The Australia First Party (AF), a White nationalist/neo-fascist party, has been mentioned a few times in the media recently, chiefly on account of its organisation of a rally in Brisbane on May 2 in solidarity with the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn (GD). Since then, the Melbourne-based Online Hate Prevention Institute has published an analysis of Social Media, Golden Dawn and Australia’s Far-Right (May 7) and a Golden Dawn Australia Update (May 10), outlining OHPI’s campaign to pressure Facebook to apply their TOS to the ‘hate speech’ GD engages in on the site.
As it happens, the rally turned out to be a flop, with the handful of nazis who did rock up eventually being forced to flee in taxis(!) by the presence of a large number of counter-protesters. Indeed, the fact that between them AF and GD were only able to assemble 14 Übermensch to take to the streets (and taxis) of Brisbane suggests that the party has some way to travel before it commands anything remotely resembling popular support: the barracking from the sidelines of a team of keyboard warriors on Stormfront simply ain’t cutting it. (Note that AF party leader Dr James Saleam touts for business on the site using the handle ‘radnat’.)
That said, while Golden Dawn in Australia may have been exposed as being deeply unpopular, in Greece the party is poised to win seats at a local council level and in the European parliament at elections later this month. The neo-Nazi party’s sudden rise in electoral support — from 0.3% of the vote in parliamentary elections in 2009 to 7% (and 18 MPs) in 2012 — has given heart to similar parties across the globe. AF issued its own statement of solidarity with GD in February 2013, noting that AF shared much in common with GD in terms of ideology and politics. On the other hand, the level of support GD has obtained in a crisis-wracked Greece remains a dream for AF. In which context, it’s also worth noting that the only two AF candidates to have won office — Bruce Preece was elected to local council in Adelaide in 2006 and Maurice Girotto in Sydney in 2012 — both quit AF soon after having won.
The rapid departure of Preece and Girotto suggests a certain political instability in the party. Beyond this, if proposed changes to party registration go ahead — an interim report of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters “calls for parties to have 1500 members before they can register with the AEC” — then micro-parties such as AF will face an uphill battle to even remain registered, let alone expand their existing support base. For AF, this support base currently consists of a small number of middle-aged racists drawn largely from the ranks of AAFI, NA, ONP and the like, supplemented by a few older nazis and a few younger, White faces. (On AF’s farcical attempts to build a yoof wing — variously titled the Patriotik Yoof League and, more recently, the Eureka Youth League, see Protect Australia First. Parties., March 24, 2009.)
Established in 1996 by former Labor politician Graeme Campbell as a White nationalist party, in the mid- to late-2000s AF fell under the control of Dr James Saleam, a Sydney-based fascist. In 2007, the struggle for control of the party produced a rump AF (since collapsed) and the Australian Protectionist Party (APP), oriented around the traditional concerns of the radical right supplemented by a determinedly anti-Muslim sentiment. The APP produced a further split in 2012 to create the Party for Freedom, modelled on Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ Party of Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid or PVV). None have had any real success to date.
Saleam has a long history on the far right, from joining the Australian Nazi Party (National Socialist Party of Australia) in his yoof, through to establishing a series of fascist grouplets while at the Univerity of Sydney and currently as President of AF. Notably, Saleam was responsible for the establishment of the (now defunct) neo-Nazi organisation National Action in 1982 (see : Troy Whitford, ‘A political history of National Action: Its fears, ideas, tactics and conflicts’, Rural Society, Vol.20, No.2, April 2011). His leadership of that group was suspended when in 1991 he was sent to jail for organising a shotgun assault upon the home of African National Congress representative Eddie Funde in 1989. This crime is one of several, including fraud, for which Saleam has been found guilty. (On Saleam’s history, see : Dr James Saleam & ‘The Audacity of Hate’, September 26, 2009.)
Aside from his neo-Nazi past and violent criminal record, for his critics on the radical right, Saleam’s ancestry — his ‘racial’ lineage — has long been a point of contention. Saleam claims to be of Greek descent; others maintain that he’s of Lebanese stock. Such criticism is generally muted, however, on account of Saleam’s obvious dedication to removing from Australia non-Whites — even if, ironically, a successful mission would entail his own deportation. This is not a new theme, as the following tale from David Greason’s book I was a teenage fascist (McPhee Gribble, 1994) reveals:
Sydney was great for colourful nationalist identities. I also met Nick ‘White Australia’ Maina (he changed his name by deed poll for the 1974 senate election), an associate of Robert Clark’s in the anti-Grassby campaign of 1974. Maina, of Greek parentage, objected strongly to Italian and Greek immigrants, considering them a potential security risk if war ever broke out. He wanted them deported, just in case. Like many on our side, he liked to consider all possibilities. ‘But Nick’, I said patiently, ‘you’re a wog. On that logic, you’d have to deport yourself’. His voice cracked with patriotic fervour. ‘If I had to, I would’, he said. ‘I love this bloody country so much’.”
Heh. Of course, that was then and this is now — and Greek-Australians have been (begrudgingly) accepted into the White nationalist fold.
One of Saleam’s most loyal followers is Ross ‘The Skull’ May. According to Greason: “The Skull (he shaved his head) was virtually blind and was the closest thing to the Grand Old Man of Australian Nazism — his life story, as recounted in Harcourt’s book [Everyone Wants to be Fuehrer, Angus and Robertson, 1972], was a litany of brawls, unprovoked attacks on moratorium marchers, and regular trips to the lock-up” (p.103). May’s brawling days are now presumably well behind him but he retains his place at Saleam’s side.
While neither Saleam nor May joined AF in Brisbane, other fascist stalwarts like Jim Perren, formerly a member of the ‘White Pride Coalition of Australia’ (WPCA — now defunct) did. In 2009, both May and Perren attended AF’s annual gathering of fascists known as the Sydney Forum. The Forum was last held in 2011. Its MC, Welf Herfurth, announced his retirement at that stage, and is now concentrating on promoting the New Right and ‘national anarchist’ groupuscules in Sydney by way of various publicity stunts.
They’re a weird mob.
Above : The one person counter demonstration by Ross May (aka The Skull) dressed in his Nazi uniform, holding a placard which says “The National Socialist Party says Stop the Queers. Keep Australia Clean.” (Sydney, September 1973)