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Despite sharing a name, the Yellow Vest movement in Australia has nothing to do with their French counterparts. In fact, they’re nothing more than another party looking to benefit from hate.
Most of you will be at least somewhat familiar with the Yellow Vests protest movement in France, that saw mass protests against French President Emmanuel Macron in 2018. You may be less familiar with Yellow Vests Australia (YVA), otherwise formerly known as the Australian Liberty Alliance (ALA).
ALA changed their name to Yellow Vests Australia specifically to contest the federal election. They have simply co-opted the name of the Yellow Vests protest movement and are using it to try and attract votes entirely off the back of that movement from France along with general voter dissatisfaction with the political process in Australia in 2019.
This isn’t going to be a deep dive into ALA; while researching this piece it became clear one could spend many weeks writing an essay on this group or the other related right-wing micro-parties and groups in Australia. What I can do though is try and give you some insight into who YVA are, and why you should not confuse them in any way with the actual Yellow Vests movement.
ALA is originally a creation of the Q Society, who—as Slackbastard, a well-known Melbourne anarchist “troublemaker” (in his own words) puts it—are “an anti-Muslim propaganda group which functions as the ideological ballast for the anti-Muslim movement in Australia and largely consists of educated, middle class, bigots.”
ALA was formally registered with the AEC in July 2015. The party is modelled on Geert Wilders’ Dutch party, who also attended the ALA official launch in Perth in 2015. ALA fielded a number of candidates at the 2016 federal election, attracting a little over 100,000 votes nation-wide overall.
ALA appears to have gone fairly silent over the last couple of years, except for a failed tilt at last year’s Victorian elections, but has resurfaced for the 2019 federal election, changing its name to Yellow Vests Australia in the process. As this image seems to suggest, nothing has changed about the party, except for the name, certainly not their far-right policies.
The ALA’s lead candidate last year in the Victorian elections was well known social media “pest” Avi Yemini, who as the Australian Jewish Democratic Society put it, is “a useful idiot in the endless soap opera that is Australia’s far-right melodrama… Avi Yemini is united with the far-right, and the far-right is united with Avi Yemini.”
I approached Yellow Vests Australia with some questions about the name change and their policy stances for this piece, however, they declined to speak with me, stating they are “all snowed under at the moment”, and referring me to their twelve key policy points flyer instead. I did ask them specifically just about the name change itself, but no further reply was received.
So what does ALA actually stand for? As their website itself states, they believe in “an integrated multi-ethnic society based on core Western values and individual Liberty” and “will stop the Islamisation of Australia and end divisive multiculturalism”. They make no effort to hide that their primary concern is to “stop the Islamisation of Australia”.
While there is plenty to be said about the factual fallacies inherent in the above, I lack the column space here to dive deep into that, but I recommend The Guardian’s piece, “Reclaiming Australia” From Islam Is Really About Reclaiming Whiteness, if you want to read further on that.
Other key policies of ALA include cuts to immigration (surprise, surprise), simplifying the tax system, scrapping the fuel levy, “vote as you see fit” (not that we can’t already—I honestly have no idea what that point means), and “Australia comes first”, which is well-known code for white Australians should come first before anyone who is not.
While it is true that the Yellow Vests’ symbolism have been used by both left and right wing groups in France and other countries, Yellow Vests Australia appears to just be a naked attempt to co-opt that symbolism while using it to push an anti-Islamist agenda. YVA are banking on right-wing voters’ dissatisfaction with traditional right-wing parties such as Pauline Hanson’s One Nation to attract votes to their cause.
While changes to voting preferences make it harder for these micro parties to preference each other and get elected, don’t think they are not a threat to Australian politics and our way of life.
As the aforementioned Slackbastard puts it, “Whether or not this re-branding was a serious attempt to crib from the French movement or simply a terrible joke is, of course, unknown at this stage.” With YVA unwilling to answer direct questions even just on the name change alone, you will have to decide for yourself which of these two possibilities you think is more likely.
What is clear is that the far right’s influence is slowly growing in Australia, and more groups are emerging all the time. While the fractured nature of the far right limits their effectiveness to a certain extent, don’t be disillusioned that they are not having an effect.
Their common ideologies are what strongly contributed to the Christchurch shooter’s beliefs, as evident in the manifesto he published before committing mass murder (which we are not going to link to here so as not to promote his hate speech).
It is incumbent on all Australians to be aware who these hate-filled micro parties are and what they really represent. It seems ALA aka Yellow Vests Australia are counting on at least a few votes from people who have no idea who they really are but know the Yellow Vests protest movement name in general. Whether this is ethical or not, it wouldn’t be the first time a party in Australia has used a misleading name as a front to attract votes they otherwise might not get.
While the changes in 2016 to how the Senate voting preferences function make it harder for these micro parties to preference each other and get elected now, don’t think that means they are not a threat to Australian politics and our multicultural, diverse way of life here.
We have seen in Britain and the USA in the last two years what can happen when populist agendas take hold too firmly in a democratic nation, and the havoc that can wreak as a result. If we want to avoid the same populist right-wing chaos in Australia, we need to call out these micro parties and their agenda and name it for what it is: nationalist white power racism and xenophobia with more than just a tinge of neo-Nazi echoes to it.
Yellow Vests Australia are nothing but right-wing wolves in supposedly-activist’s clothing.