Australia orders extremism probe amid push to tackle far-right

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia yesterday ordered an inquiry into combating violent extremism, after a concerted push for the government to ensure it is equipped to face a growing threat from the far-right.

The country’s powerful Parliamentary intelligence and security committee announced it will examine the spread of radical movements and the threat they pose to Australians.

Conservative Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton prevented the probe from focussing solely on emerging far-right terror, ordering it to instead broaden its focus to include extremist groups.

The announcement came a day after a New Zealand inquiry into the massacre of 51 Muslims in Christchurch by an Australian white supremacist gunman called for sweeping changes to counter-terrorism operations.

Spy agencies had placed an “inappropriate” focus on extremism before the attack without giving due weight to the threat from right-wing terrorism, the report found.

Australia’s opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally, who pushed for the inquiry, said Canberra already had “a full suite of counter-terrorism tools” in place to meet the threat from extremism.

But a review was needed “to determine if they are fit for purpose amid the threat of extremism”, she said.