The recordings show the organisation was open to recruiting teenagers and that Brenton Tarrant’s murderous mosque rampage in New Zealand in March 2019 was admired by some.
In his recorded vetting interview in late 2019, a 21-year-old Brisbane applicant told The Base leadership: I “fully wholeheartedly agree with what he [Tarrant] did.” He was joining The Base because “there is no political or democratic solution at all”.
A 33-year-old applicant from Perth, known online by the name “James Jameson”, described how he got “enjoyment watching … Tarrant do his thing”.
Another applicant, a 16-year-old boy from Canberra, told The Base’s leaders that his father was a government security official who didn’t support his views and that the teen had been kicked out of a local nationalist group for “promoting violent tactics” and supporting Tarrant.
“My dad came to me one time and he basically screamed at me about what I’ve been doing online and things like that and how it threatens his job,” the young applicant said.
Mr Nazzaro, who is based in Russia, responded that The Base was “trying to increase our presence” in Australia and “if you join, we’re going to look to you to kind of help in that regard”. The teen responded: “Well, I’ll finish school after next year, so I should be all good for that.”
The leaked material suggests that, by early 2020, The Base had recruited four Australians, though two had by then also left the group. One of those who stayed, and who The Age and Herald have identified as a young Perth tradesman, agreed to be The Base’s Australian leader and recruit more members, targeting young, impressionable men rather than older men with children.
“The guys with wives and kids, that’s a big problem,” the lead Australian recruiter said on one recording, while also describing how he would instruct the Canberra teen applicant to take photographs of neo-Nazi material “in front of the Parliament House” as “a really good propaganda piece”.
Another applicant to The Base is Gold Coast-based Grant Fuller, whose vetting application states that he is a former military employee turned “leader” of the Queensland chapter of Australia’s highest-profile extremist group, The Lads Society. This meant he could “open doors to more recruits”, he said. Mr Fuller denied attempting to join The Base when quizzed by The Age and Herald.
Former West Australian One Nation candidate Dean Smith, who unsuccessfully contested the 2019 federal election, told Mr Nazzaro during his vetting interview that “I have come to realise that there really is no political solution” and that, “if I want to leave a legacy for my children, then I’m going to have to do something about it”.
Mr Smith refused to answer questions last week, but sources with knowledge of The Base said he did not end up joining the US group and remains close to SWAN. Both Mr Smith and Mr Fuller sought to obscure their identities but were revealed by personal details they disclosed in their applications.
Formed in 2018 and active in the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, The Base supports “accelerationist” theory, which involves efforts to hasten the collapse of American liberal democracy into civil war, and bring about a white ethnostate. In encrypted chats, members have discussed the methods and efficacy of tactics such as sabotaging infrastructure and the finer points of guerrilla warfare.
While Mr Nazzaro has publicly sought to distance his group from domestic terrorism and violence, he and his fellow Base leaders are heard tacitly encouraging violence. A Perth applicant said he wanted to access firearms and avoid police attention. He said he had taught his 11-year-old stepdaughter a martial art and she had already “bashed two f—ing Africans”. One of The Base’s leaders responded: “That’s good. So then you are a good trainer.” There is no evidence that Mr Smith or Mr Fuller have engaged in or planned any violent activity or terrorism.
In response to questions sent by The Age and Herald, Mr Nazzaro said The Base was an “entirely legal” self-defence and survivalist network.
The recordings suggest that proscription of The Base by ASIO as a domestic terrorism group – a move which outlaws people becoming members and supporting it – would undermine its operations. One of The Base’s leaders described a “terrorism designation” , if it were to happen, as a “game changer”.
ASIO has recommended a number of extreme right-wing groups be declared terrorist organisations but they have not succeeded because Australia’s legal definition is narrower than in some other countries.
UK-based neo-Nazi group Sonnenkrieg Division recently became the first right-wing extremist organisation listed as a terrorist group in Australia.
In mid March, ASIO director general Mike Burgess described how “ideological extremism investigations have grown from around one-third of our priority counter-terrorism caseload, to around 40 per cent” and that he was “particularly concerned by the number of 15- and 16-year-olds who are being radicalised”.
But Mr Burgess cautioned not to automatically place neo-Nazi extremists and other hate-inspired groups “in the same threat category as ISIL [also known as Islamic State] or al-Qaeda”. However, he stressed the danger they posed was real and might be growing.
Nick McKenzie is an investigative reporter who has twice been named Australian Journalist of the Year. A winner of ten Walkley Awards, he investigates politics, business, foreign affairs/defence, human rights issues and policing/ criminal justice.
Joel is a producer for 60 Minutes.
Heather McNeill is a senior journalist at WAtoday.