Explainer: Australia's tangled web of far-right political parties

12 August 2015

Far-right movements and parties in Australia have created some interest and will continue to do so, given their policies and method of operation. Their future longevity, however, is by no means assured.

Tom King, Australian National University

Far-right political parties and groups have sprung up in Australia consistently over the years. Three such parties that have been around for a few years and have gained seats in parliament are the One Nation Party, Family First and Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party and its predecessors. Nile has been a NSW state MP since 1981.

The Australian League of Rights – which is more of an interest group than a party – was established in 1946. The Citizens Electoral Council was founded in Australia in 1988.

But there are a growing number of far-right parties and movements that have only sprung up in Australia in recent times. These parties’ platforms are usually anti-immigration – including being anti-Islam – or, alternatively, moralistic, with policies such as opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, and support for strict censorship.

Who are the parties?

Anti-immigration far-right movements and parties include the Nationalist Alternative, the Australia First Party, Reclaim Australia and the Australian Protectionist Party. These parties have concerns with Australia’s immigration policies, including multiculturalism – which some of these parties oppose. There are also concerns with Islam and Muslims among these parties.

Some of these parties generate or support other groups. For example, the Australian Protectionist Party supports the Australian Defence League, another far-right movement. The Australian Protectionist Party formed when its founder, Darrin Hodges, was expelled from the Australia First Party over disagreements. The party is strongly opposed to multiculturalism, which it claims is ruining Australia.

The latest far-right party to gain media attention is the newly established Australian Liberty Alliance (ALA). ALA is an anti-Islam party. Geert Wilders, the Dutch far-right politician, has given his support and guidance to the ALA.

The Q Society of Australia is the driving force behind the ALA. The Q Society is an anti-Islam lobby group that exists to “inform Australians about Islam”. The Q Society also has reservations about the halal certification process.

The moralistic parties include the Rise Up Australia Party, which was launched in 2011 by Danny Nalliah. Nalliah is a former member of Family First.

The other new moralistic party is the Australian Christians Party, also founded in 2011. It is an off-shoot of the Christian Democratic Party. Like the Christian Democratic Party, the Australian Christians Party is staunchly anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage.

Have these parties lasted the test of time?

Many if not all of these parties feel that they are filling a void. Parties like One Nation argue that the major parties are ignoring problems with immigration; others – for example, Fred Nile, Family First and Rise Up Australia – say major parties are ignoring morals.

In addition, these parties have been able to attract enough supporters to make their party or movement viable.

Running candidates for the Senate is attractive to these parties given Australia’s compulsory voting requirements and the federal upper house’s system of proportional representation. A party only has to win a quota, often achieved by swapping preferences, and not an absolute majority of the vote.

These parties tend to come and go. Over the years, far-right parties in Australia have wished to restrict immigration in one way or another, or prescribe a fixed code of morals for Australian society. But they have faded away when they lose support through lack of relevance or irreconcilable divisions within the party. Some observers see them as sectarian parties, having only a very limited range of policies.

The Australia First Party operates what it calls a “three-tiered approach”. This approach is to fight elections, wage community campaigns to build links with fellow Australians, and develop the party’s ideas and principles into an Australian ideology.

In recent times, these new far-right movements have been very vocal. They have captured valuable publicity by holding public rallies and demonstrations.

What of the future?

Some of these new parties, such as the Australia First Party, the Australian Christians Party and the Rise Up Australia Party, have become members of “preference whisperer” Glenn Druery’s minor party alliance. If the 2013 election is any guide, one of these parties could have a senator elected with less than 1% of the first preference vote and a flow of second preferences.

There is every chance that far-right parties will continue to spring up from time to time when a group of voters believe the major parties are being soft on immigration or have thrown morality out the window. But, any change to the Senate voting system – such as optional preferential voting – would have a big impact on the success of far-right parties in future elections.

Far-right movements and parties in Australia have created some interest and will continue to do so, given their policies and method of operation. Their future longevity, however, is by no means assured.

Tom King is PhD Candidate, School of Politics & International Relations at Australian National University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.