Ethnic communities were reeling yesterday from an unprecedented spate of racist attacks linked to the neo-Nazi group that firebombed Perth restaurants in the 1980s.
Businesses across three southern Perth suburbs were early yesterday morning plastered with swastikas and racist slogans and posters produced by the racist Australian Nationalists Movement.
The attacks came two days after the city’s biggest synagogue was defaced the same way in a spree of racist graffiti that took in businesses and homes in several of Perth’s northern and eastern suburbs.
One of the restaurants, the Foo Win in Willeton, was also firebombed in February in a racially inspired attack.
Owners Robert and Aline Foo said they were angry and upset but would not be intimidated.
Police said yesterday they would be speaking to ANM leader Jack Van Tongeren, who was released from prison in 2002 after serving 12 years in jail for offences including conspiring to harm Asians.
Mr Van Tongeren said he had nothing to do with the attacks, but sympathised with those responsible.
“When you keep on screw ing people down and making it impossible for them to do things by the written law, you are going to get more and more people reacting in an angry manner,” he told the Nine Network.
Mr Van Tongeren admitted to being a racist. “I prefer my own kind, there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said.
Acting Premier Eric Ripper moved to allay fears in the ethnic community yesterday when he invited representatives, including West Australian Chinese Chamber of Commerce president Wilson Wu, to discuss the attacks with him and senior police.
Mr Wu said there could be dire consequences for business and tourism if the culprits were not caught quickly.
“I remember last time when the group was very active, Asians were scared to visit or invest here and they would ask: ‘Is it safe? Are we welcome?’.”
Mr Ripper said the attacks were damaging the community and the state Government was planning to strengthen its racial vilification laws by introducing the option of civil action.
Ethnic Communities Council president Suresh Rajan said it was disappointing that despite numerous racially-motivated attacks in Perth nobody had been charged under the state’s 14-year-old racial vilification laws.
Those caught were charged with offences such as damage.
There have been a string of racist attacks in Perth this year including the firebombing in February of three Chinese restaurants and the daubing with swastikas of a petrol station owned by an Iraqi.
Josh Landis of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry said its figures showed 2003 had been one of the worst years for anti-semitic attacks in Australia since the council began logging anti-Jewish harassment in 1944.
“It is definitely on the increase – 2003 was either the worst or the second-worst year in 60 years,” Mr Landis said.
“Up to 2002, the annual average of anti-semitic attacks was 279 but in 2003, our organisation listed 481 attacks.”