Community leaders say the fact that the upsurge in racist incidents, which began about 18 months ago, appeared to be the work of a few isolated individuals counted for little in the region, where Perth's reputation has been severely dented.

Three Chinese restaurants were firebombed last week.

"I've already had phone calls from people in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia saying, 'We're not sending our children there to die'," said Suresh Rajan, the chairman of the Ethnic Communities Council of Western Australia.

Churches, mosques and Asian businesses are frequently vandalised and racist graffiti sprayed on walls. Public areas including bus stops, lamp posts and shop walls across the city have been covered with anti-Asian posters and slogans. 

"We've seen three attacks on a Sikh temple, said Rajan. "Someone threw a pig's head and smashed bottles of beer on the front of the temple, confusing them for Muslims," he said.

Post 9/11 world

After the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York City and Washington, there was a rise in anti-Muslim violence in Australia and the United States.

"We have seen a resurgence of posters that are racially-motivated promoting Nazi thought, promoting racial hatred, appearing on public buildings and other places throughout the Perth metropolitan area"

Jim McGinty,
Western Australia's Attorney General

A Vietnamese community hall and a Chinese-Christian centre were also recently vandalised.

The violence intensified last week when three Chinese restaurants in Perth's southern suburbs were firebombed, causing an estimated 55,000 dollars ($42,000) damage.

Police charged three people aged 21, 19 and 17 over the attacks, but stressed they did not believe the trio were part of any neo-Nazi or hate groups.

Racist figures

Western Australia's Attorney General Jim McGinty admitted the state's reputation was suffering in Asia and that racist incidents were on the rise.

"We have seen a resurgence of posters that are racially-motivated promoting Nazi thought, promoting racial hatred, appearing on public buildings and other places throughout the Perth metropolitan area," he said.

Australia's reputation suffered in Asia after the rise of Pauline Hanson's right-wing One Nation Party and had been on a downward spiral ever since.

The rise of Jack van Tongeren's party and what McGinty described as his racial hatred campaigns were all hurting Canberra's international image. Van Tongeren is the leader of the Australian Nationalists Movement, an ultra-right wing group which models itself on Adolph Hitler's Nazi party.

Van Tongeren and four party members were arrested in 1989. They were charged with a string of attacks on Asian businesses around Perth throughout the late 1980s, after police raided their compound-which boasted an observation tower, an underground bunker and a rifle range.

He served 12 years in prison and was released in 2002. He denies any involvement in the latest attacks.