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Federal Budget to miss the mark if community-based preventative programs and a national anti-racism strategy aren’t addressed

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Priscilla Brice's take on the Federal Budget

On May 11, all eyes will be on Treasurer Josh Frydenberg as he delivers the Federal Budget. This year’s budget feels different for many reasons, the most obvious one being the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and the other reason being that there are so many societal issues which have been in the limelight lately – gender equality, systemic racism, issues with our aged care system, refugee crisis, among others.

As such, the anticipation and the expectation of the Federal Budget is higher because it will be a reflection of the Government’s values. There are two key areas we hope will be addressed by Treasurer Frydenberg on May 11:

In September 2020, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) warned that COVID-19 has created a greater opportunity for rightwing activists to recruit online, accounting for up to 40% of the Australian domestic spy agency’s counter-terrorism caseload.

Although Australia is in a much better place when it comes to the pandemic compared to other countries, we are not out of the woods yet and the risk from far-right extremism remains an enduring and growing threat for our country. According to the Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Ian McCartney, racist nationalism is the fastest-growing threat we are facing as a nation. While the government has invested in securitisation of violent extremism, there are still gaps in support for early intervention. The onus is on the federal government to do more by investing in community-based preventative programs to deter people from getting involved in these groups in the first place and reduce the influence of far-right extremist groups at the grassroots level. Community leaders and groups play an important role in preventing people from being drawn into violent extremism. With a terrorist attack anticipated in the next year, we hope the Federal government will take action before it’s too late.

Racism has been at the forefront of the news agenda over the past 12 months.

From the number of reported indigenous deaths in custody, to racial profiling and racial hate crimes, it is time for the Australian Government to establish and fund a national anti-racism strategy as well as public education campaigns across all states and territories. Racism is an economic, social and national security threat to Australia and should be treated as such. Australia has not had a national anti-racism strategy in place since 2018, and federal funding for that strategy ended in 2015. Since then, events such as the Christchurch terrorist attack, the growth in nationalist extremism, the ongoing injustices and racism faced by First Nations people, and anti-Asian racism in relation to COVID-19 have highlighted the need for urgent action from the Government to address the issue.

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