51 The ag­gro has to stop

Sunday Herald Sun - - Opinion -

THERE is no doubt that for the fore­see­able fu­ture a ma­jor fo­cus for Vic­to­ria Po­lice will be, and must be, pre­vent­ing and re­spond­ing to ter­ror­ist at­tacks. But to that ter­ror­ism threat to our safety must now, sadly, be added the risk of do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal ex­trem­ism re­sult­ing in vi­o­lence.

As the Sun­day Her­ald Sun is re­veal­ing to­day, the state’s top counter-ter­ror­ism cop, As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Ross Guen­ther, is con­cerned about a rise in po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated vi­o­lence in Vic­to­ria.

“Whilst over the last five years 80 to 90 per cent of our threat would be Is­lamist in terms of the risk to the Vic­to­rian com­mu­nity, we need to be re­ally mind­ful of po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated vi­o­lence go­ing for­ward,” Mr Guen­ther said.

As Vic­to­ri­ans would well know, Mel­bourne has al­ready seen ugly pitched bat­tles be­tween far Right groups and those from the far Left.

Sim­i­lar phys­i­cal fights be­tween groups with op­pos­ing views have erupted in Europe and the United King­dom.

And in France in the past week we have seen the worst ri­ot­ing in decades over a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion to in­crease fuel taxes. Those ri­ots re­sulted in deaths, se­ri­ous in­juries and hun­dreds of ar­rests.

In the UK we saw the po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated mur­der of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016.

Her killer said “Bri­tain first” and “keep Bri­tain in­de­pen­dent” as he re­peat­edly shot and stabbed his de­fence­less vic­tim.

The mo­ti­va­tion for the cowardly at­tack by a far Right ex­trem­ist, Thomas Mair, was Ms Cox’s vo­cal cam­paign for the UK to re­main in the Euro­pean Union.

Mr Guen­ther said: “Events such as the mur­der of Jo Cox, and sim­i­lar acts of vi­o­lence con­ducted over­seas, serve to re­in­force Vic­to­ria Po­lice’s view that vi­o­lence can be per­pe­trated by in­di­vid­u­als and groups across the ide­o­log­i­cal, po­lit­i­cal and re­li­gious spec­trum.”

He said there had been a change in dy­namic be­tween ex­treme el­e­ments of the po­lit­i­cal Left and Right in Vic­to­ria dur­ing the past five years, with the Right be­ing in­vig­o­rated and re-en­er­gised by a range of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ments, in­clud­ing the global rise in the sup­port for pop­ulist par­ties.

“Which in turn has led to a sit­u­a­tion in which their ide­o­log­i­cal op­po­nents, par­tic­u­larly the po­lit­i­cal Left, have be­come in­creas­ingly ac­tive and, in some in­stances, vi­o­lent, in their ef­forts to counter the in­flu­ence and mes­sag­ing of their op­po­nents,” Mr Guen­ther said.

Vic­to­ri­ans have seen this play out at pitched bat­tles dur­ing po­lit­i­cal demon­stra­tions around Aus­tralia Day and at speak­ing en­gage­ments by provoca­tive far Left and far Right ac­tivists, some of them from over­seas.

Such vi­o­lence has no place in Vic­to­ria.

And it sig­nals that in our com­mu­nity there are ex­trem­ists who want to con­vince society of the mer­its of their views by acts of vi­o­lence.

That is not Vic­to­ria, that is not Aus­tralia and it must end.

For that to hap­pen, there needs to be a rad­i­cal change in the at­ti­tude of these ex­trem­ists at both ends of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

The Sun­day Her­ald Sun ap­plauds Mr Guen­ther for rais­ing this is­sue of the dis­turb­ing rise in vi­o­lence re­lated to po­lit­i­cal ex­trem­ism. But the prob­lem is wider than that. There are in­creas­ing and wor­ry­ing signs of a lack of tol­er­ance and de­cency in our society.

Vic­to­ri­ans have taken great pride — and con­tinue to do so — in our mul­ti­cul­tural and tol­er­ant com­mu­nity. But there can be no doubt that over the past few years we have seen a growth in a lack of re­spect and de­cency, much of it spawned by so­cial me­dia.

More and more peo­ple think it is per­mis­si­ble to yell at each other in a bat­tle to see who can be the loud­est and most ag­gres­sive in or­der to win an ar­gu­ment.

This is not how a civilised society acts. We need to stop it by a re­turn to re­spect­ing au­thor­ity, valu­ing tol­er­ance and by sim­ply lis­ten­ing — and by not feel­ing com­pelled to try to con­vince oth­ers we are right and they are wrong.

We need to stop feel­ing that if some­body holds a dif­fer­ent view to us, that it is an at­tack on our­selves and our be­liefs.

Take a breath, re­lax and start ad­her­ing to the view that ev­ery­one in Aus­tralia de­serves a fair go.

Their views also de­serve to be lis­tened to and if you don’t agree with their views that’s fine — each to their own. We have got to stop this cul­ture of at­tack, at­tack, at­tack, shout, shout, shout — we are a bet­ter society than that.

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