An Australian immunisation to the extreme right?

Unlike many of its western counterparts, Australia has been spared powerful surges of the extreme right throughout its history. While the nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw European democracies threatened time and time again by movements relying on ethno-exclusivism and thriving on capitalist crises, Australia suffered only relatively weak extreme right bursts whose impact remained marginal. Even the rise of the One Nation Party in 1996, as sudden as it was impressive, showed the limits in the Australian context for organisations which have proved long-lasting in Europe.

This brief outline could bear a simple conclusion: Australia is immune to the extreme right. However, through a study of some of the most important extreme right failures in Australia, this article shows that rather than being immune, the country was spared an extreme right because of the policies put in place by mainstream parties and governments. By analysing mainstream politics in times of extreme right resurgence, this article highlights that by negating the extreme right’s ability to appear as an alternative to the power in place, Australian mainstream politicians suffocated it.

The conclusion of this article demonstrates that while the Australian extreme right has been mostly inaudible since 2001, extreme right politics, such as ethno-exclusivism, still play a crucial part in the shaping of Australian politics, notably during election campaigns.

Keywords: extreme right, Australian history, ethno-exclusivism, populism, democracy

Published in Social Identities, 18-1, Feb 2012

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