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Australia’s UKIP and the many incarnations of ‘One Nation’

Not the least unfortunate precedent for Ed Miliband’s current attempt to rebrand Labour is the sorry saga of a 1990s wingnut populist outfit that also went by the moniker of One Nation.

Its leader, a bigot called Pauline Hanson, occupied what was once a safe Labor seat during her thankfully brief spell in the Australian House of Representatives, the country’s lower chamber.

Ms Hanson launched One Nation in 1997 when she was deselected as a candidate by the country’s main centre-right party, the Liberals, following embarrassing public comments slagging off Aboriginal benefit scroungers.

Her maiden speech made great play of her experience as ‘a mother of four children, as a sole parent, a businesswoman running a fish and chip shop’, and lashed out at the ‘reverse racism’ suffered by ‘mainstream Australians’ at the hands of ‘those who promote political correctness’.

The themes of her polemics will, mutatis mutandis, be entirely familiar to those who peruse the Daily Mail and the Daily Torygraph; immigration, multiculturalism, family breakdown, the need for protectionism. And indigenous Australians on welfare. Plus did I mention her virtual obsession with indigenous Australians on welfare?

One Nation, fortunately, was up like a rocket and down like a stick. It peaked at 22% of the statewide vote in Queensland in 1998, picking up 11 seats, and 9% in the polls nationwide. Thereafter it pretty much fell to pieces as a result of the factional infighting that plagues the far right as much as the far left. It is still – nominally – in existence. No worries, mate.

The obvious parallels between Hanson’s party and UKIP were drawn to my attention in a Facebook exchange I had this morning with Christian Kerr, a columnist for Murdoch’s newspaper The Australian and a former spindoctor for John Howard’s National-Liberal coalition government.

Christian – who proved an entertaining dinner party companion last year, despite having markedly different views to mine – is reassuringly of the outlook that Brit lefties do not have too much to worry about from the Faragistes.

‘They [One Nation] disintegrated once they got a bit of critical mass and a few parliamentarians, just as UKIP will. Everyone wants to be Führer. These types find a banner to gather under that briefly gets them some support, then rip it to pieces,’ he opines.

And the past form of UKIP does lend some support to that thesis. Not for nothing was Cameron, at least while in opposition, able to write them off as fruitcakes.

It is with some hilarity that most of us recall the party’s less-than-illustrious history of over two decades, which has incorporated such debacles as its spectacular bust-up with early paymaster Michael Holmes and the Robert Kilroy-Silk-led Veritas breakaway.

It would be comforting to think that UKIP will inevitably follow One Nation’s example and oblige the rest of us simply by coming to grief. But if its performance in Rotherham is anything to go by, I suspect it would be unwise to bank on it.

Miliband should resist the pressure that will no doubt be applied by Labour’s residual Blairites to fight nasty rightwing populism by compromising with nasty rightwing populism, and it make it quite clear that One Nation Labour will have no truck with One Nation’s current British counterpart.

One Comment

  1. Oz says:

    It is a mistake to dismiss One Nation. While as a political party they quickly fell apart, many of the ideas they advocated were adopted by the conservative Liberal Party for example the introduction of Temporary Protection Visas, their hardline rhetoric on refugees which has now infected both major parties, encouraging culture wars and multiculturalism essentially being banished from government policy. The legacy of One Nation is still being felt in Australia today.

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