EXCLUSIVE: Just how exactly did Lauren Southern – the far-right White Supremacist darling turned Sky News ‘media celebrity’ – successfully get past Border Force to gain entry from Canada to Australia last year despite a personal history full of extremist racist rhetoric used to divide communities and stoke violence? Tom Tanuki with this investigation.
It’s a question many have been asking, and we finally can provide an answer.
True Crime News Weekly has received explosive case notes leaked from the Department of Home Affairs which reveal the details of an initial visa approval mid last year for white nationalist Lauren Southern.
They show that the Australian Government actively considered Southern’s far-right online content, in which she promoted the same conspiracy theory that motivated the Christchurch killer – but still decided to approve her stay only one year after her Australian tour caused chaos and division.
The case notes also reveal the likely motivation behind Southern’s shock 2019 announcement that she was ‘quitting’ white nationalism: a desire to slip through Australia’s visa approval process.
The leaked document shows that Southern applied for a Visitor visa on May 31, 2019 to ostensibly attend a friend’s wedding in July 2019.
In considering her case, the Department reflects on the content and ideas she built her career on:
“Ms Southern gained prominence in 2015 while employed as a journalist for a far right Canadian online political and social commentary media website. Her online content includes extensive videos promoting her far-right political views, activism at protests, and commentary of current affairs. Ms Southern’s first visit to Australia in 2018 attracted significant media attention and protest activity at her public speaking venues. On 20 July 2018, a protest at one of her speaking events escalated into violence between her supporters and protesters.”
Nonetheless, the Department elected to approve her Visitor visa:
“On 5 July 2019, the character delegate decided not to refuse Ms Southern’s visa application under section 501 of the Act, and on 9 July 2019, she was granted a Visitor (subclass 600) visa.”
So, with that, let’s consider Section 501 of the Migration Act. An applicant can be said to fail a character test for a visa here if they fall foul of the following categories: ‘association with persons suspected of engaging in criminal conduct’, a history of questionable ‘past and present criminal or general conduct’ or if they pose a ‘significant risk of vilifying a segment of, or inciting discord within the community’.
Instead of listing the long and colourful list of extremist nationalist associations throughout Southern’s career, let’s consider one of particular concern to Australians: she worked for years alongside Austrian neo-Nazi Martin Sellner.
Austrian racist Martin Sellner: an old friend of Lauren Southern from the White Supremacist scene as well as Christchurch Killer Brenton Tarrant (Image: Wiki Commons)
Sellner is a prominent figure in the ‘Identitarian movement’, a European effort to update and sanitise white nationalism and fascism. He was in contact with the Christchurch killer, Brenton Tarrant, and received financial support from him. I’m surprised that the association with Sellner alone didn’t fit the first category in a way of concern to the Department of Home Affairs. Interestingly, just a few months back Sellner was forced to cancel his marriage to another far right online identity – the US-based Brittany Pettibone – after the United States changed his immigration status prohibiting him from entering the country following evidence of his friendship with Tarrant was made public. But Southern was allowed to migrate to Australia last year.
Southern was directly involved in a mission conducted by Generation Identity (Sellner’s group), boarding a vessel in Europe headed out to block ships searching for migrants stranded at sea. It’s only one of many awful stunts she conducted as part of her career as a YouTuber, but boarding that vessel was perhaps the worst and most extreme. I am no migration expert. But I imagine that alone represents a questionable enough history of general conduct to fall foul of the second category.
Regarding the third category – posing a ‘significant risk of vilifying a segment of, or inciting discord within the community’ – it’s tough to pick a single stunt that demonstrates this best, because this visa applicant’s entire career has been about vilifying minorities and inciting discord. However, uniquely enough we already have a history of her doing this in Australia. Her 2018 Australian tour involved the routine mockery of Indigenous cultures. She attended Lakemba to record a video stunt propagating the far-right falsehood that the suburb was a ‘no go zone’ for anybody but Muslims.
And finally, of course, there’s the theory she popularised. The one which inspired our worst-ever mass-murderer, Brenton Tarrant. The Christchurch killer’s manifesto was entitled ‘The Great Replacement’ and it outlined a conspiracy theory in which white people are being deliberately ‘replaced’ by other races. Southern didn’t invent this theory, but she was among its the most famous promoters. Her ‘Great Replacement’ video glorifying the conspiracy theory received around 620,000 views, offering up largely the same paranoid call to action that Tarrant’s manifesto did.
After Christchurch, she removed the video.
Lauren doesn’t pose a significant risk of vilifying a segment of the community or inciting discord here. She has already done all the vilifying and inciting.
A caveat: I’m no comfortable cheerleader for Department of Home Affairs standards or immigration enforcement. I don’t espouse the kind of ‘tough borders’ conservative-signalling rhetoric that people like Southern build entire careers on. But I have to refer to the Migration Act because the decision to let her stay here poses some big questions. For one: why has she been permitted to stay in the country, and pick up commercial work with Sky News allowing her to resume a career in divisive far-right commentary, while hundreds of innocent people seeking asylum languish in Australian detention centres for years?
Another question. Australia has rejected the visas of figures such as controversial clerics ahead of speaking tours and conferences because they promote divisive views or ideas connected to extremist ideologies. Southern was allowed to perform here in 2018 – but by the time she’d applied to come back for a wedding last year the Christchurch massacre had happened, and that showed the world that views central to Southern’s career can incite mass-murders. So what, then, is the substantial difference between Lauren Southern and, say, an ultraconservative Wahhabi cleric hoping to tour a warped and puritanical brand of Islam to incite hostilities?
I note that she only applied for a Visitor visa initially, and I imagine that the considerations for Southern to celebrate a private wedding here are different to those involving her coming to profit from peddling her far right views.
But then Southern announced that she had a baby in January 2020, with her Australian partner. If I understand babies correctly, that means she was pregnant at the time her visitor visa was approved in July 2019.
Did Lauren come here under false pretences as a visitor before applying for another form of residency, given the circumstances of her pregnancy? I should clarify that I don’t attach the same emotive shaming to this as Lauren’s white nationalist peers (who regularly accuse migrants of deploying ‘anchor babies’ as a weapon in their endless war to take over the West).
I’m not trying to write a gossip column, mind you. I don’t actually care about Lauren’s personal life. What concerns me is not what brought her to have a family and live here, but the fact that she’s recommenced regular appearances in Australia as a public figure, toeing the line on Sky News with a localised far-right agenda. That means she’s transitioned into another category of residency now and has been permitted to work.
This leads me to what I think is the biggest reveal from the leaked case notes. It’s the seemingly innocuous application date. It provides crucial context as to her very abrupt quitting of far-right activism and commentary, and it makes so much more sense of why she bowed out when she did than anything we’ve heard to date:
Lauren’s Visitor visa application was made on 31 May 2019. Her much-publicised ‘quitting’ video came on 2 June 2019 – only two days later.
There were many theories from Lauren’s far-right ‘comrades’ as to why she quit the far right, such as far-right grifter Milo Yiannopoulos speculating that she was being blackmailed or had obtained a sugar daddy. All wrong, of course. Turns out that Lauren Southern’s motivation for stepping back was to avoid being rejected for a visa from the Department of Home Affairs.
For this reason also, Lauren’s deleted many more of her videos. Very recently. She has, for example, removed every one of her (numerous) videos promoting Generation Identity and the identitarian movement. She also deleted her interviews with Martin Sellner. She is trying to sanitise her online presence. Ergo, she’s been warmly and keenly welcomed into the fold within the rotting corridors of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
Lauren’s views, also the source of inspiration for our worst mass-murderer, are now being tapped for ongoing media opportunities. Sky News are the willing hosts for her integration into our media landscape, wasting no time inducting her into the mainstream. Muddled moderately left-wing panelists have no qualms in helping this process along. Maybe they simply can’t shy away from an opportunity to work, but they’re also helping to lend credibility to Lauren’s right to appear on television (as slackbastard covered in an excellent blog post covering Southern’s recent rise in Australian media).
Many conservatives appear unwilling to help Lauren Southern sanitise her extremist reputation. The upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in November, to be held in Sydney, recently removed her from its roster, in what I’m told was a request from the conservative Institute of Public Affairs. These organisations might not find Southern’s views an issue, but they are worried about being tarnished in association with her.
Only two outfits appear bold enough to want to weather the storm of supporting Southern’s Nazi history and associations. One is Sky News, and the other is Peter Dutton’s Department of Home Affairs.
Lauren’s recent return from her hiatus came with a very explicit disclaimer in a recorded comeback video: that she is no longer a white nationalist or an alt-right member. So we’re to believe. So she says. Of course, we can now assume why she says that. Becoming a permanent resident here might be affected by honestly admitting that you still ascribe to the same radical views that ASIO have recently confirmed now take up 40% of their resources.
Where hate finds new life: Australian conservatives and Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News have only been too happy to help rehabilitate Lauren Southern’s hateful White Supremacist image (Image: Twitter / Supplied)
Personally, I assume that Lauren has been allowed to fly under the radar because as a nation we’re conditioned to be more amenable to the violent far-right’s form of extremism than we are to other ones. As Behrouz Boochani says, immigration detention is our modern expression of the White Australia policy. Approving someone like Southern is very much the same expression. But as we saw with Brenton Tarrant, all violent extremism can amount to a body count – even if it stems from ideologies our society would rather not reckon with.
Meanwhile, how long will it be until Lauren Southern begins to endorse the next version of the Great Replacement on our screens? On what visa will she be allowed to do so? And while extremists of the ‘correct skin colour’ are permitted to incite further violence for money, for how much longer will innocents seeking asylum here be consigned to languish further in detention?
These are questions we must ask, because our government has demonstrated they won’t do it.
Let’s be direct. Was Lauren Southern allowed entry into Australia to be a useful patsy and sow seeds of racist discontent? It wouldn’t be the first time Australia’s security agencies have flagged through a divisive or unhinged character for their own reasons. Just think of how terrorist Man Haron Monis was given asylum by the Australian Government, largely under the deluded belief that Monis would be able to help them and the United States destabilise his home country of Iran.
Is something similar happening here?
Has Lauren Southern been allowed to enter Australia to help incite the same kind of racist, right-wing populism that is already the stock-in-trade of the likes of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton?
Southern did not respond to a series of questions or provide any other comment to True Crime News Weekly when she was approached.
We had asked whether her stay in Australia since July 2019 had been one of a continuous nature and whether the timing of her application for a visa to enter Australia and her public announcement of her apparent decision to turn her back on White Supremacy were simply coincidences.
Nor did Southern respond to the following question:
“I understand from your career that you do not believe that people with extremist views demonstrably leading to violence, or a record of inciting division in a community, should be allowed to migrate freely to that country. Do you still believe this?”
One can only wonder why.