Two Australian states are to introduce laws to try to stop racist threats. There is growing evidence that white supremacist groups are renewing hate campaigns against aborigines in some provincial towns.
Under legislation drafted by Labour governments in Queensland and Victoria, individuals who publicly incite racial or religious hatred could face up to six months’ jail, while companies could be fined up to $A30,000 (£11,000).
“It is a clear statement – both to the small minority of violent racists, and to overseas observers concerned about recent racism in Australia – that this type of damaging behaviour has no place in our community,” Queensland’s premier, Peter Beattie, said.
Aborigines have reported a rash of racist threats against them by extreme rightwing groups, including some linked to the American Ku Klux Klan.
A local aboriginal politician, Bernie Walker, said aborigines in Casino, a town of 12,000 people, had also received written threats, including one message that warned: “We are watching you.”
“There is a lot of fear in our community that KKK activity is rife,” Mr Walker told the Sydney Morning Herald. “Our kids are frightened to be in the street on their way to school.”
The Australian branch of the World Church of the Creator [now the Church of Creativity], a US-based white power movement, last month plastered “White Race Awake – White People Unite” stickers on buildings belonging to aboriginal groups in Rockhampton, 400 miles north of Brisbane.
The government’s big parliamentary majority in Queensland should see its bill passed, but in Victoria there is resistance from opposition politicians and church groups. Government research found particular opposition in rural areas.