“Of those 22 incidents, one was allegedly perpetrated by a right-wing extremist, and that case is still before the courts.
“It is an important issue for ASIO, it is an important vector of threat which we have watched historically and which we will continue to watch.”
Mr Lewis said those statistcs “bring a perspective to this which I think we need to be very conscious of”.
He said ASIO was examining whether it needed to dedicate more resources to fighting right-wing extremism but it was not clear at this stage that such a change would be justified.
“We are currently looking to see to what extent we may need to rebalance our own internal work,” he said under questioning from Labor senator Murray Watt.
“There’s no early evidence to me that there will be some dramatic reset around this.
“It won’t surprise you that after an incident such as Christchurch … we always go back to the drawing board to see if there are any adjustments that need to be made in our efforts.”
Mr Lewis declined to comment on whether membership of far-right groups was increasing. However, he said the modern incarnations of these groups were generally better organised than their predecessors.
Since the March 15 mosque shooting in Christchurch – allegedly at the hands of a white supremacist Australian gunman – there has been widespread debate about the alleged rise of right-wing extremism in Australia and its intersection with politics and the media.
Mr Lewis would not comment on co-operation between right-wing groups in Australia and those abroad, but said ASIO was “in contact with many, many friendly and allied agencies” about the rise of right-wing groups in Europe.
“We are very interested in right-wing extremism but the point I’m trying to make – and I hope this is clear – is that this is not new,” he said.
“This is something which we have been involved in for 30, 40 years. We have people in our organisation that are committed as their day job to the issue of right-wing extremism.”
Michael Koziol is a political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.