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The Cable

Australia Greets 25 Recession-Free Years With Rising Populism

If it ain’t broke, sure, try to fix it.


Australia has made it 25 years without a recession.

Thanks to robust exports and strong consumer spending, Australia bounced back from its weak third quarter, putting its annual GDP growth at 2.4 percent. And with commodity prices recovering, the country’s central bank expects growth for 2017 to rise to about 3 percent.

One might think that Australians would try to keep up the policies that have worked so well for them the past two and a half decades, and not venture into some new, uncharted political territory.

One might be wrong. For growth is not the only thing rising in Australia. So, too, are populist politics.

Per the BBC, the main beneficiary “of growing disenchantment with traditional politics in Australia,” which exists despite 25 years without consecutive quarters of negative growth, is Pauline Hanson.

Hanson is the leader of One Nation, a right-wing populist party which could win as many as a quarter of the votes in the upcoming Queensland state elections. One Nation is climbing in the polls. One Nation is supported by people who say things like, “I have old-fashioned values, Aussie jobs for Aussie kids.”

Hanson may be patterning herself after another famous populist. She once remarked, “I can see in Donald Trump a lot of me.” She has said Australia is in danger of being swamped by Muslims. And she is quickly learning the art of the deal, as Australian politics are such that the government needs to negotiate with her One Nation in order to pass legislation.

Hanson may be the front-runner for the title of Australia’s Trump, but she’s not alone on the fringes of Australian far-right populism. Last month, Cory Bernardi left the conservative Liberal Party to form the new, anti-establishment Australian Conservative Party. Bernardi, who has likened homosexuality to bestiality, said he would “fight against the tyranny of political correctness.”

It is yet to be seen whether Bernardi, Hanson, or any other far-right populist will gain any more ground with voters, and if they will fight the tyranny of a consistently growing economy in the process.

Photo credit: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

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