by Richard EganNews Weekly
Western Australia: WA Liberals' preference deal could be decisive
, August 11, 2001
At the Western Australian State Liberal Party's Conference held on the weekend of July 28-29 it was decided, over the opposition of Prime Minister John Howard, to allow individual candidates for the Federal Election to make the final decision on their how-to-vote cards. This clears the way for candidates to negotiate preference swaps with One Nation.
In the February 2001 Western Australian State election, One Nation preferences were responsible for delivering up to 10 seats, and therefore government, to the ALP.
In the 1998 Federal election, One Nation polled over 13 per cent in the marginal seat of Canning (ALP by 3.5 per cent); nearly 12 per cent in Kim Beazley's seat of Brand; over 8 per cent in each of the marginal seats of Cowan (ALP by 3.5 per cent), Swan (ALP by 2.7 per cent) and Kalgoorlie (Lib by 2.1 per cent); and over 6 per cent in the marginal seat of Stirling (ALP by 1.04 per cent).
If Liberal candidates are willing and able to secure preference deals with One Nation, then this could result in some of these marginal seats reverting to the Liberals, even in the face of a general swing to Labor.
The prospect of such preference deals has The West Australian,
the Ethnic Communities Council and Premier Geoff Gallop trotting out the usual rhetoric asserting that it is immoral to do such deals with One Nation. Dr Gallop's position ignores the persuasive argument by former Labor Senator Peter Walsh:
"If One Nation is illegitimate, surely a government elected on its preferences must also be illegitimate."
Western Australia now has three One Nation members of the Legislative Council. Their maiden speeches delivered in the Council in May indicate the range of issues of concern to One Nation, at least in Western Australia.
John Fischer addressed the controversial issue of multiculturalism. He stated that One Nation policy was to "abolish funding for multicultural programs, while at the same time upholding the principle that individuals or groups are free to preserve their cultural heritage using their own resources ... it must be imparted to and accepted by immigration applicants that if they wish to migrate to Australia, they must want to be Australians and not simply people from somewhere else who now live in Australia".
Mr Fischer also expressed grave concern for the "destruction of small Australian towns and communities" as a result of the policies of privatisation pursued by both Labor and Liberal governments at Federal and State levels.
He pointed particularly to the closure of hundreds of branches in country towns that followed the privatisation of the Commonwealth Bank.
Mr Fischer asked: "What obligation and responsibility does government accept for the maintenance of social and economic infrastructure in regional and remote Australia?"
Mr Fischer was also critical of native title legislation, asserting that the uncertainty of land tenure has been a major factor in the decline of expenditure on mining exploration in Western Australia from $175 million in 1975 to just $100 million in 2000.
Describing One Nation as unapologetically "nationalistic in its outlook and conduct", Mr Fischer was critical of the "international transfer of judicial authority from our courts" and the "transfer of legislative authority from the legislators to the courts", especially the High Court.
In his maiden speech, fellow One Nation Legislative Councillor, Frank Hough, spoke of the dramatic decline of the rural sector in Western Australia, from 290,000 farmers in 1966 to less than 100,000 today, with 35 farmers leaving the land every week.
Mr Hough attributed much of this decline to the adverse effects of National Competition Policy on rural life, pointing for example to the devastating impact of the deregulation of the dairy industry. Quarantine
He also warned that the new approach to quarantine adopted by the "brave new world" organisation Biosecurity Australia was threatening Australian agriculture's disease-free status.
The third One Nation Legislative Councillor, Paddy Embry, who represents the South West Region, spoke of the devastation caused to the timber industry, to timber workers and their families and to timber towns through misguided policies dictated by emotion "fuelled with ignorance and lies". (Timber workers are still waiting for the promised compensation package from the Gallop Government).
He warned that "globalisation is about greed and power. As a result of globalisation, a few people in the two, three or four countries become richer and the remainder become poorer". He proposed that Australia withdraw from the World Trade Organisation and focus attention on bilateral trade contracts.
Mr Embry also raised as a matter of concern the fact that the armed services have contracted out for six-year period to an American-owned company, Manpower Australia, the recruitment and selection of service personnel.
He quoted the manager of Manpower Australia as stating that "only those recruits with global interests at heart will be allowed to join".
Mr Embry concluded his maiden speech by stating that "most importantly, I want decision-making for Australia to return to Australian hands".
The decision by the WA State Liberal Conference to allow candidates to negotiate preference deals with One Nation is a significant break from the bipartisan approach of always putting One Nation last, which has served the ALP so well in the past, including delivering government to it in Western Australia.
What is more necessary is that both major parties listen to the concerns motivating One Nation voters that were expressed in the maiden speeches of the One Nation Legislative Councillors - the destruction of rural Australia, the devastating impacts of economic rationalism and globalisation and the erosion of Australian sovereignty.
If either party made a genuine response, rather than token concessions, to these grassroots concerns then they would win the next Federal election in a landslide.