- Trump and Brexit have shaken up politics in Australia
- One Nation’s resurgence has rattled the major parties
- More issue-based voting rather than party-based voting anticipated
- National Party expected to break ranks with the Coalition more often
As a consequence, the long-forgotten people in the regions of Australia are now at the forefront of every politician’s mind.
Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester said there is a growing push back against the idea of the elites.
“I think there is no doubt there is a bit of an anti-establishment movement in the community,” he said.
“It’s more of a feeling amongst some people that perhaps they may have been left behind.”
Conservative LNP Minister George Christensen believes political movements in the US and UK indicate it is time for Australia to take a drastic change in direction.
“As important as it is, people aren’t interested in the Government’s budget repair, they’re interested in repairing their own household budgets, which are bursting at the seam because of higher electricity prices, petrol prices,” he said.
“It’s the cost for everything. Tax is out of control.”
If George Christensen’s point of view was a slogan, it would echo Donald Trump — “Make Australia great again”.
“Civic nationalism is actually very different to the ethnic Nazi-type nationalism, fascist-type nationalism that we saw throughout Europe and sometimes do see throughout Europe,” he said.
“Civic nationalism is about putting your country first on matters economic, on matters political, and I think that’s where the public wants us to be.”
Rise of One Nation
All of this is music to the ears of One Nation, whose resurgence has rattled the major parties.
Rob Borbidge knows more than most about the threat posed by One Nation.
He was Queensland premier in 1998, when Pauline Hanson’s party won six seats off the Nationals and five off Labor.
“There’s an enormous amount of dissatisfaction with everyone. I mean, people are basically grumpy,” he said.
“They feel disenfranchised, they feel that the political system is letting them down.”
He is urging the major parties to stick to their core values and wait for One Nation to implode, as they did when he was premier.
“I don’t think that mainstream political parties should panic at this stage.
“The types of people that One Nation get into Parliament are rebellious, they are renegades and they don’t want to be part of the football team.
“Sooner or later, they want to go and do their own thing.”
Many in the current crop of Nationals, such as Darren Chester, agree, and for now are resisting calls from within to lurch to the right.
“I don’t think that many people in Australia actually identify as being left or right. I think they tend to vote on issues,” he said.
It is a sentiment shared by Labor, who has a lot to lose in the rise of the anti-establishment movement.
Joel Fitzgibbon, the Opposition spokesman for regional and rural Australia, said politics outside the major cities has changed.
“The National Party represents I think nine of the 10 poorest electorates in the country,” he said.
“And yet over time, people have continued to back them in and support them in those electorates.
“So if the National Party was serious, it would be talking about some progressive change. That’s certainly what the Labor Party wants to do.”
Breaking ranks a feature of the future
The recent Orange by-election in New South Wales was yet another wake-up call.
A matter of days later in Federal Parliament, the Nationals sent their constituents a powerful message when two Senators crossed the floor to support lifting a ban on the Adler shotgun, and four others abstained.
In fact, not a single National voted with the Government’s position.
Nationals breaking ranks with the Coalition is something we are likely to see a lot more of in future, as regional representatives seek to prove they are different to their colleagues from the big smoke.
“There’ll be times when we disagree and we need to negotiate, we may need to compromise,” said the Nationals’ Darren Chester.
“If we can’t reach that agreement, there will have to be times when the Nationals may well vote differently.”
That is something Labor, with its strict rules about caucus solidarity, will not be trying to replicate.
“Sticking together in a big number is a better way of progressing good public policy and good outcomes than fracturing all over the place,” said Joel Fitzgibbon.
“I mean, fracturing, I think, only further feeds the new and unstable political model.”