Academic journal article Hecate

Articulating the Future and the Past: Gender, Race, and Globalisation in One Nation Discourse

Academic journal article Hecate

Articulating the Future and the Past: Gender, Race, and Globalisation in One Nation Discourse

Article excerpt

Articulating the Future and the Past: Gender, Race, and Globalisation in One Nation Discourse

(Racial) discourse invariably draws on a cultural density of prior representations that are recast in new form;...racism appears at once as a return to the past as it harnesses itself to progressive projects;...scholars can never decide among themselves whether they are witness to a legacy of the past or the emergence of a new phenomenon altogether.

Ann Laura Stoler, Race and the Education of Desire(1)

With Pauline Hanson out of parliament, and One Nation support at the October 1998 Federal election insufficient to elect more than one Queensland senator, it is tempting to think the nightmare of radical-conservative populism(2) may be nearly over. But let's pause, not so fast. Even in the short term, the One Nation vote cannot be ignored (8.45% in the Federal election), and the limited number of their candidates elected was related partly to preference decisions made by other parties. In the longer term, as we argue in this essay, Hansonite politics, in one form or another, whether or not it revolves around Pauline Hanson herself, or around One Nation specifically, is a form of politics of the future not the past. It is a politics of the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century. It is a politics that is here to stay at least as a significant minority factor in Australian political life.(3) And it is a politics whose gender dimensions are extremely contradictory, and worth further consideration.(4) We suggest that the resilience of One Nation style politics derives from its ability to draw on pertinent themes about both the future and the past.

One Nation and Globalisation

The likely resilience of One Nation can be seen most sharply in its opposition to economic rationalisation -- more free markets, less protection, more labour market deregulation -- in the face of globalisation. One Nation's dystopia envisions a globalised, deindustrialised, rurally depressed society with high unemployment and high levels of foreign ownership. If, as many theorists of globalisation suggest, the world is increasingly dominated by international, cosmopolitan metropolises such as Sydney, London and New York, with economically depressed hinterlands, then One Nation's appeal in rural areas and small towns seems a sign of the times.(5) Even before the formation of One Nation as a political party, Pauline Hanson had already clearly articulated this sense of the effects of globalisation: Labor and Liberal economic policies, she said, have `resulted in the loss of many Australian jobs to our overseas competitors and our manufacturing base has been seriously reduced.' Furthermore `many of our once prosperous rural areas are now economic wastelands' and `deregulation has destroyed many small businesses which find themselves being crushed between big business and big government.'(6) In this analysis One Nation is, of course, not alone: many traditional conservatives as well as many members of the Left might agree. Minor parties such as the Greens and the Democrats have opposed economic rationalism and the forces of the global free market, and even Labor is making at least some gestures in that regard.

Yet One Nation's hostility to economic globalisation has some specific features. For example, there is the issue of the relationship between globalisation and the new information economy. For Liberal party politicians, the two are joined together; despite acknowledging some glitches, such as the role that excessively deregulated financial markets played in the Asian meltdown, politicians such as Howard generally argue that new information technology makes globalisation and the need for free markets inevitable.(7) One Nation speaks for those who don't like these developments, who are feeling left out of the new information economy, -- `the information have-nots.'(8) Pauline Hanson herself is their champion every time she makes a factual error or is stumped by a word used by an uppity journalist and asks `please explain? …

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