One Nation?

By Wu, Steven | Harvard International Review, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

One Nation?


Wu, Steven, Harvard International Review


Abstract:

The most controversial figure in recent Australian politics has been Pauline Hanson, leader of the political party One Nation. One Nation's supporters can be roughly divided into 2 overlapping groups: those who resent multiculturalism and those who were not beneficiaries of Australia's integration into international markets. Hopefully, given enough time to implement multicultural and economic policies, the number disaffected by Australia's changes will decline, and with it, the likelihood that a party like One Nation will rise again in Australian politics,

Text:

Headnote:

Warnings for Australia

The most controversial figure in recent Australian politics has been Pauline Hanson, leader of the political party One Nation.

The name of the party indicates Hanson's desire to reunite an Australia that she claims has been fragmented by multiculturalism, Asian immigration, Aboriginal reparations, and globalization-all goals promulgated by the current government. One Nation experienced temporary political success, but suffered a decline this past year. While the party may have fallen from power, however, the underlying problems that lent it initial support still exist. Unless these problems are addressed, One Nation, or a party much like it, could easily rise again.

In 1996, Hanson began her career in politics as a Liberal candidate for the federal parliamentary seat of Oxley. She was expelled from the Liberal party when she wrote a letter to the Queensland Times criticizing the "money, facilities, and opportunities" that the government has given to Aborigines. Nevertheless, Hanson continued her campaign as an independent candidate and won. In her maiden speech in Parliament on September 10, 1996, Hanson criticized government-sponsored Aboriginal benefits that were not available to non-Aborigines. Hanson claimed that these benefits, in addition to dividing Australia along racial lines, could not be justified even as reparation for historical injustice. Hanson also spoke out against admitting unskilled and non-English-speaking immigrants. In this speech, Hanson supported protectionism, calling for tariffs on foreign goods and an end to foreign ownership in Australia. Finally, she claimed that multiculturalism weakened Australia.

These words shocked the Australian public, especially when Hanson's ideas were incorporated into the official platform of the One Nation party in April 1997. Hanson's victory in the federal parliament and the victory of II One Nation members of parliament (MPs) in the state of Queensland implied that the party could become a permanent fixture in Australian politics. Within two years, however, the party began to lose power. In October 1998, Hanson lost her reelection campaign. In February 1999, five of One Nation's Queensland MPs withdrew from the party after Hanson and her co-founders refused to step down and face re-election by party members. By mid-February, support for One Nation had dropped to two percent of the national electorate. The final blow came when One Nation lost official party status in the Queensland parliament in late February due to an insufficient number of MPs.

But the fall of One Nation may not be the liberal victory that the media claims. Hanson's failed re-election bid was more a result of Australia's arcane preferential voting system than a result of increased tolerance-One Nation still garnered more than eight percent of the national vote. In addition, One Nation took nine percent of the vote in the New South Wales election in late March. Moreover, while half of the Queensland MPs have withdrawn from the party, they still maintain the party's views in government. Finally, the current reassuringly low two-percent approval rating is misleading: most former One Nation supporters still support its policies, but did not support the party because they had less confidence in One Nation's political strength. …

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