Edition 21, Week 8, Semester 2
14 – 20 September 2009
Diana Tjoeng investigates the new political party rising from the far-right.
Recently, the neo-Nazi symbol ‘88’ (representative of ‘HH’ – ‘Heil Hitler’) was painted on the home of the NSW Treasurer, Eric Roozendaal. The graffiti attack occurred one month after Mr. Roozendaal blocked any preference flow from the Labor Party to the far-right, anti-immigration Australia First Party, prompting the group to come under scrutiny.
“This was clearly a premeditated attack,” said Mr. Roozendaal, whose parents are Holocaust survivors. “If they were sending me a message, I am sending a message right back to them – I will not be intimidated and will continue to speak out against racists and those who promote hate in our community,” he asserted.
Formed in 1996, the Australia First Party gained notoriety around the time of the Cronulla riots through the pamphleteering activities of its now defunct youth arm, the Patriotic Youth League. Australia First is currently in the process of registering as a federal political party, having crossed the required membership threshold earlier this year. They plan to launch a new youth organisation in 2010.
The party’s founder, Graeme Campbell, was the Federal Member for Kalgoorlie from 1980 until he was expelled from the Labor Party in 1995. He became the endorsed One Nation candidate in 2001 but was not elected. Evidently, there is membership crossover between the two parties, but Jim Saleam, the NSW Chairperson of Australia First, claims that the groups differ immensely in policy.
“One Nation are essentially assimilationists; we are not assimilationists. There are, in our view, people who Australia cannot assimilate at all,” says Dr. Saleam. “That is a fundamentally different position … although it is true that many former members of One Nation have found their way to Australia First,” he says.
“One Nation was fundamentally a conservative force with a pseudo-popular base that came out of the sections of the Liberal and the National Party. Our movement, as it develops, may be more of a working people’s movement and it may also be one that is more ‘radical’ in terms of its economic and political demands.”
Dr. Saleam has had a long-standing dispute with Mr. Roozendaal, stemming from their days together at Macquarie University. After Saleam founded the white nationalist group, National Action, in 1982, the pair had a number of public clashes. In 1984, as president of the student union, Mr. Roozendaal had National Action banned from campus.
“I was disgusted by their attempts to intimidate international students and other minorities on the campus,” Mr. Roozendaal says.
Recalling the incident that led to the group’s final dismissal from Macquarie University, Dr. Saleam says, “Some of my associates temporarily occupied his [Mr Roozendaal’s] office one day. A file of papers was tipped over, and when it was on the television news that night, the office had been systematically ransacked and maliciously damaged. I’m not saying that Mr. Roozendaal did that, but I’m saying that someone in Mr. Roozendaal’s office did that … we deny doing that.”
Dr. Saleam also denies any involvement in the recent graffiti attack on Mr. Roozendaal’s home, though believes the attack was linked to the treasurer’s comments about Australia First. According to Saleam, the suspects include groups identifying themselves as neo-Nazis or clansmen and pivot around figures such as David Palmer, the ‘dirty tricks’ sections of major political parties, and anti-racism groups such as FightDemBack.
FightDemBack is a volunteer-based, activist organisation that disseminates information about far-right groups and reacts against racist activities. It started in 2004 with the effort to remove the Patriotic Youth League’s anti-immigration stickers in the suburbs of Sydney. FightDemBack has also provided support to people who have sought to leave extreme right-wing groups.
“These people specialise in organised defamation, spreading false material … stalking of young people who describe themselves as nationalists and so on,” says Dr. Saleam. “For a very long time, these people have been involved in a campaign to suggest that, in fact, I am a neo-Nazi.”
Cam Smith, from FightDemBack, rejects Dr Saleam’s accusations, saying, “FightDemBack didn’t have any involvement in the incident, and we don’t know who did. We think the most likely suspects are people involved in Australia First, taking action without Saleam’s knowledge in response to Roozendal’s statements regarding Australia First … At any rate, we don’t need to graffiti outside somebody’s house to suggest that Saleam is a neo-Nazi – the fact that he is a neo-Nazi is easily demonstrated in far simpler ways.”
Dr. Saleam’s lengthy career in right-wing politics has indeed been contentious. In the early 1970s, he was a member of the National Socialist Party of Australia and was photographed wearing a swastika armband at a demonstration in 1975. He has served two gaol terms – in 1984 he was convicted of property offences and insurance fraud, and in 1989 he was convicted for his role in a shotgun attack on the home of anti-Apartheid activist Eddie Funde. In 2001, Dr. Saleam gained a PhD from The University of Sydney for his thesis on the history of Australian right-wing politics.
On the day of the infamous Cronulla race riots of December , Saleam wrote in the Nationalist News, “It was heartening and a sign of things to come … If there was any proof needed that ultimately there were Australians ready to stand up and be counted it was duly provided.”
As Australia First gears up to contest the next federal election, Saleam confirms that the party will become more of an activist organisation that is not concerned with appearing mainstream. He believes that “there are sections of the Australian community right now who are prepared to step outside of normal rules and normal methods and stand up for their industries”.
Mr. Roozendaal has reiterated his calls to the NSW Liberal Party leader, Barry O’Farrell, to match Labor’s commitment to refuse to give preferences to far-right parties like Australia First and One Nation.
“Who can forget the stench of One Nation?” says Mr. Roozendaal. “And make no mistake, there was only one way that One Nation got elected and it was on the back of Liberal and National Party preferences.”
 Australia First formally announced that it had gained 525 members, and was therefore in a position to register with the AEC as a political party, on July 9, 2009. As of this date (September 16, 2009), it has yet to formally notify the AEC of its intention to register.
 Following his expulsion from the ALP, Campbell contested the seat of Kalgoorlie at the October 1998 Federal election as a member of Australia First: he came third, gaining 15,585 votes (22.79%). The seat was won by Liberal Party member Barry Haase (who remains the sitting member). In November 2001, Campbell stood for a seat in the Senate, on this occasion as a member of One Nation and as No.1 on their ticket. ONP gained a total of 77,757 votes (7.03%), but no seats. ‘One Nation Western Australia’ was deregistered on June 17, 2009.
 Among these are Terry Cooksley and Tony Pettitt; other ‘prominent’ members of AF have backgrounds in ‘Australians Against Further Immigration’, the ‘Confederate Action Party’, ‘National Action’, and allied groups.
 David Palmer — nicknamed ‘The Space Wizard’ — is a long-time rival of Saleam’s on the far right. He was profiled by Zoo magazine in August 2007, along with John Drew, the then-leader of the Patriotic Youth League, and David Innes, then a prominent member of Stormfront Down Under. Drew was expelled from AF — and hence the PYL — in March 2009, while Innes retired from public life in July 2007; Palmer’s pointyhead cropped up again in July 2009, just as Saleam announced that AF was to register.
 While forming earlier, FDB! formally announced its existence on April 25, 2005, as a Trans-Tasman alliance of anti-racist and anti-fascist activists from Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand.
 By the same token, Saleam has claimed that the police shooting of 16-year-old Tyler Cassidy in Northcote (Melbourne) in December 2008 was the result of a conspiracy between FDB! and the secret police; in October 2008, Saleam had himself photographed reading from a childhood book belonging to FDB! member Asher Goldman (a book obtained from a garage sale at Asher’s father’s house in Wellington); he is a member of the world’s premiere White supremacist — and virulently anti-Semitic — website ‘Stormfront’ (and has been since October 2005); he still maintains that the secret police framed him for his involvement in the shotgun assault upon the home of ANC representative Eddie Funde.