Conservative Senators Are Extremely Offended By The Idea Of “Right-Wing” Terrorism”

"This is the government’s priority. Not stopping far-right terrorism, but stop it being called 'right-wing.'"

ASIO, right-wing extremism

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A group of conservative senators have spent the afternoon debating semantics with the head of Australia’s spy organisation, taking issue with the fact that ASIO used the term “right-wing extremists” to refer to extremists who are right-wing.

In fact, they spent more time asking about whether ASIO could find a different name for this kind of extremism than what they were actually doing to fight it.

Today, ASIO head Mike Burgess popped into Senate Estimates to speak about national security following his speech last week. In the speech, he warned that right-wing extremists are becoming one of our biggest national security threats, alongside Islamic fundamentalism.

You may recall that speech, which led Peter Dutton to try and pretend that right-wing and left-wing extremists were equal threats. He even went so far as to call Islamic terrorists “left-wing”.

Today, Burgess assured senators that ASIO judges all threats based on the level of violence, and not by any political affiliation.

“Unfortunately Neo-Nazi like or similar groups have long been given the label of right-wing, not by ASIO, and therefore I don’t comment and don’t focus on that,” he said.

But straight off the bat Liberal Senator Jim Molan said he was confused by the use of the term “right-wing groups”.

“Is there some way that we could look at the use of terminology in relation to this and refer to them as far-right or far-left because I just feel like we are setting ourself up for serious failure in relation to this,” he said.

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts then took things one hundred steps further by arguing that using the term right-wing was “designed to confuse”, because … Hitler?

“To me, Hitler was raised as someone from the right when he was a socialist,” he said, bafflingly. “So in fact most of the dictators, most of the mass murderers of the last century were actually socialists or communists. So the left and right gets fuzzy. Perhaps a better terminology would be to do with control versus freedom and the people who are seeking to take away freedoms.”

Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells also said she was concerned about people using “right-wing” in this way.

“‘Right’ is associated with conservatism in this country and there are many people of conservative background who take exception with being charred [sic] with the brush,” she said.

“I think that you do understand that your comments, particularly when you refer to them solely as ‘right wing’, has the potential to offend a lot of Australians.”

Burgess maintained throughout questioning that all ASIO cared about was groups who promoted violence, and he did not mean to “offend any innocent people”.

But he did concede that perhaps ASIO should look at a different label.

“I agree it’s unhelpful to assign them to a part of the political spectrum,” he said. “It’s when they promote violence what they become a vested interest to ASIO.”