Phillip Michael Galea is the first member of the far right to be arrested under federal anti-terror laws. Galea’s home was raided last year, and police discovered a bomb-making manual, tasers and mercury. Since then, police have been monitoring his phone conversations and claim to have gathered enough evidence to charge him with “collecting or making documents likely to facilitate a terrorist act; and planning or preparing for a terrorist act”.
Galea is a supporter of various far right organisations. Until relatively recently, he was the Facebook page administrator of Reclaim Australia and openly consorted with both the United Patriots Front (UPF) and the fascist street gang the True Blue Crew (TBC).
The organiser of the TBC, Kane Miller, told Channel 7: “Anyone who thinks terrorism or harming innocent people … is a way of fixing things is an absolute idiot”. But the TBC and the UPF regularly use violence and intimidation to build their movements. Miller himself was filmed at a protest in Coburg yelling: “What do we do in the TBC? We smash cunts, ya fucking dogs!”
Blair Cottrell, leader of the UPF, called for “force and terror” to be used against anti-racist and Muslim demonstrators earlier this year. Both groups have sent vicious hate-filled messages to anti-racist activists and journalists.
Shannon Molloy, national TV writer for News Corp Australia, revealed that after he wrote a piece criticising Sonja Kruger’s Islamophobia, he was inundated with violent messages. “I wouldn’t walk alone if I was you. You have made a lot of enemies”, one said. “I hope the Islamists affect you personally, rape one of your loved ones or perhaps behead one”, said another.
In my own history of campaigning against Islamophobia, I receive similarly abusive messages. “Hope someone cuts your throat you fucking rag......and soon”, wrote one. Another read: “Fukn die you dirty slut you are a traitor I hope you get what’s coming for you people like you deserve a terrible slow death you worthless piece of shit get out of this country you insergen [sic] you are the terrorist you filthy dog”.
Such attempts at intimidation don’t come from nowhere. They are simply personalising and claiming in their own way a bit of the brutality enacted daily against Muslims across the world. After all, if it is fine for the West to carpet bomb Afghanistan or Iraq, what’s the problem with a little bit of interpersonal bloodletting over the internet?
Far right organisations trade on hate, intimidation and violence. So it is no wonder that they are magnets for figures like Galea. While some have attempted to distance themselves from him, a number of figures on Australia’s far right have filmed themselves offering support.
Neil Erikson, one time Führer’s assistant in the UPF, made a Facebook video in which he argued that Galea “is a pawn in the government’s anti-white, anti-patriot campaign”. This is a line Galea is running himself: “I will be fighting these charges and I believe they are a conspiracy against the patriot movement”.
Such claims are laughable. If there were such a conspiracy, then surely north Queensland Coalition MP George Christensen would have been sacked by the government after speaking at a Reclaim Australia rally in Mackay in July last year.
If there were a conspiracy by the Victorian police to crush the various far right outfits, then surely they would have disciplined the cop photographed high-fiving a Reclaim Australia activist at last year’s rally in Melbourne. If there were a conspiracy against “whiteness”, then why would Pauline Hanson and her three other One Nation senators be allowed to take their seats in the coming Senate?
Not only is there no conspiracy against racist nationalism; the far right, with rabid, flag-waving Islamophobia, is walking a path already paved by the mainstream. Its members are expressing more extreme versions of already widely publicised attitudes about Muslims, refugees and migrants.
If there is a conspiracy lurking anywhere in the Australian injustice system, it is against Muslims and people of colour. Of the organisations proscribed as illegal by anti-terror laws, 19 of the 20 are Muslim. Ninety-nine percent of all those charged under the anti-terror act have been Muslim. What’s more, not one of these people has been charged with actually committing a terrorist offence.
All offences are those of association, of planning or planning to plan. And yet, whenever a Muslim is arrested under the anti-terror laws, the establishment and media go into overdrive. Front pages are filled with sensational stories of radicalised dangerous Muslims threatening the lives of millions of Australians. Over the last year, the Herald Sun has run front pages such as “ABC of Jihad”, “Terror Vision”, “Mother’s Day Bomb Plot” and “Jihad Revenge Fears”. These headlines were accompanied by lurid stories of impending Islamist-inspired doom, and often call on the authorities to tighten laws.
By contrast, the Galea story was buried in most major Australian dailies.
When a Muslim is arrested under the anti-terror laws, the government invariably raises the terror threat levels. Indeed, the Australian National Security website argues that the terror threat (which is currently sitting at “probable”) comes from “a small number of people in Australia who adhere to an interpretation of Islam that is selective, violent and extreme”.
Not once does the site mention the far right or organisations like the TBC. After Galea’s arrest, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said that there were no changes to the state’s terror threat level.
The hypocrisy is breathtaking. For far less than what was discovered in Galea’s shed, young Muslim men have been interred in maximum security prisons, shackled and chained. From 2005 to 2008, 13 young men were held in Victoria’s Barwon prison, often in solitary confinement while awaiting trial. They were imprisoned for three years without being convicted of a single thing.
More proof that actual “evidence” is irrelevant when it comes to targeting Muslims came in 2014. Sydney newspapers were treated to hysterical wall to wall coverage of an imminent plot by a local Muslim man to behead randomly someone on a street.
A phalanx of journalists accompanied hundreds of police when they raided alleged ISIS fanatic Mustafa Dirani’s home. As it transpired, Dirani belonged to a Muslim sect currently persecuted by ISIS, and the sword purportedly set aside to behead a stranger in the name of ISIS was plastic. But why let facts get in the way of a hysterical witch-hunt?
Earlier this year, 200 of Victoria’s police were deployed to the house of 19-year-old Sevdet Ramadan Besim. Intensive social media security surveillance had recorded conversations between Besim and a 15-year-old British boy, during which Besim allegedly said that he wanted to put a bomb inside a kangaroo and let the animal loose around police.
For such fantastical conversation (along with conducting an internet search for Anzac Day and putting a memo reminder of the day on his phone), Besim was charged. To add insult to injury, the government has flagged the idea that anyone convicted of terror-related crimes should be able to be held indefinitely.
So a 19-year-old Muslim kid could go to jail for the rest of his life for talking shit to a mate on the other side of the world about hating cops. There is no conspiracy here against white people. All we see is a massive, state-sponsored, establishment-driven war against Muslims.
Arresting and charging one figure on the far right does not validate the anti-terror laws. These laws were not created in order to deal with “extremists on all sides”. They were shaped so as to extend the reach of the state, to normalise draconian interventions into every nook and cranny of society: and they have used Islamophobia to do it.
The extension and use of the terror laws must be opposed. Galea is a nasty, dangerous piece of work, no doubt about it. We must fight the likes of him and his compatriots in the far right, as well as those sneaking their way into the mainstream (like Hanson) through public campaigning.
But we can’t look to the same state that wages war in the Middle East, that locks up innocent Muslim kids and curbs our civil liberties, as our saviour.