Executive Summary of
assessing the implications of 'Pauline hanson's one nation' (July 1998)

CPDS Home Contact Detailed Paper   Incorporating the Alienated: A Challenge to Australia's Civil Society

1. Introduction

One Nation represents a grassroots backlash against perceived failures by Australia's 'elites' in dealing with economic and social change, and this has shaken the political system. This paper explores what caused this, and what could be done.

Pauline Hanson was elected to federal Parliament in 1996. Her maiden speech said that there were problems with Australia's multicultural, aboriginal and immigration policies, as well as with other economic and social policies.

2. Public Reaction

These views divided public opinion. A political party was founded in 1997, and achieved support from more than 20% of the electorate in the 1998 Queensland state election.

Published reactions to Ms Hanson, and her party have been reviewed. This suggests that:

Interested observers suggest that most support for Pauline Hanson's One Nation reflects frustration with a diverse range of problems, though whether it is justified is unclear.

3. One Nation Expresses Dissatisfaction with economic prospects

However One Nation's main support appears to come from those concerned with their economic predicament. There is a real basis for such concerns, for example:

These problems are worst in rural / regional areas because of their economic character, and have been compounded by other difficulties including: droughts; distorted international markets; weak commodity prices; complex native title arrangements; and cuts to various services and programs.

4. First Implication - Real Development of the Economy

It may be possible to significantly reduce the dissatisfaction One Nation represents by:

The Asian financial crisis seems likely to worsen current difficulties. The above proposals should reduce the risk that an economic slowdown may be needed (eg due to a current account deficit 'blow-out'). Such a slowdown would sharply increase unemployment.

5. Second Implication - Social Policy Suggestions

The following approach to social policy questions could be considered:

Effective communication amongst those in the community, business and government dealing with different aspects of these economic and social issues, appears to be required, and might be stimulated by the suggested Public Policy Commission.

6. Non-solutions to Expressed Dissatisfaction

Options which would not be constructive in dealing with current problems include:

7 Conclusions

One Nation reflects a protest about the outcomes of past attempts at economic and social change. In an economic sense, at least, such dissatisfaction seems justified because of the limited effectiveness of such attempts, and the adverse impacts of change on the position of many individuals and communities.

Developing capabilities to cope with the expected future environment should be the goal of any strategy. The difficulties which affected individuals and communities face shows clearly that adequate capabilities for economic prosperity have not been created.

But rather than considering what could be done to achieve better outcomes, mainstream analysts now seem focused on criticising One Nation. However the longer those who do not suffer the effects of change criticise those who do, while not effectively solving their underlying problems: the stronger the protest is likely to get; and the more Queensland's and Australia's commercial and governmental credibility will be eroded.

Some future options have been suggested above which might be more effective in building the capabilities that the disaffected require for economic prosperity, and thus also improving their ability to express policies likely to be to their advantage.

John Craig

8 July, 1998