29 Jan 2014

Who Are The Australian Defence League?

By Andy Fleming
Former ADL leader Martin Brennan
Former ADL leader Martin Brennan

Reports that some Navy personnel are involved with racist anti-Islam groups have caused alarm. The far right has been reorganising around Islamophobia for some time, writes Andy Fleming

The recent revelation that members of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) responsible for carrying out "Operation Sovereign Borders" are also members or supporters of the anti-Muslim Australian Defence League (ADL) has caused a great deal of embarrassment to the authorities. It has also generated no small amount of concern among the broader public. As well as highlighting the existence of racist and xenophobic sentiment in the RAN, the ADL’s emergence is evidence of a political reorientation by important segments of the far right, with Islamophobia replacing anti-Semitism as the chief attractor.

Tracing the history of the ADL is a confusing task. Its informal structure and bewildering array of social media platforms make it difficult to pin down. What can be said with some certainty is that it was inspired by the emergence in early 2009 of the English Defence League, and first appeared in NSW in early 2010. At this point it was an informal project of members of the Australian Protectionist Party (APP) who wished to emulate the EDL’s ability to mobilise thousands in support of its anti-Muslim agenda – and for which the nearest precursor in Australia was the Cronulla riot ("White Civil Uprising") of December 2005.

The APP was itself formed in late 2007 by departing members of the Australia First Party (AF), who were unhappy with then-leader Dr James Saleam. The new group was intent on reorienting the far right on the seeming success of Nick Griffin’s British National Party (BNP), which had just seen two members of the party elected to the European Parliament and scores more on local councils. Thus, while retaining a commitment to white nationalism, the APP jettisoned anti-Semitism in favour of a thorough-going rejection of Islam. This eventually led the group to join Zionist counter-protests against BDS campaigners in Sydney.

Since its initiation by the APP in 2010, the ADL has undergone several different incarnations. Various individuals claim to be its leadership and dozens of Facebook pages, blogs and websites its official platform. Struggle for control over the amorphous mass continues to this day, with the various rivals to the ADL throne resembling characters in a Monty Python sketch.

As well as attracting the support of thousands of Facebook users, the ADL has also organised a handful of public rallies in Melbourne and Sydney. These have been relatively tiny affairs. Thus a "Mass Rally Against Immigrants and Islam" scheduled for 9 April 2010 proved abortive after anti-racists occupied the steps of Flinders Street station (the planned site of the rally). A 15 May 2011 demonstration at Federation Square attracted several dozen supporters but many more opponents, who after a short period were able to force the ADL to leave the square: the ADL has not sought to organise any further such activity in Melbourne.

In Sydney, a rally at the Opera House scheduled for 9 October 2010, and organised under the slogan "Australia or Islamania? It’s Our Choice!", appears not to have happened at all (though one did take place on 30 July 2011 — Islamania was narrowly averted). Ironically, Englishman Martin Brennan, the ADL’s Melbourne-based leader, was arrested the same month for immigration offences, and deported.

In Brisbane, the ADL and the short-lived "Australian Patriots Defence Movement" organised a sparsely attended rally on 6 August 2011. More recently, on 24 May 2013, the ADL held a rally in Sydney which attracted just 12 concerned citizens. Another rally announced for Brisbane on the same day attracted zero participants. While ADL supporters have participated in a number of other protests (directed against the construction of mosques and Islamic schools), to this date it has failed to become a genuine movement.

Following an argument over the advisability of holding a rally to demand the Federal Government "Torpedo the Boats", the Sydney branch of the APP left to organise yet another party.

The "Party for Freedom" launched in early 2013, shortly after Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ brief tour of the country. Nick Folkes, the Party’s Chairman, previously stood as an APP candidate in several elections (with derisory results); its Vice Chairman, Martin Fletcher, was previously administrator of the Downunder Newslinks website ("News for White People, by White People"), which published a range of racist and specifically anti-Semitic (Nazi) propaganda. The party has organised a forum for 6 February at Redfern Town Hall to discuss "African crime". Folkes himself regards African peoples as a “failed species", and further claims peoples of the "Third World" require sterilisation.

Like the EDL, the ADL has attempted to portray itself as a human rights organisation, animated by a desire to counter "Muslim extremism". Its members often accordingly reject the "racist" tag, but even a cursory examination of the views expressed by ADL supporters reveals deep racial antagonisms. Blogs such as "theantibogan" and "Aussies Against the Australian Defence League" document such remarks in copious detail: a sample of ADF/ADL rhetoric is available here.

RAN sailor Jamie Patton’s statement about having to deal with asylum-seeking “f*ckers” – made shortly before a tour of duty presumably doing just that – appeared on the Facebook page of ADL member Shermon Burgess. Burgess has been actively promoting the ADL for years – he’s also an aspiring pop star. Among the many tunes penned by his band Eureka Brigade are "ADL Killing Machine" and "Border Patrol". The YouTube video for the latter ditty intersperses footage of Navy personnel shooting at boats with that of the Cronulla riot of December 2005: its chorus proclaims “Cronulla was Australia’s Muslim Holocaust”.

The overall crudity of the ADL’s message, while obviously appealing to some, has equally obvious limitations, and has yet to pay any real political dividends. Unable to rely upon a social base among racist football hooligans like the EDL, it seems possible it never will.

But the anger, fear and resentment of immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees and Muslims that the ADL seeks to harness has a more respectable face, both within major media and mainstream politics. One of the organisations fuelling this paranoia and providing ideological ballast to the ADL is The Q Society, which arranged a successful tour by Geert Wilders last year. The Q Society has now organised the "First International Symposium on Liberty and Islam in Australia" (Melbourne, 7-10 March), featuring Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Bill Muehlenberg, among others.

It presumably hopes the gathering will re-energise local efforts to "Stop Islamization of Nations", and provide the ADL with the ideological ammunition found in real abundance among its members on the high seas.

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Posted Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - 14:26

The proliferate incarnations; web-pages, blogs, FB groups and the outpouring of what is essentially inarticulate race hate in response to these groups should serve as instructive as to how easily disenfranchised people can be attracted to their emotive bile in the absence of any clear political leadership amongst mainstream politicans.  A lot of these FB pages attract hundreds of comments, most inarticulate, most crude racist drivel, but the numbers are definitely there

Counter to expectation as a "fair go for all" country, the mainstream right in Australian politics (currently the Liberals led by Tony Abbott) engenders the outpouring of racism and intolerance and indeed encourages it with simplistic slogans pertaining to asylum seekers and more recently statements on Islam, despite the percentage of Asylum Seekers and Muslims in Australia being incredibly small in number.

While these far-right race hate groups do only comprise 10 to 12 people, with the usual "characters" being the organisers, increasing numbers of people are attracted to these reflexive, sloganistic messages. Unemployment is high and wages have stagnated so a simple distraction from the real causes of these societal issues facillitates support for the far-right.

Another great article Andy, the infiltration of  the Australian defence forces by people who are members of these groups should be of concern given both their access to firearms and training coupled with  their long demostrated and documented proclivity for violence.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. RossC
Posted Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - 15:04

As you alluded to Andy, all that is missing here is a reference to the "Australian Popular Peoples Front"......splitters.....

This user is a New Matilda supporter. O. Puhleez
Posted Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - 17:03

Reports that some Navy personnel are involved with racist anti-Islam groups have caused alarm. The far right has been reorganising around Islamophobia...

Let's hold it right there, Andy. 

The Oxford definition of 'Islamophobia' is 'a hatred or fear of Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.' The word is at times deliberately introduced into political discussions to conflate opposition to Islam with opposition to or hatred of Muslims. Thus those who are rationally anti-Islam (ie they don't accept it as a philosophy or doctrine) finish up being accused of xenophobia, racism, bigotry and the rest of it. You have managed to conflate being anti-Islam with being racist right there in your first paragraph.

It is possible for me to be anti-Catholic, anti-Islam, and anti-Protestant all at the same time without hating anyone: Catholic, Muslim or Protestant who happens to belong to those communities or faiths.

And the Cronulla riots can best be understood as a reaction by native-born Australians to assaults by young (as it happened, Lebanese) Muslim men on young Australian women in the Cronulla surf. Those doing the bashing believed sincerely (because their Koran-quoting imam had told them so) that young women had no business swimming in the surf at all. That was seen as a start of a Muslim takeover of the beach, which was resisted.

Outside that framework, the riots become an inexplicable mystery, or some bullshit like an expression of the racism latent in white Australian males, as that Four Corners report by Liz Jackson would have us all believe..

Posted Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 09:47

I am not sure that there has been any period in history when Christianity was not in some form of conflict with Islam and VV and the Crusades in all its forms never produced a satisfactory outcome for either belief systems. Until such time as both sides put down the sword and adopt a policy of tollerance there will be no peace.

Posted Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 10:25

It is possible for me to be anti-Catholic, anti-Islam, and anti-Protestant all at the same time without hating anyone: Catholic, Muslim or Protestant who happens to belong to those communities or faiths.


It is possible, in theory perhaps: but the actions of these groups negates the possibility of your supposed distinction.

In reality you don't have to dig too deeply to find the people behind groups such as The Australian Defence League and the multitude of other incarnations posing in front of Swastikas, performing Nazi salutes and posting openly racist bile on traffic heavy Neo Nazi/Far right forums that are hosted in the US.

Nor do you have to dig to deeply to find their criminal convictions posted in the popular press for vandalism of buildings with racist graffitti, assault and in previous cases fire-arms offences.

The attempt by the far-right in Australia to make racism and intolerance more palatable is following the model of the EDL which used it somewhat successfully in England. The consequence of shedding the skin-head image and associated "insignia" (in public at any rate) also permits mainstream right wing politicians to offer tacit support for what are in essence bigoted, racist views.

Posted Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 10:47

 I'd take the author's opinions on identifying racist or xenophobic organisations with grain of salt.

The artcle employs the usual sophistry of conflating, racism, xenophobia and 'islamohobia'. There are repugnant far right organisations in Australia and they're anti-Islamic, so what, is that an endorsement for the "religion"?  Islam is a totalitarian and oppressive ideology, like Communism and Nazism it constitutes a very serious threat to liberal democracy. Why would self-proclaimed anarchists support Islam which is the antithesis of their doctrine?

Anarchists were among the 'useful idiots' who distablised the Tsarist regime and they were amongst the first victims of the Bolsheviks when they achieved power, apparently they've learned nothing. 

This article is a piece of propaganda.


The Village Idiot
Posted Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 13:44

Islamaphobia has no right to exist in Australia. Islam is the one true faith. Attacks by infidels on our drive-by shootings in Sydney's southwestern suburbs, genital multilation of girls, fighting for peace in Syria, raping of girls who dress like cats meat, multiple wives, death to gays and calling for sharia law etc are Australia at its best. Down with the ADL. Allah be praised !!!!!

Posted Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 15:23

@O. Puhleez,

"You have managed to conflate being anti-Islam with being racist right there in your first paragraph."

I disagree. I don't think I've conflated racism with opposition to Islam. I do, however, think these two sentiments animate the ADL, and suggest that a closer examination of its activities would confirm this. In other words, a simple disinterest in adopting Islamic beliefs is not what the ADL expresses: I've provided some examples of their rather more combative attitude in the article.

Re Cronulla, I think Liz Jackson's account is worthy and so too the NSW police report.


I agree that the article should be read critically, with salt and even pepper if you prefer. As I suggested in response to O. Puhleez, I don't think I've conflated racism with anti-Muslim prejudice, though of course the relationship between the two, especially in contemporary Australia, is an interesting subject. Further, I do not 'support' Islam: I am not a Muslim. Finally, while I'm familiar with the history of the anarchist movement in Russia, it's another matter, one not very closely-related to the question 'Who Are The Australian Defence League?'.





Neil James - Au...
Posted Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 15:28

Some actual facts might help address the inaccuracies, contextual biases and conceptual flaws of this article and many of the comments.

The comment that "Reports that some Navy personnel are involved with racist anti-Islam groups have caused alarm" is simply silly on several grounds.

First, only one member of the RAN was involved with the cited social media post. He has been charged and will probably be dismissed from the Navy. Not even "some". The Navy should be congratulated on this prompt action, not misdescribed in a sensationalist manner as an organisation somehow involving many "racists".

Second, as Australia is a liberal democracy, you can legitimately express concerns about aspects of any religion without being either "racist" or indeed giving cause for any other type of  concern to any reasonable or otherwise informed person. Religion is by definition a belief system (not a biologically racial matter) and democracy thrives on objectively disagreeing with the beliefs of others.

Third, surely the degree, validity and prevalence of any perceived or even actual "alarm" needs to be quantified anfd justified. Particularly when the absence of this is used as a flawed basis for a truly alarmist article. In this particular case, some informed people might have been somewhat concerned at the sailor's act, but no informed, objective or reasonable person should or would have been alarmed.

Finally, it is surely invalid to discuss the so-called "Cronulla Riot" without addressing the context. If there was one "riot" there were certainly two.

The first "riot" followed a largely peaceful and law-abiding demonstration at Cronulla beach that was protesting the bashing of two early-teenage lifesavers by much older and adult thugs - when the lifesavers intervened when the thugs were harassing girls on the beach (allegedly on bigoted religious grounds). The "riot" part was actually, later, at Cronulla railway station and of very short duration. Even more importantly, it involved only a handful of people and not the many thousands of law-abiding and well-behaved protesters at the demonstration. The violence at the station was also largely caused by the combination of insufficient policing of a few drunken yobs late on a very hot day.

The second (and actual) riot occurred the following night when over 40 carloads of purportedly (and self-declared) Muslim youths from areas of Western Sydney went to Cronulla and vandalised cars and buildings and assaulted passers-by. The violence on this occasion far surpassed what had occurred at Cronulla station the day before in both extent and duration. It certainly was entirely different to the peaceful and law-abiding demonstration the day before.

Some may choose to deny these facts and this context for ideological reasons. An objective reading of contemporary newspaper accounts and ABC reports should update their knowledge and hopefully improve their understanding.


This user is a New Matilda supporter. O. Puhleez
Posted Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 18:41


It is possible, in theory perhaps: but the actions of these groups negates [sic] the possibility of your supposed distinction.

In reality you don't have to dig too deeply to find the people behind groups such as The Australian Defence League and the multitude of other incarnations posing in front of Swastikas, performing Nazi salutes and posting openly racist bile on traffic heavy Neo Nazi/Far right forums that are hosted in the US.

That distinction I made can neither be negated philosophically, logically or in any other way, no matter how many anti-Muslim skinheads choose to fly Nazi flags.

There is a definite distinction between being in philosphical disagreement with the basic propositions of Islam (which I emphatically am; it is a terrible religion) and being hostile to those who have been brought up in it, and whose community creed it is, which I emphatically am not. Few people ever get to choose 'their' religion. Rather, they are born into a community for whom the religion is ideological glue binding all their minds together.

Just what is believed is far less important than the fact that we all believe together. We can all believe that God is a great tooth fairy in the sky, or a vengeful, grumpy ogre, as long as we all believe it together. Believing is the most important precondition for belonging, and even those who have ceased to believe commonly keep quiet about it, because they do not want to cease to belong.

Thus all religions (except perhaps Buddhism) are against disbelief, and some like Islam and Meiaeval Catholicism  have severe penalties for heresy and apostasy.

Posted Friday, January 31, 2014 - 07:32

Thanks to Andy Fleming for a revealing piece


and "La Quenelle" to the ADL and their supporters.

Posted Friday, January 31, 2014 - 09:46

Until such time as both sides put down the sword and adopt a policy of tollerance there will be no peace.

It is a sad day when Australians are tolerant of slavery, the marriage of nine-year old girls and wife-beating. It is a sad day for Australia when there are people serving on juries, or on the judiciary, who believe that a rape victim's legal testimony should carry half the weight of the testimony of her attacker. I am wondering if Andy Fleming is supportive of Islam and, if so, why.

Islam is not a race, so to oppose it, or the entry of its adherents into Australia, is not racist. As for xenophobia, that is what the British were guilty of in 1938 wasn't it?  Due to their irrational fear of the foreign, and their racism, the British demonised the Nazis. They should have been open to Nazi immigration and tolerant of Nazi beliefs, giving them the right to vote and participate in selecting Britain's lawmakers. They failed to appreciate that, by giving citizenship to Nazis, whose moral values were diametrically opposed to their own, they could diversify and enrich their own culture. Shame on them, the bigots!

Posted Friday, January 31, 2014 - 10:30


Thanks for the reply, most authors on this site don't usually reply to comments.

I generally agree with Oh Puleeze and Neil James' comments on the use and misuse of the term "Islamophobia" and the context of the Cronulls "race" riots. So I'll ask these questions--

(1) Are people who regard Islam as a totalitarian and oppressive ideology, "islamophobes"?

(2) Are they necessarily "anti-Muslim"?

(3) Are Muslims members of a "race"? If they are, on what criteria?

(4) How well informed are you in regard to the history and nature of Islam and the attitudes of Muslims to liberal democracy?

Perhaps I'm being too cynical, your article appears to me, to be an attempt to paint 'far right' organisations and critics of the Islamic ideology with the same brush. Could we catagorise anarchists as being on the extreme left?


Posted Tuesday, February 4, 2014 - 19:09

@Neil James,

Thanks for the reply Neil.

In response:

First, I'm not aware of Patton being charged for any offence, nor am I aware that he may be dismissed if found guilty of breaking the RAN's social media policy. Could you please direct me to a source for this?

Secondly, Jamie Patton is not the only RAN member to have expressed support, on Facebook and elsewhere, for the ADL and aligned groups. Bianca Hall's article states that "[a]t least 20 personnel are members of the Australian Defence League". I know that in 2010, RAN member Joel Buckley expressed not just disagreement but violent opposition to Islam, describing Muslims as "DIRTY, CAMEL F*CKING, RAG HEADED PIECE[S] OF SH*T". Such proclamations are not normally considered as constituting a legitimate part of public debate about religion, although I suppose they could be. The article itself provides a link to an article in 'Tracker' from August 2011, announcing a 'military crackdown on cyber-racism', and refers to both Buckley and another sailor, Sam Borrett, as having been responsible for publishing such material. When I have an opportunity to I will upload to my blog further examples of such sentiment being expressed by RAN members, past and present. In the meantime, as noted in the article, both theantibogan and AAADL blog regularly document these kinds of public utterances.

In summary, I don't think it's silly to take note of such statements, nor is it silly to suggest that the involvement of RAN members in organisations such as the ADL should be a matter of public discussion. With regards the ADL, I think an examination of the record of the EDL illustrates the dangers of simply dismissing such formations as being unworthy of this discussion. Further, the involvement of RAN members who hold views such as Patton, Buckley and Borrett appear to provides reasonable grounds for concern over the manner in which operations such as 'Sovereign Borders' might be executed.

Finally, with regards Cronulla, the article is obviously not intended to provide an account of this event, but rather an examination of the origins and political complexion of the ADL. That said:

a) I think you significantly underplay the importance of racial antagonisms to what happened and the demonisation of the "Middle Eastern grubs" (Alan Jones) it gave violent expression to;

b) the Hazzard report would appear to contradict your account of the origins and nature of the riot/s. Thus according to an account in 'The Australian' (October 20, 2006), "Mr Hazzard said [an incident between a group of men of Middle Eastern appearance and three lifesavers on North Cronulla beach on December 4] had been no different to others involving Middle Eastern and Anglo-Australians except for the "colourful, exaggerated and inaccurate" way it was described on radio, television and in print media over the following week." In other words, what occurred makes no sense outside of the context of the media campaign led by Alan Jones (convicted, several years later, for inciting hatred and vilification of Muslims);

c) whatever happened at Cronulla, it was embraced by the far right -- including by members of AF, and what was to become the ADL and APP -- as a very positive development, the 'White Civil Uprising' referred to in the article. Cronulla is often invoked by its members (I gave one example, that of Jamie Patton's friend Shermon Burgess) as an exemplary moment in resistance to the imposition of a 'multiculti' program aimed at eradicating White society.


In response to your questions:

1) There are obviously a number of ways of defining 'Islamophobia'. The simplest is 'an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to Islam'. What counts as extreme and irrational? The distinction would imply the existence of rational grounds for opposing Islam (such as, perhaps, when it manifests as a violent imposition). I would suggest that the fears expressed by the ADL are largely irrational ones.

2) I don't know. I would suggest that in many cases expressing disinterest in or opposition to converting to Islam is not evidence of a phobia but a reasoned rejection of its religious principles.

3) As the term is generally understood, Islam is not a race, but a religion. Therefore, its members do not belong to a race of Muslims. On the other hand, 'race' is a flexible concept, and its application has changed considerably over time. The identification of 'race' with skin colour (black, white, brown etc) is of relatively recent occurrence. For what it's worth, I think Nell Irvin Painter’s book "The History of White People" contains a really interesting account of the evolution of such terms and their application.

4) I'm reasonably well-informed ... I guess. I don't know: how does one measure such a thing?

Cheers, Andy.