The Coalition and the Need to Exchange Preferences With One Nation
The results of State elections in Western Australia and Queensland carry a critical message for Mr. Howard's government. Unless there is a change in the political situation, which may presently be viewed as unlikely, the Coalition will incur a fatal disadvantage at the next Federal election if it does not exchange preferences with the One Nation party.
It may be expected that much pressure will be placed on the Coalition by the Left and by the politically correct to prevent this exchange. Doubtless quite unjustified attacks on One Nation will continue, with further attempts at demonisation. As previously, these attacks will almost certainly be inaccurate and unfair.
The following matters are material.
The Electoral Power of One Nation
By a policy of putting sitting members last in its preferences, in effect One Nation was able to unseat sufficient Liberal and National Party members to deliver Western Australia to the Australian Labor Party on 10 February 2001. Further, the Australian Labor Party was returned to office in Queensland on 17 February, where also many Liberal and National Party candidates failed due to One Nation.
Mrs. Pauline Hanson, the leader of One Nation, has threatened that One Nation will adopt the same policy of putting sitting members last in the next Federal election. If this occurs, a very large number of seats will be delivered to the Australian Labor Party, especially in the rural and semi-rural areas where One Nation is strongest.
The Attempted Demonisation of One Nation by the Left
The emergence of One Nation has seen a remarkable effort to discredit it by the Left, by the politically correct, by elements of the media and by significant groups within the Liberal and National Parties.
These attacks have been made easier in that the One Nation leadership has been populist and less professional than that of other parties. Hence it has been relatively easy to disparage. Further, statements by One Nation representatives on (a) immigration and (b) Aboriginal affairs have been regarded as particularly offensive by the politically correct.
But have attacks made on One Nation been justified in fact?
As to immigration, opinion polls have disclosed that a majority of Australians have concerns with high levels of immigration. This immigration originates in large part from Asian and other non-Caucasian sources, and there are widespread concerns as to Australia's ability to absorb disparate racial groups and indeed as to the loyalty of such groups.
On current trends, there are the startling statistics that during this century white Caucasians will cease to be a majority in both England and the United States. But African nations will remain predominantly black, and Asian nations predominantly Asian, because they have not been compelled by internal or external pressures to introduce different races within their borders.
Of course, different people have different views as to whether large-scale immigration from disparate sources is desirable. But what is important here is that views favouring restrictive immigration are legitimate; and One Nation should not be disparaged because it represents these views as held by a large proportion, and perhaps even a majority, of Australians.
Similar considerations apply to the controversial subject of Aboriginals. Some Australians — especially the politically correct — maintain that Aboriginals are badly treated. Other Australians — and most supporters of One Nation, for example — point to the fact that more money is now spent on Aboriginals per capita than on other Australians, that there is far-reaching affirmative discrimination in favour of Aboriginals, and that many half-caste or part-Aboriginals of predominantly white descent hold themselves out wrongly as Aboriginals and appear to be anxious to create social tension and disunity. Supporters of One Nation, and indeed others in the community with similar views, represent an important element of public opinion and should not be disparaged. They may, after all, turn out to have been correct.
Exchanges of Preferences
With this background, why should the Coalition be criticised if it agrees with One Nation to exchange preferences? Should the Coalition be seriously expected to prefer instead the Australian Democrats or the Greens, which are both to the left of the Australian Labor Party? Or should the Coalition allow itself to be pressured into preferring the Australian Labor Party itself to One Nation?1 That it should be necessary even to ask these questions is a tribute to the pervasiveness of political correctness today. It is not politically correct to query the levels of immigration or to query the large amounts that are apparently wasted by the Aboriginal industry. The political parties of the Left, their supporters in the media and also the Jewish lobby (which has been particularly critical of One Nation) have worked hard to reinforce this position.
As noted, on present indications only a radical change in public opinion will save Mr. Howard from losing the forthcoming Federal election. If he loses, for what achievements will he be remembered? Admittedly he effectively prevented an ill-conceived attempt to introduce a republic, in which he showed courage. But conversely, he permitted his Treasurer, Mr. Peter Costello, to do great damage to the Australian taxation system by introducing an inappropriate G.S.T. and by rendering that system so complicated that only accountants and taxation lawyers benefited.2
Further, Mr. Howard has not shown himself prepared to act in the general interests of Australians by confronting the more aggressive and fanciful demands of the Aboriginal industry (which consists largely of persons of mixed race, and not of Aboriginals). Special Aboriginal expenditures of $2,000 million annually ensure that per capita much more is spent on Aboriginals and persons of mixed race than is spent on ordinary Australians. Mr. Howard has accepted this position instead of taking firm action, as principle demands, to ensure that all Australians receive equal treatment and to prevent mixed-race bureaucrats from fomenting unpleasantness for the sake of pecuniary rewards and their own advancement.
In short, Mr. Howard has in many respects emulated Mr. Malcolm Fraser, who is now judged to have avoided carrying out necessary reforms, despite the expectations of the electorate, because he was unduly fearful of criticism and lacked political courage.
Many of those who oppose exchanges of preferences between Coalition candidates and One Nation candidates are persons who wish the Australian Labor Party to succeed. From their own point of view it is quite natural to attempt to prevent reasonable exchanges of preferences amongst non-Labor parties. In fact, the Australians Democrats are to the left of the Australian Labor Party, and the Greens are far to its left. From the viewpoint of principle Coalition supporters should accordingly place the Greens last, the Australian Democrats second last and the Australian Labor Party third last.
National Observer No. 48 - Autumn 2001