University of Bath

The impact of populist parties on Australian politics

In this seminar, Professor Rodney Smith will discuss Senator Fraser Anning's 2018 inaugural Senate speech which received widespread publicity in Australia.

30 Oct 20181.15pm
30 Oct 20182.05pm
The Australian Parliament Building at Night
Professor Smith of the University of Sydney specialises in Australian political parties and public sector ethics.

On 14 August 2018, Senator Fraser Anning, representing Katter’s Australian Party (KAP), drew widespread condemnation but also widespread publicity for an inaugural Senate speech in which, among other things, he warned of the loss of Australia’s British and Christian ‘ethnoreligious identity’ and called for a return to race-based immigration policies.

Anning’s leader, Bob Katter, praised the speech as ‘solid gold’, saying it gave KAP an opportunity to raise issues the major parties were ignoring. As in many western democracies, the implications of such examples of a ‘rise of populism’ have been widely debated in Australia.

This seminar will examine the specific opportunities and constraints presented to populist challenger parties such as Pauline Hanson's One Nation party and KAP by the institutional structures of Australian politics—particularly federalism, voting systems that combine preferential voting in single member districts and proportional representation, strong bicameralism and highly disciplined political parties—placing them in a comparative context.

The seminar will also discuss the extent to which Australian populist parties that have won parliamentary seats have, to draw on Nelson Polsby’s well-known distinction, viewed the Parliament as an arena or as a transformative body. The attraction for populist parties simply to use parliament as an arena for amplifying media and public attention is obvious, as the storm around Senator Anning’s speech demonstrates.