A push for a parliamentary inquiry into the influence of the far-right in Victoria has been supported by Premier Daniel Andrews.
Greens Leader Samantha Ratnam wants the Legal and Social Issues Committee to investigate far-right extremists and their links to anti-vaccination groups.
She said the pandemic has created a “perfect breeding ground for recruitment” for far-right groups.
“Many people who have lost work, who are pushed to the margins by an unequal economic system, and who are genuinely scared and frustrated about how we will emerge out of a moment of crisis, are being preyed upon by the far-right for their own ends,” Ms Ratnam said.
She pointed to recent protests against lockdowns and vaccination mandates, which started as an expression of frustration against the government but attracted right-wing agitators and in some cases, turned violent.
Earlier this month, protesters against the state government’s pandemic legislation were seen carrying nooses and throwing an effigy of Premier Daniel Andrews on a wooden gallows.
Ms Ratnam has also received death threats due to her support of the bill.
“As a parliament, we have a responsibility to make sure all Victorians feel safe and supported, and to do what we can to tackle any dangerous agenda that threatens our social cohesion,” she said.
“History has shown us what will happen if we don’t act.”
Mr Andrews said Labor MPs in the upper house will support Ms Ratnam’s motion, which was meant to be debated on Wednesday but will instead be considered next year when parliament returns.
“(Far-right extremism) is not just a matter of concern for people who work in this building, it has been a matter of concern for Victoria Police for quite some time,” he told reporters outside parliament on Wednesday.
“The counterterrorism briefings that I get routinely and regularly from Victoria Police say that element in our community … is a very significant threat.”
Mr Andrews described the behaviour of protesters outside parliament as “ugly”.
“It’s not just about those who are in public life or public figures. This has the potential to impinge on the safety and security of all of us.”
A federal parliamentary inquiry is already investigating the rising threat of right-wing extremism and last week Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews listed a neo-Nazi group dubbed the Base as a terrorist organisation.
If Ms Ratnam’s motion is passed, the committee will investigate the far-right’s methods of recruitment and communication, the risk their actions pose, particularly to Victoria’s multicultural communities, and the potential for targeted violence against politicians and public figures.
It will also explore what steps need to be taken to counter their influence.
The committee would need to report back to parliament by May 31.