Minor parties did well in the 2016 Federal Election but much of their success seems based on the politics of fear.
In a world of nonstop political spin, revolving leadership contests and lacklustre policy development its little wonder that many swinging voters are going elsewhere.
Disillusionment with the major parties has given rise to the Nick Xenophon Team, the electoral resurgence of One Nation, and election of Derryn Hinch to the Senate.
Voter disillusionment is nothing new in Australian politics. We’ve had the Democrats to “keep the bastards honest”, the rise of the Australian Greens since the 1990s and more recently the rapid rise and spectacular implosion of the Palmer United Australia Party.
It’s often said: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. Every generation is faced with hard choices. Right now in the Asian Century we are dealing with global economic uncertainty, climate change and technological advancement.
The politics of fear
It’s understandable when people become disillusioned with tired old parties that don’t represent their interests but it’s very concerning if people are driven by the politics of fear.
Fear is an effective political tactic. John Howard’s Tampa scare with the Pacific Solution and Tony Abbott’s “Stop the boats” campaign have effectively pressured Labor to the right on refugee issues.
While stirring fear can be politically advantageous in politics, there’s a risk that its overuse can open Pandora’s box.
Consider the resurgence of One Nation with Pauline Hanson and two others recently elected to the Senate.
Her party is pushing for a royal commission into Islam, and stricter measures in place against immigration.
Many believe that Hanson and her party’s policies don’t belong in what we currently define as modern day Australia but her supporters are mostly average day people from all walks of life looking for somebody to enfranchise them.
One Nation similarities to Old Labor
One Nation has much in common with the Australian Labor Party of yesteryear.
Think about issues that Labor once advocated and stood for:
- White Australia
- Protecting our economy from overseas interests
Most modern day One Nation supporters would have without a doubt supported the Old Labor ideology. Labor changed for the better with the likes of Whitlam who opposed such viewpoints.
Multiculturalism and Australia’s economic renaissance
Since the abolition of the White Australia policy in the 1960s – 70s era, and the economic deregulation of the 1980s Australia entered an economic renaissance built upon cultural transformation.
As a triple AAA credited nation, Australia has survived the GFC, prospered through a long mining boom, seen a rise in arts, scientific achievements, and enjoyed a wide acceptance of diversity.
Former US President Franklin Roosevelt famously said in his 1933 inauguration speech:
the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance
Getting caught up in the politics of fear could lead Australia backwards to White Australia thinking, climate change scepticism, and anti-intellectualism. This would hurt Australia’s standing internationally and result in hard times domestically.
Given we live in times of Brexit and the rise of Trump as the GOP’s presidential candidate we can’t just ignore One Nation. It’s a party of resilience and will likely feed off criticism, becoming stronger as it gets more attention.
Now is the time for our leaders in politics, business, unions and the community to step up and provide hope and inspiration for all Australians, (regardless of their background), campaigning on the success of modern day Australia.
It’s OK to be cautious, but let’s not be fearful. Love is stronger than hate.
Callen Sorensen – Karklis
Callen is an active member of the Australian Fabians Society, ALP, Crime Stoppers, Meals on Wheels and is a Quandamooka Noonucle Indigenous person with a strong commitment to community. Callen has worked in the retail and market research sectors and is currently a student at Griffith University.