Poor leadership from the far-right saved Australia from the outbreak of populism

In submissions to the Senate nationhood inquiry, the major parties are advised to place populist parties last on their how-to-vote cards and to condemn the idea of a “homogenous national identity.”

Two political scholars, Glenn Kefford and Duncan McDonnell, warned the inquiry that Australia may have avoided populism outbreaks only because of weak leadership on the far right. Major universities called for public decision-making to be transparent and autonomous as a response to voters’ disillusionment.

The inquiry, led by Labor’s Kim Carr and Liberal Amanda Stoker, was targeted by the Greens after requesting submissions on all facets of populism — from left-wing eco-fundamentalism and postmodernism to right-wing nationalist nationalism — for their “bizarre grab-bag of subjects.”

Yet despite initial misgivings that it might be exploited by those with extremist views, the submissions to date have published a series of progressive changes including an indigenous voice in parliament, enabling dual citizens to run for parliament and democratic reforms including term limits.

Kefford and McDonnell claimed that “radical right-wing populism” was a “marginal power” in Australia – one nation absent from the Commonwealth Parliament from 2000 to 2016 – while radical left-wing and right-wing parties in countries such as Austria, Finland, Greece, and Italy are gradually becoming government parties.

Therefore, they argued that poor election results were more likely to be explained by “leadership issues” like the “turmoil that plagued a party like One Nation” rather than a lack of demand for the far-right in Australia for extremist politics.

Australia’s spy agency warned in October that there is an increasing threat of extreme right-wing terrorism. Far-right groups have tried to market themselves as fitness organizations and branch the NSW Young Nationals as a way to recruit members and boost their political power.

The ANU School of History proposed using significant government statements to contribute to multiculturalism by specifically rejecting the idea of “homogeneous national identity” and addressing the marginalization of “involved in the accumulation of social, political and economic power” regions and other local areas.

They advocated greater autonomy of the public service and the use of independent regulatory bodies, public inquiries, and royal commissions.