The recent chaos around One Nation (including Fraser Anning, reactions to the Christchurch atrocity and the Al Jazeera sting and the reactions to it, show how thoroughly Trumpism has conquered the Australian right. Most obviously, any doubts anyone might have had about Hanson and One Nation have been resolved. She and her party are racists (or in some cases, opportunities riding the racist bandwagon) trading in lunatic conspiracy theories and the rhetoric of the terrorist alt-right. Nothing really new here.
The truly revealing outcome is the reaction of the mainstream right. It’s divided into two groups: those (most notably Tony Abbott and the entire National Party) who have maintained their support for an open alliance with Hanson, and those like Morrison and (Oz columnist) Paul Kelly who have taken the line: Racists are bad, but the Greens are worse.
This makes no sense in terms of policy positions. The items on which the Greens have been attacked include support for estate taxes (maintained for decades under that notorious communist, Sir Robert Menzies), phasing out coal-fired power by 2030 (five years behind the target of the Conservative government in the UK) and hostility to the US alliance (at least this is a radical position, but one shared with the left of the Labor party, and unlikely to have any practical impact).
On the other side of the coin, Hanson has nothing in common with the market liberal ideology (what I’ve called hard neoliberalism) that dominated the political right from the 1970s to the recent past. Admittedly market liberals like Howard were willing to appeal to racist sentiment to secure votes for their policies of privatisation and liberalisation, but now the tail is wagging the dog.
Hanson and her allies share with the market liberals a visceral hostility to welfare recipients, unions and environmentalists. But they aren’t any keener on big business, banks or free trade. They are enemies of liberalism in any form: classical, left or social.
If there was anything left of market liberalism as a political force in Australia, you would expect to see some significant group on the right calling for a complete break with Hanson and anyone willing to associate with her. We have seen nothing of the kind.
There isn’t even a coherent political calculation here. Given that the Nationals are going to do a deal with One Nation, the only voters who matter are urban moderates, who might be willing to vote for the Liberals but are repelled by Hanson. These voters are familiar enough with Greens as local councillors, MPs and so on that they aren’t going to buy the absurd rhetoric of Morrison and Kelly, suggesting that the Greens are a fundamental threat to our way of life. Equivocation on the principle of putting racists last makes it clear that the decision to put ON below Labor is purely tactical, and that, in the event of an election victory, the LP-NP-ON coalition will continue to operate as it has done for the last three years.
The real point, illustrated by the response of Abbott and others is that Trumpism within the Liberal Party is now so strong that Morrison can’t fully repudiate someone Hanson, even if he would like to. The Liberal “base” is closer, on average, to her than it is to him.
Assuming that the LNP loses the coming election, it’s hard to see how a sane centre-right party can be built from the remains of the current government. And, of course, a win against the odds would absolutely cement the faith of the Trumpists that God is on their side.