51 The aggro has to stop
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.