Members of Australia’s notorious white nationalist movement are preparing to thrust themselves into the heated debate around Australia Day, with moves to confront local councils that change the date.
Australia First Party leader Jim Saleam told The New Daily that white nationalists were seeking to capitalise on the controversy surrounding January 26, similar to how their American allies recently focused on the removal of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville.
“I certainly know that people have talked about getting involved in it and I regard that as completely correct, and I think they should,” said Saleam, a self-described Australian white nationalist.
Saleam, who has been jailed twice over fraud and gun offences, said radical right-wing figures would “very likely” make their voices known through “spot demonstrations,” rather than larger formal rallies that could encounter opposition from left-wing groups such as Antifa.
“You’re better off turning up while Stephen Jolly is pontificating on why Australia Day should be moved,” Saleam said, referring to the ex-Socialist Party councillor with City of Yarra, one of two Melbourne councils to have dumped Australia Day. “You’re better off turning up and wrecking his council meeting and leaving.”
While denying specific knowledge of any planned demonstrations, the far-right leader said that white nationalists were brainstorming about how to get involved in the Australia Day controversy.
“It could be something that could ignite a lot of things” said Saleam, who has described the 2005 Cronulla race riots as a “civil uprising” but insists he rejects violence.
The New Daily contacted the Australian Local Government Association and the Victorian Local Governance Association for comment but did not get a response prior to publication.
Chris Shortis, formerly a leading member of the far-right United Patriots Front, also said that radical nationalists were considering strategies to resist the growing movement among local governments to change Australia Day.
“There has been that discussion, I have discussed it – what should we do when it comes to these things,” said Shortis, who is facing court next month in Victoria over religious vilification charges related to a mock beheading.
“There is that discussion – and after the court date, that certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing to do,” he added.
Shortis, who calls it a “lie” that Australia’s colonisation constituted an invasion, said that demonstrations could be held at local councils themselves or outside the state parliament in Victoria.
Melbourne’s Yarra and Darebin councils cancelled their national day celebrations earlier this month out of respect for indigenous Australians, and an investigation by The New Daily found another seven councils considering the move.
Bucking the trend, Melbourne’s Banyule Council this week voted against any changes to Australia Day.
Many Indigenous people associate the arrival of the First Fleet with dispossession and refer to January 26 as ‘Invasion Day.’
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull immediately rebuked the councils by stripping them of their right to hold citizenship ceremonies, blasting their actions as “utterly out of step” with Australian values.
Adding fuel to the debate on Australia’s history, prominent indigenous journalist Stan Grant last week said the inscription on the statue of Captain Cook in Sydney’s Hyde Park (above left) should be changed because it perpetuated the “damaging myth” that he discovered Australia.
The statues were vandalised within days of Grant’s column being published by the ABC, where he is the indigenous affairs editor.
Turnbull shot down the suggestion in a radio interview, labeling it a “Stalinist exercise” and calling Australia “the greatest country in the world” with a history to be proud of.
Labor leader Bill Shorten, however, said this week he would support the addition of a plaque recognising Aboriginal history to the statue.
Meanwhile, police are investigating an act of vandalism last weekend in which the monument was defaced with slogans including “No Pride in Genocide.”