An ASIO document prepared in the wake of the Christchurch massacre warns a far-right terrorist attack is “plausible” in Australia over the next 12-18 months.

By Osman Faruqi.

Exclusive: ASIO’s ‘race war’ warning

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton (left) and the director-general of ASIO, Mike Burgess.
Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton (left) and the director-general of ASIO, Mike Burgess.

A classified ASIO intelligence report has revealed concerns that far-right groups in Australia may carry out a terrorist attack in order to “accelerate the race war”.

The ASIO analytical report, obtained by The Saturday Paper, was prepared last year after the Christchurch terrorist attacks, in which an Australian man targeted two mosques and massacred 51 Muslims. It is substantially more detailed than ASIO’s public comments on the far right.

The document reveals ASIO’s view of the ongoing threat of far-right violence, and how white supremacists are drawing inspiration from the Christchurch attacks.

According to ASIO, “the Christchurch attacks will have an enduring impact on the extreme right-wing community... and will contribute to the radicalisation and inspiration of future attackers for at least the next 10 years”. 

The intelligence analysis warns that the far-right movement in Australia has evolved from “loose, fragmented networks” to “highly structured, security aware, and strictly vetted groups, largely consisting of white males”. It says that in the next 12 months these groups are likely to splinter, noting: “We are concerned that splinter groups are likely to be more extreme than their predecessors.” The document says an extreme right-wing attack is “plausible” in Australia in the next 12-18 months.

The analysis references a number of far-right organisations active in Australia, which ASIO says it is monitoring. However, according to the analysis, the most serious threat is likely to emerge from a lone actor, similar to the Christchurch attack.

In public comments made last month, Mike Burgess, the director-general of ASIO, warned that the threat from the far-right was “real and it is growing”.

“In suburbs around Australia, small cells regularly meet to salute Nazi flags, inspect weapons, train in combat and share their hateful ideology,” he said.

The classified intelligence report goes into further detail, and says far-right groups have implemented “structured recruitment and vetting processes” and are holding “radicalisation camps”. It also references an ABC investigation from last year that uncovered an attempt by far-right extremists to infiltrate the Young Nationals and “covertly influence policy towards a National Socialist ideology”.

Since the Christchurch attacks a number of white supremacist shootings have happened in the US and Europe. A shooting at a synagogue in California in April last year and a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, in August were both directly inspired by the Christchurch attack.

Last month, a far-right gunman killed 10 people in the German town of Hanau, after targeting an area frequented by Muslim migrants.

The ASIO intelligence report states that these kinds of attacks are motivated by a view that Islam “is incompatible with the West” and that “the white race is being outbred”.

The intelligence report describes the people drawn to far-right extremism as “politically disillusioned, middle-class, young, educated men”. It says the ideology they subscribe to is explicitly neo-Nazi: “We assess this demographic may seek out and enjoy the aggression, physicality, attention and perceived camaraderie the neo-Nazi narrative offers, particularly if they feel disillusioned among their peer groups and broader society. Increased risk-taking behaviours may also lead the younger generation to be more extreme in their interpretation of the neo-Nazi ideology.”

The document describes how the aspirations of these groups follow a line from recruitment, to preparation, to the establishment of a “white enclave”, to “the ‘inevitable’ race war”, to “re-establishing ‘natural order’”. It says while many take a “defensive” approach to their ideology, some may seek “acceleration”.

Despite ASIO’s warnings, no far-right organisations have been listed as proscribed terrorist organisations and only one far-right extremist has ever been arrested under current counter-terrorism laws.


This report is part of a three-part series from The Saturday Paper’s daily news podcast, 7am, available wherever you get your podcasts. You can also listen here: 

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