence agency, but I know across the entire government, because this is fundamental to our social cohesion as a nation.
We talk a lot Patricia about multiculturalism and the diversity of our nation as a strength and that’s all very, very true, but there are those who would seek to divide us based on our ethnicity, based on our identity, based on our sexual orientation and that is the contest that is going on now and unfortunately there has been a rise of these groups, particularly over the last 5-10 years.
KARVELAS: The Group of Neo-Nazis showed up at the rally, organised by UK gender activist Kellie Jay Keen and supporters in Australia, including a parliamentarian in Victoria. Do you believe there is a link between the two groups? Because the women that were demonstrating against transgender rights, those women say we’re not linked.
KHALIL: I’ve seen a lot of commentary and different accounts of the event. With any political demonstration or protest, it’s important to go back to the first principles, why are you there? And if you’re there for a vision for a fair and more just society, if you’re an activist in that respect, great. But if you’re there for the opposite, there’s a big question mark, and if you’re attempt at civil dialogue is attracting Neo-Nazis to your protest, then there really needs to be a reassessment of the approach.
Now I know John Pessuto, the Victorian Liberal leader, is taking a leadership position here and seeking to ban the MP that was involved in that rally and that’s something that he’s doing. I would hope that the federal Liberal leader Peter Dutton also shows the same level of leadership and condemns that type of behavior, condemns the Nazis. Remember, he’s a former defence minister, there were 40,000 Australians who died in World War Two fighting fascism and fighting the Nazis. People died to give us the country that we’re living in today effectively, that generation, which not many of them are left. So, I would hope that he comes down and condemns this unequivocally and supports his colleague in the Victorian Liberal Party.
KARVELAS: Thank you so much for joining us this morning.
KHALIL: Thanks, Patricia.