True Blue Crew

This Saturday’s Age contained a two page spread on “Melbourne’s Trump-land”, which is apparently located in Narre Warren North.

Instead of reviewing the economic and social situation in Narre Warren North, The Age’s Chris Johnston instead interviewed a handful of fringe right-wing figures, including Rise Up Australia’s Rosalie Crestani. The Age declared that Crestani and her fellow travelers were “disenchanted but not deplorable”. I beg to differ.

In 2012, Crestani contested Casey City Council elections on an anti-mosque platform. She won the second of two seats available in the Four Oaks Ward, despite coming fourth (with 8.09% of the primary vote) in a field of 22 candidates. She then joined Danny Nalliah’s Rise Up Australia Party (RUAP) and used her status as a Councillor to promote Rise Up’s peculiar brand of Islamophobic conspiracy theory mixed with a good dose of homophobia.

In 2014, Crestani moved to have Casey City Council ban diversity training, ban the display of materials that promote LBGTI equality, and ban the City of Casey from issuing media releases on LBGTI issues. Crestani and Rise Up Australia oppose same-sex marriage, the “normalisation of homosexuality” and “pro-homosexual propaganda”.

In Johnston’s article, a former Family First candidate claims that issues like “gay marriage … [are] a distraction from the things that really need to be done”. The mainstream political process is apparently obsessed with these ‘fringe issues’ that do not connect with the difficulties facing a community like Narre Warren North.

If anyone is obsessed with a ‘fringe issue’, then surely it is Rosalie Crestani and Rise Up Australia, with their outrageous and obsessive hate campaign directed at rolling back the rights won by LGBTI activists over the past fifty years.

Crestani is appalling when it comes to LBGTI issues, but it is in rank and borderline conspiracist Islamophobia that Crestani has made a name for herself.

In the past year Crestani has announced her support for a ban on Muslim immigration, stating she would oppose Muslim immigration “until there is a fail proof filter we have to stop all Muslims from coming in because we don’t know which ones are going to blow us up”.

Contrary to the racist conspiracy theories pedaled by the likes of Crestani, Muslim immigrants are highly unlikely to “blow us up”. Australian “terrorists” are overwhelming Australian born, tend to be comically incompetent, and despite widespread racism and anti-Muslim bigotry promoted by the likes of Crestani, there are precious few of them.

According to Crestani, on top of banning Muslim immigration, the most important issue facing “disenchanted” Narre Warren North is the threat posed by mosques! Over the past year, Crestani latched onto a racist Facebook led campaign to oppose the construction of a mosque on a vacant site in Narre Warren North.

The mosque’s development application was rejected by Casey City Council on planning grounds, but that didn’t stop Crestani announcing she would always oppose a Muslim place of worship in Narre Warren for “security reasons”. There are approximately 15,000 Muslims in the region covered by the Casey City Council, and a single nearby mosque that seats less than two hundred people.

Crestani routinely denounces mosques, halal certification and Muslim immigration. She claims that allowing a simple place of worship “risks radicalisation and terrorism”. I’ve always thought there was something darkly ironic about these claims, considering Crestani’s own links to the far-right.

Over the past eighteen months Rosalie Crestani has spoken at, endorsed, and even chaired a number of rallies called by violent far-right groups.

Crestani has chaired or spoken at the 18 July Reclaim/UPF rally at Parliament House, the June 26 True Blue Crew rally at Parliament, last year’s Cronulla riots celebration and the Reclaim Australia Rally in Melton.

Shortly before the Reclaim Australia Rally chaired by Crestani in Melton, police arrested a Reclaim Australia admin, Phillip Galea, on weapons charges. Galea has subsequently been arrested again on terrorism charges, and we’re awaiting Galea’s court date next month to learn which left wing target’s he allegedly intended to bomb.

Rosalie Crestani endorsed and promoted a violent far-right rally in Coburg earlier this year. The rally, called by the "True Blue Crew", intended to bust up a previously planned anti-racism event. At the time Blair Cottrell expressed his disappointment that Victoria Police stopped the rally "using force and violence" against their political opponents.

Rosalie Crestani endorsed and promoted a violent far-right rally in Coburg earlier this year. The rally, called by the “True Blue Crew”, intended to bust up a previously planned anti-racism rally. At the time Blair Cottrell expressed his disappointment that Victoria Police stopped the rally “using force and violence” against their political opponents.

If there was any gathering that could be said to pose a “risk of radicalisation and terrorism” in Melbourne, it is surely those far-right rallies addressed and chaired by Rosalie Crestani.

There are interesting and complex issues facing Narre Warren North, not least among them the Islamophobia and racism whipped up by the likes of Rosalie Crestani. But it is important not to overstate the depth of Crestani’s political reach in the Narre Warren community. Despite a massively increased profile in Narre Warren since 2012, Crestani only polled 17.17% of the vote in the 2016 Casey City Council elections. Her increased support is concerning, but claims she represents “Melbourne’s Trump-land” are grossly overstated.

There are plenty of people in the outer suburbs rightly disillusioned with main-stream politics. Unemployment is high (8.1% in the City of Casey), infrastructure is poorly planned and executed, services are taxed by underfunding and a growing population, and public transport is a joke.

But Rosalie Crestani and her fascist fellow travelers are not simply “disenchanted”. Crestani is an Islam obsessed homophobe whose Rise Up Australia Party seeking to build a reactionary political movement on explicitly racist lines. Crestani really is deplorable.
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Melbourne based far-right and fascist groups the True Blue Crew and the United Patriots Front have teamed up and announced a joint rally “celebrating” the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency, this Sunday at Parliament House (Melbourne).

This rally is the latest in a series of attempts by far-right groups and politicians in Australia to hitch a ride on the Trump bandwagon.

Last Tuesday, as the US presidential election results began to indicate a possible Trump victory, Pauline Hanson jumped to be the first to “congratulate President Trump”. She cracked a bottle of champagne for the cameras outside Parliament House and announced that if Trump were an Australian, she had no doubt he would join One Nation.

Within the Liberal Party, extremist and Reclaim Australia supporter George Christensen has been parading about with Donald Trump’s books and has declared that he “likes the idea of a wall”.

South Australian bigot and Senator, Cory Bernardi, has gone further, posting pictures of himself on Twitter wearing a Trump-esque peak-cap emblazoned with the slogan “Make Australia Great Again”.

For the likes of Christensen and Bernardi, the election of Trump offers an opportunity to drive Australian politics further to the right. To their eyes, the election of Trump proves the existence of a more explicitly racist “discontented” mass; a constituency whose “discontent” who can be harnessed to advance the cause of their brand of “conservative” politics.

Yesterday. Bernardi re-tweeted a comment by Rita Panahi that doubtless reflects their point of view:

“There’s never been a better time for disaffected conservatives to take the Liberal Party back from the hopeless bedwetters who are spooked by gallery chatter and Twitter storms.”

The hard-right of the Liberal Party aren’t the only force racing to relate to the potential constituency that is supposedly represented by Trump, One Nation and Brexit abroad.

The Guardian reports that the ALP’s Jim Chalmers will today give a speech calling on his party to do more to relate to people drawn to Hansonism in Australia (which is apparently interchangeable for Trump in the US and Brexit in the UK).

Labor frontbencher Jim Chalmers will launch a plea for Australian politicians to engage with the group of voters “trampled” by the impact of globalisation and technological change – arguing Hillary Clinton may have lost the US election when she branded Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables”.

There is something darkly ironic about this when we consider that since 1983 the ALP has probably done more than any other party to bring about the impacts of “globalisation and technological change” in Australia. The ALP, more than the Liberals, gave us “free trade”, industrial relations deregulation, deindustrialization, and ongoing (and increasingly precipitous) decline in trade union density.

Militant and independent organised labour is the left’s traditional answer to the growth of right-wing populist politics, but organised labour in Australia has been rendered toothless and ineffective because of it’s ongoing and slavish subservience to the political agenda of the ALP.

The ALP is not capable of realizing that it itself is one of the big factors that has precipitated the decline in organised labour, and that it acts a barrier to an effective organised response to the rise of Hansonism.

If the ALP tries to relate to ‘this phenomenon’, it will likely do so by shifting further to the right.

In light of all of this, Left Flank’s article’s on anti-politics are worth a re-read. All manner of political forces are competing to re-incorporate a growing constituency of discontent with “politics as usual”. I see no reason that these efforts should be accommodated or supported. Also worth re-reading is London AFA’s Filling the Vacuum.

Getting back to Melbourne’s far-right, the TBC, UPF and other fascists have also recognized the opportunity that Hanson and Trump offer.

After some initial successes in 2015, these groups have recently been struggling to reach an audience outside their existing networks. A recent anti-refugee rally in Eltham was meant to drew between 70 and 100 people, with few participating from the community that was targeted.

The proposed Donald Trump celebration is already significantly more successful. The Facebook event records 1600 either interested or attending, and a review of the guest list indicates that the participants are not simply the usual fascist suspects.

The longer term challenge for anti-racists is to build an anti-racist movement capable of pushing back against the state and capital as well as specific racist manifestations. In the short term however, there is a fascist rally in Melbourne that needs to be opposed.

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