Racist on the run in battle over 'Aussie way of life'

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The Independent Online

It began with race-hate posters plastered around Perth, and escalated into a campaign of attacking Asian migrants and firebombing Chinese restaurants in the city. That was the late 1980s, and the violence fizzled out when Jack van Tongeren, leader of the far-right Australian Nationalist Movement (ANM), was jailed in 1990.

It began with race-hate posters plastered around Perth, and escalated into a campaign of attacking Asian migrants and firebombing Chinese restaurants in the city. That was the late 1980s, and the violence fizzled out when Jack van Tongeren, leader of the far-right Australian Nationalist Movement (ANM), was jailed in 1990.

Now Mr van Tongeren is free, the racist attacks have resumed and Perth's ethnic minorities are living in fear again.

In the past fortnight, synagogues and shops have been daubed with swastikas and racist slogans. Yesterday the state attorney-general, Jim McGinty, left a meeting in Adelaide and flew home to protect his family after being told of threats against him.

Mr van Tongeren has disowned the racist graffiti. He called for the graffiti attacks to stop because they were causing bad publicity for a book he has written. But in a video sent to the media this week, he warned that public figures who supported "Asianisation and multiracialism and the destruction of our ... Aussie way of life" would be "guilty of treason and dealt with accordingly".

The video named Mr McGinty as one of the guilty men, and the state Premier, Geoff Gallop; the police commissioner, Karl O'Callaghan; the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard; and Dennis Richardson, head of the Asio intelligence agency.

On Thursday, police issued a statewide alert for Mr van Tongeren after breaking down the door of his house in Gingin, north of Perth with a battering ram. He has gone into hiding.

Mr van Tongeren served 12 years after being convicted of 53 offences including arson, assault and conspiracy to drive Asians out of Western Australia. Since being freed in 2002, he has mainly kept a low profile, claiming to have given up urban terrorism. The white supremacist ANM terrorised Perth's Asian community for three years in the 1980s, conducting its own version of "ethnic cleansing", that resulted in several killings. Australia's Asian neighbours were alarmed.

Among the Chinese restaurants recently vandalised was Foo Win, among three firebombed in February. Aline Foo, the owner, said it was very upsetting to be targeted twice. "Life goes on, we still have to carry on," she said. "My livelihood is here." Five people have been charged with criminal damage and racial vilification in relation to the graffiti attacks. Three were previously linked with the ANM.

Mr van Tongeren described the attacks as "explosions of anger" about migrants. "When they come into our country in an invasion size ... they must realise they're not wanted," he said.

The threat against Mr McGinty is believed to be part of a plot that goes beyond the vague menaces of the video. Another threat was made against Suresh Rajan, the president of the Ethnic Communities Council of Western Australia.

The West Australian newspaper reported yesterday that the plot to harm public figures had been hatched by the ANM's "so-called paramilitary arm". It said police feared that members were carrying weapons.

Mr Howard, the Prime Minister, dismissed Mr van Tongeren's threats in a radio interview. But in typically equivocal fashion, he added: "I'm also somebody, as you know, that's a very strong supporter of what you might call the traditional symbols of Australia. I don't want to see the Australian identity and the Australian character as we understand it disappear."

The acting state Premier, Eric Ripper, said: "We had this more than a decade ago in Western Australia. It was stamped out, and we want it stamped out again."

Five men have been charged over the graffiti attacks; some have links to the ANM.

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