Keeping Australia’s national socialists at bay

by Crispin Hull 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.
CRISPIN HULL
This article first appeared in The Canberra Times and other Fairfax media on 2 December 2017.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Ronald 12.02.17 at 7:47 am

The odious One Nation will continue to garner support whilever it is the only party that offers (a confused, racist) opportunity to reduce our massive immigration. We need an intelligent alternative. Perhaps Dick Smith will initiate it, but he shows no sign of this yet.

David Hunter 12.02.17 at 8:28 am

Well said–it now makes sense to me as to what One Nation really is- a National Socialist party. And until we recognise this, we (and the political parties!) will be continually surprised as to the level of support that the disgruntled give One Nation.

Michael 12.02.17 at 9:11 am

Spot on again Crispin. Great piece. Like in the 30’s economic nationalism happens because the balance has tilted too far against native people in favour of mass immigration that government supports at the behest of business and to provide cheap labour.

Stephen S 12.02.17 at 11:40 am

Ardern Labour is cutting immigration 30-40%, yet offering to take our Manus asylum seekers. But Shorten Labor is still rusted on to Big Australia and Stop Da Boats.

The marriage poll shows Big Australia has created a pool of reactionary conservatism in Western Sydney. It’s dumb social policy, as well as dumb economic policy.

The one thing Hayne is sure to avoid is our home lending scandal. Near the top of the OECD for population growth, housing unaffordability, and household indebtedness.

Tony McIntyre 12.02.17 at 1:26 pm

Most people know first hand an example where Australian workers have been displaced by 457 visa holders being paid a lower rate of pay, often below the award. Claims that these people are highly skilled providing labor where no Australians are available is obviously a lie. The only comeback is a protest vote. Unfortunately with protest votes you know who you are voting against but generally not for what you are voting for and with protest votes does it matter unless they actually get into a position of power.

Brian O'Donnell 12.03.17 at 8:57 am

Excellent analysis Crispin – especially in regard to the parallels between One Nation and National Socialism. When people who are very angry get together, a person with strong skills as a demagogue can channel their anger into extreme rage. That was Hitler’s special talent. You are also right in identifying how the government could easily rectify the problems that are responsible for this rising tide of anger. Pity they don’t have the intelligence to grasp that.

Anthony Brookman 12.04.17 at 12:36 pm

Yes I (mostly) agree. Just to repeat part of Crispin’s analysis; the mantra from various politicians and journalists has been that “orderly immigration” (stopping the refugee boats) maintains support for high levels of imnmigration. Paul Kelly at the Oz has been banging on about this for decades. The thing is, that mantra has it arse-about. Environmentalists and refugee-advocates should stop and realise that a much smaller immigration-intake would allow for a larger refugee intake. When wages are stangant, roads, hospitals and schools bursting at the seams, people are more likely to resent all newcomers; migrants and refugees alike. We need a population policy. We need less numbers overall, then we could take care of our environment, and take-in more (genuine) refugees.

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