Keeping Australia’s national socialists at bay

by on December 1, 2017

I WAS in a specialist’s waiting room in Carins with a relatively minor ailment when I could not but overhear some heated agreement between two other patients, both male in their late 60s, about last week’s Queensland election, both One Nation scrutineers, both convinced of a major conspiracy by the Queensland Electoral Commission to do One Nation down.

They could not understand how the commission could “eliminate” a One Nation candidate and start counting his or her preferences on election night when it was obvious that the One Nation candidate had a good chance of coming second and should still be in the race.

A “We-wuz-robbed” chorus ensued.

I did my best to allow some facts to intrude on this major conspiracy theory (early preference counting is done to get a better idea of the outcome earlier but is only provisional and can be redone if need be), but to no avail, until, mercifully, one of the One Nation scrutineers was called in to be scrutinised by the specialist.

The incident is just an example of One Nation delusion and refusal to change their view no matter what the evidence.

Lots of people have rejoiced at One Nation getting no seats or possibly scrape just one, and that by a feral pest exterminator.

One might well say, “Watch out Pauline!” given the history of more than half of the successful One Nation candidates turning on the party and its leader.

So, many think One Nation and its ilk are now a spent force. Wrong.

For a start One Nation’s primary vote in the Queensland election was higher than any recent third-party vote in a state or federal election. It was almost as high as all other minor parties combined, and they did not stand in every electorate.

They got no seats because of the single-member electorate system and One Nation’s dispersed geographic base.

A similar vote in a proportional system would easily have given One Nation the balance of power.

That is what happened in the recent German elections. And it has caused mayhem. The success of a “far right” party denied Angela Merkel’s moderate-right Christian Democrats a majority or even the prospect of a majority in coalition.

This is not going away. (Or in Pauline Hanson’s ambiguous words, “We’re not going anywhere.”) Do not imagine that just because One Nation got zero or just one seat that its supporters will suddenly “see the light” and dessert the party. To the contrary, the fact they got such a high vote with no seats will just fuel the belief in a conspiracy of the elites to deny them justice.

But “far right” is the wrong description for AfD in Germany or One Nation in Australia. These parties are not neo-liberal, classic-economics, right-wing parties. They are really national socialist parties – supremacist, race-based nationalism combined with heavy regulation of big business. It’s 1930s National Socialism without murdering Jews and homosexuals or waging an aggressive war. But all the other elements are there: xenophobia; disaffection; appeal to emotion; racial nationalism; protectionism; high regulation of industry; social conservatism; pointing at external enemies and so on.

The real question should be: why is One Nation getting so much support now? Are there any parallels, albeit on a much smaller scale, with 1930s Europe?

Well, to some extent, yes.

After a couple of decades of neo-liberal economics, privatisations, social-security cuts, austerity, stagnant wage growth, cuts to working conditions, out-sourcing, factory closures, economic disruption and so on, obviously there is the same sense of alienation, anger and disaffection felt in Germany for the same reasons in the 1930s.

Similarly, it was the EU-led austerity program that resulted in the rise of national-socialist Golden Dawn in Greece which denied Syriza a majority in 2015.

In Australia, this has been compounded by extremely high immigration and a sense (indeed, a reality) that employers are being permitted to import cheap labour at the cost of existing residents. And this is compounded by the accusation that “Australians are not willing to do these jobs” when in fact they are, but not at the wage-slave rates on offer.

This is perhaps the greatest unnoticed irony in Australia. John Howard said he would have to be tough on refugees so people would stomach and not rebel against his mega-high immigration program which benefited the Coalition’s well-heeled donors to the detriment of the majority of Australians.

The truth is the reverse. We should have been more circumspect on economic immigration with all its unseen attendant costs so that we would be in a better position to improve to our humanitarian and refugee intake.

And now national socialist Pauline Hanson riles against being swamped by Muslims, when the real cause of the disaffection and alienation of her supporters – even if they do not recognise it – is being economically swamped by UK, NZ, Indian and Chinese immigrants who impose an unsustainable burden on infrastructure provision and drive up housing costs.

But anytime anyone mentions that, they get accused of xenophobia, so they don’t – a xenophobiaphobia (to borrow Clive Hamilton’s phrase). Very convenient for the very few people who benefit from high immigration.

So to overcome the ghastly swing to One Nation, it is up to the Coalition to address the sources of the alienation: reduce economic immigration; stop the downward pressure on wages through unfair labour laws (which in any event are harming, not helping, business by shrinking demand); and bring big corporations and public-utility monopolies in to line.

Malcolm Turnbull said, “A vote for One Nation is a vote of Labor.” Well, yes, but only because he made it so.

It may be that One Nation did not get any seats, but the preferential system still gives them a lot of leverage, and they are not going away unless the major parties address at least some of the economic concerns of their supporters.

Our only saving grace is that a majority of One Nation candidates and MPs turn out to be embarrassing crackpots or defectors or both, and that they fall well short of the administrative and propaganda efficiency which has been the hallmark of the European version of their politics.
This article first appeared in The Canberra Times and other Fairfax media on 2 December 2017.

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