International Holocaust Remembrance Day

I thank the member for Berowra for moving this important motion, and I join him and other speakers in acknowledging the important of International Holocaust Remembrance Day and honouring the memory of all Holocaust victims and the survivors. 27 January was designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day by the UN because it was on this date in 1945 that Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by the Red Army. Located in German occupied Poland, Auschwitz was the largest Nazi concentration and death camp. I commend the ongoing efforts of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance to advance and promote Holocaust education and to ensure the history and the stories of its victims are passed on to successive generations. The alliance consists of 34 member countries, including Australia, which recognise that international political coordination is imperative to combating the growing scourge and threat of Holocaust denial.

Its work seems particularly important right now in the face of a concerning rise of far Right extremist sentiment in Australia and ongoing attempts by modern Nazis to deny the truth of the Holocaust. Late last year, ASIO told the parliament that far Right violent extremism constitutes up to 40 per cent of its counterterrorism case load. That is a threefold to fourfold increase on 2016. ASIO also warned that COVID-19 has created a greater opportunity for far Right extremists to recruit online, exploiting the pandemic to drive vicious antigovernment messages at those who resent lockdowns and measures such as orders to wear masks and socially distance. As we have seen from some of the protests at these measures, these people can organise quickly, and many are not the brutish skinheads that we have previously associated with such extremism but ordinary-looking Aussies, radicalised, angry and receptive to disinformation. ASIO's 2019-20 annual report noted that extreme right-wing groups in Australia remain an enduring threat.

Over the Australia Day long weekend, as previous speakers have mentioned—in particular the member for Macnamara—we learned of disturbing reports of a large group of self-described white supremacists camping in the Grampians National Park. They're proud of it. They're proud of being called white supremacists. Witnesses reported that the men could be heard chanting white power slogans when in town and that they were displaying signs that read 'Australia for the white man'. I can only imagine how it would have felt for Australians of Asian, Jewish or Muslim heritage to have been in the vicinity of such naked hatred in 21st-century Australia. The extremism is real, and it is a threat to both community safety and national security. It is not enough to remember the Holocaust and be horrified by it. We must learn from it. We must especially learn from the conditions that gave rise to it, in order to ensure that it never happens again.

Last year Labor proposed a parliamentary inquiry into far Right extremism in Australia. The government agreed to our proposal and referred an inquiry to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. A key focus of the committee's inquiry will be to examine the nature and extent of the threat posed by right-wing extremists in Australia, with a focus on their motivations, objectives and capacity for violence. The committee will also consider changes that can be made to Australia's counterterrorism strategy in relation to preventing radicalisation to extremist views, including further steps that the federal government could take to disrupt and deter hate speech, as well as the role of social media, encrypted communications platforms and the dark web in allowing extremists to communicate and organise. The work of the committee will be crucial.

The Holocaust did not suddenly appear out of nowhere. It was the end result of years of chipping away at a sophisticated cosmopolitan country's social fabric, and it took less than 20 years. This period saw newspaper cartoons and politicians directing derision towards particular segments of the community, and apathy among the general population and political class to the emerging threat. It saw the growth of armed militias, the political class dismissing extreme rhetoric as political theatre, and the destruction of property. It saw voters rationalise that, while they didn't agree with the racism, the Nazis deserved support because they would bring order and discipline. It saw the changing of laws to codify discrimination and the forced movement of people into enclaves and ghettos, and at the end, after humanity and identity had been stripped away, it saw the bureaucratic and deliberate murder of millions. I urge all members to follow @AuschwitzMuseum on Twitter. Every day you will receive a tweet telling you a short story about a human being who entered the gate, the vast majority of whom never left. We must never forget—never again.