Australia’s domestic intelligence chief has said half of Australia’s domestic terrorism caseload is coming from far-right groups that promote acts of violence, with the Australian government listing far-right neo-Nazi group, Sonnenkrieg Division (SKD), as a terrorist organisation in March.
This comes after a joint investigation by The Age and 60 Minutes has revealed how the National Socialist Network, a neo-Nazi group, has infiltrated Australia, with people as young as 16 being radicalised by the group.
“That concerns us. They’re middle-class, well educated; they understand the ideology. They look like everyday Australians, and they’re not openly showing their true ideology and not openly showing their violent beliefs or their use of violence, which they believe is justified.”
In January 2021, members of the National Socialist Network were seen performing Nazi salutes and chanting related slogans in the Grampians. The group’s leader also posted images on social media of members posing in front of a burning cross, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Additionally, in March 2021, Thomas Sewell, a leader of the National Socialist Network, was charged with assault following an alleged attack on a guard at Channel Nine’s Melbourne Office just hours before the TV news network aired a story about the organisation.
Burgess said the threat posed by the group was concerning and urged greater public awareness about the organisation.
“It is a big deal if you truly understand their ideology and what they believe, and actually what they’re inspired by, of past events in history, and how they would like to see the world corrected … and what they’re prepared to do, or some of them are prepared to do to make that happen,” he said.
Neo-Nazi organisations adhere to a violent white-supremacist ideology inspired by the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (Nazi Party) that brought Adolf Hitler to power in Germany prior to World War II and was linked to the communist movements in the Soviet Union.
According to the Australian government, organisations like SKD, seek to encourage lone-actor terrorist attacks against its political, racial and ethnic enemies to bring about an apocalyptic ‘race war’ and create a global ‘white’ ethnostate.
According to The Age, a range of issues such as the COVID-19 lockdowns—which have been communicated through encrypted platforms—has “[supercharged] domestic and international white supremacist networking, rhetoric and recruiting.”
“People don’t like the lockdowns. They will protest against that, they can use that to fuel economic problems or bring hardship on people. It can make them susceptible to these ideologies, and people can be drawn in, and they know that, and they will use that to their advantage,” Burgess said.
The National Socialist Network intends for a “complete changing of the trajectory of Australia,” according to the organisation’s website. It seeks a revolution and “does not “care in what way this is achieved.”
The Age also reported that the group’s leader Tom Sewell compared white supremacist Brenton Tarrant to Nelson Mandela, telling members that Tarrant will stay in jail “until we win the revolution”—referencing a race war or societal collapse the group is aiming for.
Additionally, the group’s members have been instructed by its leaders to destroy evidence to thwart ASIO and counter-terrorism investigations, including their networking activities with bikie gang networks and members of other international neo-Nazi groups such as Combat 18.
When asked about the likelihood of terror attack, Burgess said ASIO’s assessment was that a lone wolf or small cell was most likely.
“It’s a reflection of the global trend,” Burgess said.
“We’ve dedicated more resources to this threat, and this is us working through the understanding and identifying these threats—so we can determine whether these are people with just extreme ideological views, or these are people with just extreme ideological views that are promoting acts of violence.”
“And it’s the acts of violence that we are focusing on.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs told The Epoch Times in an email, that ASIO has said multiple times that the threat of ideologically motivated violent extremism, including from nationalist and racists individuals and groups, is very real and growing in Australia.
“Ideologically motivated individuals and groups are more organised, sophisticated and security conscious than in the past,” the spokesperson said.” The threat from nationalists and racists has been in the government’s sights for many decades and our intelligence and law enforcement agencies continue to dedicate resources to this threat.”
The spokesperson also noted that this year the federal government had made a record $1.3bn investment in ASIO’s most sensitive capabilities which the spokesperson said would “help the agency detect and deter extremists.”
The comments from Burgess and the Home Affairs spokesperson come after the former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said in December 2020 that there was no difference between neo-Nazi or Islamic extremists and that any alleged implication that ASIO was lenient to right-wing groups was false.
“We are not going to take our foot off the throat of somebody who is an extremist, who is seeking to kill Australians or, you know, take somebody hostage or whatever it might be because of their ideology. I just don’t care what their ideology is.”
Victoria-Kelly Clark contributed to this report.