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Anti-racism activist calls for control of neo-Nazi groups after attack on Sydney home

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sbs– A Sydney anti-racism activist and Indigenous rights supporter has accused neo-Nazis of attacking his home and authorities of failing to do more to control far-right groups.

Paddy Gibson said three “skinheads” with Eureka flag shirts came to the front door of his family home on Saturday night and called for him to come outside.

“Me and my partner were at home. Three men came to the door calling out for me,” Mr Gibson told SBS News.

He said he believed they were far-right activists after seeing the men’s clothing and appearance through the peephole in his door.

“They demanded to see me. I’ve got threats from the far-right before,” he said

Mr Gibson quickly moved with his partner to the back of the house.

“They started smashing on the door, they ripped the grill off the window at the front and they smashed the front window out with a chair,” he said.

“We were really worried that they were trying to force entry and get into the house and hurt us.”

Neighbours were immediately on the scene, Mr Gibson said, calling out to ensure everyone in the house was safe, and giving the all-clear when the men had left the premises.

Mr Gibson said it had been a “pretty scary few hours” and he was making plans to fortify his home.

He said his involvement in social justice causes including Black Lives Matter rallies had attracted abuse from far-right groups in the past, but until now, they’d been limited to social media or email.

“Last year when the Black Lives Matter rallies were happening … I was getting death threats at that time but no one’s ever come to my house. This was an escalation.”

NSW Police has confirmed detectives are investigating reports of “malicious damage”.

A spokesperson said officers arrived at the house after a report came in shortly after 7:30, and they then established a crime scene.

‘Far-right emboldened, openly organising’

The presence of far-right groups and Nazi symbols have become more frequent in Australia in recent months, including at ‘freedom’ rallies across the country.

In October, congregants at a Brisbane synagogue were confronted by the sight of a Nazi flag flying from a nearby apartment window.

At the time, Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner labelled the display as “sickening” and “pure evil”, and said current laws were “inadequate”.

He said the incident would “likely to be classified as nothing more than a low-level public nuisance”.

Queensland MP Ali King blamed vaccine conspiracy theorists for a Nazi swastika symbol painted on her office last month.

The Australian government last month named a neo-Nazi group known as The Base as a terrorist group following advice from security agencies.

“There is no place in Australia for their hateful ideologies,” Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said at the time.

“We know that there are individuals actively watching what is happening in Australia. There are people here who have the intent and the capability to do us harm.”

The Victorian government has announced it is working on new laws to ban the public display of Nazi symbols, in what would be a national first.

Mr Gibson said the far-right and neo-Nazis were “capitalising on anger that’s out there” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, job insecurity and vaccine mandates to “set their own agenda”.

“It’s a very dangerous situation when the far-right are as emboldened as they are now and openly organising in the context of these ‘freedom’ marches,” he said.

“It does mean that there will be more attacks on people of colour, on Aboriginal people, even white people like myself who actually organise for justice and against racism. It’s a very dangerous situation for everyone.”

George Newhouse, CEO of the National Justice Project, called on authorities to take prompt steps to bring the perpetrators of the attack on Mr Gibson’s house to justice.

“Governments around Australia have failed to take the threat of violent racist and militant groups seriously and this is the end result. In the US, we have seen lives lost because of the demonisation of the Black Lives Matter movement by the right,” he said in a statement.

“It’s time for our leaders to heed the calls for racial justice and protect those who are calling for change.”

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Australia election: PM Morrison’s security team in car crash in Tasmania

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A car carrying the Australian prime minister’s security team has crashed in Tasmania during an election campaign visit.

Four police officers were taken to hospital with “non-life threatening injuries” after the car and another vehicle collided, authorities said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not in the car, but the accident prompted him to cancel the rest of his campaign events on Thursday.

The other driver involved was not hurt.

Tasmania Police said initial investigations suggested the second car had “collided with the rear of the police vehicle, while attempting to merge”. It caused the unmarked security vehicle to roll off the road.

The two Tasmania Police officers and two Australian Federal Police officers were conscious when taken to hospital for medical assessment, the prime minister’s office said.

“Family members of the officers have been contacted and are being kept informed of their condition,” a statement said.

“The PM is always extremely grateful for the protection provided by his security team and extends his best wishes for their recovery and to their families.”

Australians go to the polls on 21 May. Mr Morrison – prime minister since 2018 – is hoping to win his conservative coalition’s fourth term in office.

Polls suggest the opposition Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, is favoured to win. However, Mr Morrison defied similar polling to claim victory at the last election in 2019.

Mr Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition holds 76 seats in the House of Representatives – the minimum needed to retain power.

Political observers say the cost of living, climate change, trust in political leaders, and national security will be among key issues in the campaign.

In recent weeks, the prime minister has faced accusations of being a bully and once sabotaging a rival’s career by suggesting the man’s Lebanese heritage made him less electable. Mr Morrison has denied the allegations.

Mr Albanese stumbled into his own controversy this week when he failed to recall the nation’s unemployment or interest rates.

Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-61103987

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Sydney airport warns delays could last weeks on third day of travel chaos

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Long queues at Sydney airport’s domestic terminals have continued for a third day, with some passengers missing international connections, as the airport warns delays resulting from a surge in travellers and a shortfall in security staff could continue for weeks.

Chaotic scenes were reported in the departure halls as early as 4.30am on Saturday, with some frustrated travellers, many of whom heeded the pleas of airport chiefs to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight was due to take off, claiming only one security line was operating.

While the queues that formed early on Saturday are understood to have cleared later in the morning, the airport apologised to affected travellers.

“Traffic numbers are picking up and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport. We appreciate your patience,” Sydney airport said on its Twitter account.

A wave of families travelling as the term two school holidays begin this weekend, combined with close contact rules that are understood to be taking out about 20% of security shifts in any given day, are driving the problem.

Certis, the company that Sydney airport contracts for its security operations, is desperately trying to recruit personnel, while the airport has reallocated back office, IT and retail workers to the departure hall to comb queues so they can prioritise passengers at risk of missing their flight.

“We are working around the clock to resolve these issues and have teams in the terminals bringing passengers forward in order of priority,” a Sydney airport spokesperson said.

He added that the airport is “anticipating it will [be] busy right through the school holiday period and peak over the Easter and Anzac Day weekends, in some cases at 90% of pre-Covid passenger levels”.

“We’re deeply grateful to passengers for their ongoing patience and we’re sorry to everyone who has been inconvenienced,” the spokesperson said. “We would also like to thank passengers for getting to the airport early and treating staff and each other with kindness and respect.”

The Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was forced to clarify comments he made on Friday that passengers were “not match fit” and that those forgetting to remove laptops and aerosols from their bags at the security check contributing to the delays.

“Just to be clear, I’m not ‘blaming’ passengers,” Joyce said. “Of course it’s not their fault,” he said.

Qantas shed thousands of staff during the pandemic, and outsourced ground crews in a decision that was challenged in court.

On Saturday, Qantas also apologised to a Melbourne family left stranded in Sydney, after domestic flight delays caused them to miss an international trip.

Javiera Martinez, her partner Daniel Capurro and their three children were supposed to be flying to Chile on Friday to visit relatives they had not seen in three years.

But after their 8am Qantas flight from Melbourne was delayed by half an hour, baggage handling and airport transfer delays in Sydney meant they couldn’t make their 11.30am LATAM Airlines flight to Santiago.

Martinez said the airline’s procedures at the airport were chaotic.

“We think Qantas didn’t behave appropriately. I got berated by the person at the counter – they never apologised, they never assumed any responsibility at all,” she said. “It was a rude conversation. We have been mistreated badly I would say.”

The PCR tests they need to travel have now expired and they will have to take them again as they wait for seats on the next flight to Santiago from Sunday.

The airline has apologised and paid for a night’s accommodation in Sydney.

“We sincerely apologise that the family missed their connecting flight on another airline due to delays moving through Sydney airport on Friday,” a Qantas spokesperson said.

The family is among many affected by hold ups amid the busiest travel period in two years, with Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports warning passengers to arrive two hours before domestic flights.

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Grace Tame says caller ‘threatened’ against criticising PM

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An Australian of the Year and sexual abuse survivor has said she received a “threatening” call warning her not to criticise the prime minister.

Grace Tame made the allegation in a speech on Wednesday, where she said she’d been called by a “senior member of a government-funded organisation”.

She added she was asked to promise not to say anything “damning” about Scott Morrison.

The government has denied knowledge of the call and said it will investigate.

On Tuesday, Mr Morrison made a formal apology to former political staffer Brittany Higgins more than a year after the young woman went public with the allegation that she had been raped by a male colleague in a ministerial office.

Her story sparked national anger, and an inquiry into parliament’s culture which found more than a third of workers had been sexually harassed.

Both Ms Higgins and Ms Tame have been heralded this past year for prompting a national conversation about abuse, power and gender inequality.

On Wednesday, the pair delivered a highly anticipated joint address at the National Press Club in Canberra.

Asked by journalists if she could name the threatening caller and their organisation, Ms Tame said: “if I was willing to name either, I would have put them in the speech”.

But she said the caller had been concerned about what she would say on the evening her successor as Australian of the Year was named.

She said the caller had described her as an “influential figure” and that Mr Morrison would “have a fear” about what she might say “with an election coming soon”. Australia is due to hold a general election before 21 May.

“Sound familiar to anyone? Well, it does to me,” Ms Tame said, before drawing a comparison with her former abuser – a teacher who had raped her as a child and pressured her to stay silent.

Mr Morrison’s office said it had not been aware of the call before Ms Tame’s speech, adding “the individual should apologise”.

“The PM and the government consider the actions and statements of the individual as unacceptable,” a spokesperson said.

But Ms Tame said launching a probe “misses the point entirely”.

“Stop deflecting, Scott. It’s not about the person who made the call. It’s the fact they felt like they had to do it at all,” she tweeted.

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