Responding to Right Wing Extremism: anti-terrorism laws and countering violent extremism (CVE) programs

Dr Daniel Baldino3, Dr  Keiran Hardy2, Dr Tamara Tulich1, Mr Kosta Lucas4

1Law School, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia, 2Griffith Criminology Institute, Mt Gravatt, Australia , 3University of Notre Dame, Fremantle, Australia , 4Synq Up, Perth, Australia

  1. Understanding and responding to the sovereign citizen movement in Australia

Daniel Baldino and Kosta Lucas

Sovereign citizens exhibit unique threats to law enforcement. So what exactly do sovereigns believe, what are their tactics and is the label ‘terrorist threat’ appropriately applied? This paper will explore the extent that anti-government extremists, often labelled as ‘sovereign citizens’, pose to national security in Australia. In 2015, sovereign citizens had been identified as a potential terrorism threat in Australia by a confidential NSW Police report. Other related crimes have revolved around intimidation of law enforcement officers as well as committing mortgage, credit card, tax and loan fraud, including a recent Australian Taxation Office legal fight against the self-proclaimed royal family of an invented principality in WA’s wheat-fields. Similarly, in 2019, the NSW government used the Terrorism (High Risk Offenders) Act 2017 against a sovereign citizen sympathiser who had threatened an MP. Given the ideological origins of this movement began in 1960s in the US, the paper will also identify transnational trends across the Western world related to the internationalisation of the sovereign movement based on individuals or groups who believe that federal authority is unlawful. Finally, it will examine the benefits associated with, and limitations of, conventional responses to extremism and the tools of counter-terrorism in its application to such a self-styled right-wing movement. Problematically, evidence suggests that interactions with police have amplified with a notable increase in threats of violence.

  1. The Challenges of Counterterrorism Research

Keiran Hardy, Griffith Criminology Institute

Preventing terrorism raises challenges compared to preventing other types of crime. The political and religious motive underlying terrorism has required special legal responses, and governments continue to grapple with how to define terrorism, extremism and radicalisation. Programs for countering violent extremism (CVE), including intervention and deradicalisation programs, remain underdeveloped and it is not clear how their effectiveness should be measured. It is unclear whether broader community-based prevention strategies can ever contribute to a reduction in the terrorist threat. Currently, many governments are seeking to adapt measures previously developed for Islamist extremism to account for the developing threat of right-wing extremism. Across all of these issues, accessing meaningful data sources remains difficult for terrorism researchers given the relatively low frequency of terrorist attacks and security concerns surrounding national security information. This paper addresses the challenges of conducting criminological research in counterterrorism, and considers how researchers might build stronger connections with industry.

  1. The White elephant in the room – centring race in preventive justice scholarship

Tamara Tulich

This paper explores learnings from preventive justice scholarship post September 11 that might be drawn upon in evaluating current and guiding future preventive responses to the rise in right wing terrorism. Preventive justice scholarship has provided an important corrective to narratives of exceptionalism in legal responses to September 11, and a significant contribution to debates about anti-terror laws in demonstrating how preventive measures evade or erode civil liberties and criminal justice protections. However, unwittingly absent from this scholarship is race. I argue that we need to centre race – including ‘whiteness’ – in preventive justice scholarship, particularly as we consider responses to right wing terrorism.

  1. Working with public and private organisations to counter violent extremism

Kosta Lucas


Preventing community harming behaviours through the use of creative media and arts, communications and conflict resolution.


Daniel Baldino is a political scientist specialising in Australian foreign, defence and security policy including counter-terrorism, intelligence studies and government and politics of the Indo-Pacific at the University of Notre Dame, Fremantle. In 2000, he was a Research Associate at the Library of Congress, Washington DC. In 2009 he was a visiting scholar within the Security and Governance Program, East-West Center, Hawaii, USA. In 2015, he was a visiting scholar at The Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies, University of Carleton, Ottawa. He has also provided education and professional development programs at the University of Fiji. He has produced numerous books and articles. His edited book (with Langlois, A and Carr, A) Controversies in Australian Foreign Policy: the core debates, published by Oxford University Press, was the winner of the Australian Institute of International Affairs’ inaugural publication grant. He is currently the Western Australian chapter convener for Australian Institute for Professional Intelligence Officers (AIPIO) as well as an Associate Editor for the Journal of the Indian Ocean Region.

Dr Keiran Hardy is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Griffith Criminology Institute. He is currently undertaking a two-year research project on crime prevention and global approaches to countering violent extremism. He has published extensively on counter-terrorism law and policy and comments regularly for Australian media. His research interests include counter-terrorism law, countering violent extremism, radicalisation, intelligence whistleblowing and cyber-terrorism. He is the author of Law in Australian Society: An Introduction to Principles and Process (Allen & Unwin, 2019).

Kosta Lucas is a researcher and practitioner in preventing and countering violent extremism in a wide range of policy, research and grassroots program development roles. Most notably, Kosta was the Chief Program Director of People against Violent Extremism (PaVE), Australia’s first bespoke countering violent extremism non-government organisation founded by the Hon. Dr Anne Aly MP in 2013. He has since moved on to start his own initiative, Synq Up, an independent initiative aimed at preventing community harming behaviours through the use of creative media and arts, communications and conflict resolution. Through Synq Up, Kosta works with a broad range of public and private organisations to create a greater community consciousness around the myriad of factors that contribute to violent extremism in Australia and abroad. Most recently, Kosta was selected to be a member of the European Union’s Radicalisation Awareness Network’s Expert Pool, contributing expertise on areas of youth engagement, prevention and community resilience. In addition to his work through Synq Up, Kosta has been a sessional academic with Notre Dame University since 2016, tutoring in areas such as Terrorism and Intelligence and Global Development. He is also in the process of completing his Masters of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney.

Dr Tamara Tulich is a Senior Lecturer in UWA Law School. Tamara researches and publishes in the areas of preventive justice, anti-terror lawmaking and indefinite detention regimes, and is a co-editor of the collection Regulating Preventive Justice (Routledge 2017). Tamara’s recent research projects focus on expanding diversionary alternatives for Aboriginal youth with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, understanding the role of law and culture in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in responding to and preventing family violence, and reform to Australian proceeds of crime legislation.

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