The lure of the domestic

CONVERSATIONS ABOUT AUSTRALIAN society with visitors of a certain political stripe inevitably end at the same point. No matter their background – whether it is an Iranian pro-democracy activist or a French university student – after hearing low-level grumbling about local politics, they ask: "Where are the street protests? Why are Australians so quiet?" References to anti-Iraq War demonstrations in 2003, when up to one million Australians took to the streets, mean little as they counter: "Where are these people now?"

Media reports marking ten years of the Howard government followed a pattern. Opinion polls registered high levels of support for the Coalition – especially for its economic management and "border protection". Oversized photos of the Prime Minister, arms stretched upwards, filled the press. One newspaper asked whether Australia had become a "meaner" country. Undoubtedly, it has become less politically engaged and more compliant.

Unlike many of those who upbraid the Prime Minister for his dog-whistle politicking and magisterial hold over the masses, I wonder why opposition to his platform has remained so feeble and ineffective. Too much emphasis in these debates focuses on his brand of Australian nationalism as if his enthusiasm for the flag has somehow silenced his critics. The government sets the tone, yet this does not explain the ongoing weakness of dissent in Australia.

Explanations for this predate the 1996 election victory and the promise of government "for all of us". Despite our professed egalitarianism, it is an intriguing paradox of Australian society that few feel comfortable thinking about political issues in terms of their impact on broader collectives. Complex issues quickly transform into matters of personal choice. The most prominent political debates in recent times have been reduced to discussions on how they affect individuals. Framing issues in these terms limits political engagement, or an appreciation of rights. I call it the lure of the domestic. Others might call it a contemporary populism, or the tabloidisation of politics.

Defined by an appeal to the emotions, or personal experience, when transferred to politics the lure of the domestic is essentially anti-intellectual and hostile to abstractions such as human rights. Political engagement based on the needs of groups, or on the basis of persecution and discrimination suffered in a broader sense, moreover, becomes an impossibility. Operating on a "gut level", it panders to notions of a community made up of people like us.

When the community sees politics as little more than an extension of personal preferences and individual choice, dissent is an early casualty. When unrest breaks out – in detention centres or an indigenous community – many struggle to understand what is going on. The lure of the domestic privileges the local over the international, while playing to prejudices.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of France's far-right National Front, has said – unlike the "wise souls of Paris" who claimed that his platform was "selfish, xenophobic and racist" – it was simply a matter of common sense. "As I've said so many times before, I prefer my daughters to my nieces, my nieces to my cousins, my cousins to my neighbours." Much the same goes for politics, he added: "I simply prefer the French."[i] When John Howard visited cyclone-hit northern Queensland in March, he said that in times of trouble Australia, as a nation, can afford to help "our own".

The purpose of this essay is to complicate the apparent naturalness, or "common sense", of this comment. Why should we, for example, assume greater responsibility for our own? Is it possible that those who are most different deserve more? The government's lauding of "the mainstream" reflects a populism that now infects all aspects of Australian life, and weakens dissent and civil engagement. When political opponents have been lured by the domestic, it has compromised the effectiveness of their message. A more expansive national identity, underpinned by human rights protections, might move the debate forward well beyond the personal.


BEFORE THE 2004 election, La Trobe University Politics Professor Robert Manne labelled the choice as one between two populist leaders. Mark Latham was a "social democratic or a Laborist" populist, while John Howard was driven by "conservative populism"[ii]. Something of the "Langite/Keatingite rhetoric" remained in Latham, whether he was attacking the banks or the Liberal Party as a "lawyers' party". Manne claimed this was reinforced by Latham's presentation as "a working-class lad who's made good and himself gone up the ladder of opportunity". In contrast, Howard's conservative populism "pushed racial or ethnic buttons of a kind that suggests that we're becoming a nation of tribes and we're losing our centre".

That Robert Manne could group both politicians under the populist rubric indicates how loosely the term is now used, populism's "empty heart" and chameleon nature. Neither Australian politician fits the traditional definition of populism as a "people's movement" seeking to mobilise citizens against the established power structure and core ideas and values of the society.[iii] It is more useful to think about populism as a style or impulse – this is where its association with contemporary Australia is strongest. Political scientist Margaret Canovan notes how the populism of politicians (rather than that of disgruntled peasants or farmers) draws on a concept of "the people" to create broad, heterogeneous coalitions and minimise dissent.[iv] Since any reference to the people is diffuse, such politicians also refer to a "heartland" – the idealised community they claim to serve.

Such visions, says the University of Sussex's Paul Taggart, are "blurred around the edges" but no less powerful for that. See here the highly charged evocations of "Middle England" and "Middle America", or John Howard's reference to "mainstream" Australia and Kim Beazley's "Middle Australia". Central to this is the idea that the heartland existed before corruptions of the present – that its constituency is defined by "moderation, dutifulness and ordinariness".

In Australia, this leads to an extremely jaundiced and impoverished view of our popular democracy and the people within it, well illustrated by Herald-Sun columnist Andrew Bolt when advocating the creation of a Gratitude Day (not Sorry Day) to thank "those Australians who are just trying to lead a decent life – raising families, earning a wage, paying taxes, obeying road rules, waiting politely in queues ..." [v]

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister invokes unnamed, powerful interests crushing the aspirations of ordinary Australia: "The families battling to give their children a break, hard-working employees battling to get ahead, small business battling to survive, young Australians battling to get a decent start in their working lives, older Australians battling to preserve their dignity and security, community organisations battling the ever-expanding role of intrusive central government".[vi] And Kim Beazley harks backs to an age of traditional trades, the threat of foreign apprentices[vii] and the mundane struggles of suburban life. Both suggest the heartland is under threat. Such an emphasis on economic insecurity is surprising in an era of low unemployment and steady growth.

The most frequently identified "populist" in Australia is Pauline Hanson – a politician whose influence cannot be under-estimated. Hanson's 1996 maiden speech gave voice to many themes of populist resentment when she lacerated the "new class" elite in control of taxpayer-funded "industries" aiding Aborigines and other minority groups to the detriment of ordinary Australians.[viii]

Today, populism infects both sides of politics and culture in a way that surpasses even Hanson. While the Howard Government helps shape dominant attitudes, populism has become a form of entertainment made possible by the high degree of co-operation between the government and the media.

Populist tendencies – nationalism, xenophobia, an acceptance of the value of force and word of authority – coalesce in media coverage that dwells obsessively on personal tales from miners trapped underground to the plight of Schapelle Corby. Unsurprisingly, given this wall-to-wall background noise, voices calling for a different Australia get lost. When moments of dissent or political protest occur, we rarely hear the message.


THIS EMPHASIS ON political protest may seem a little idiosyncratic, especially in the conformist Australian context, yet liberal democracies are shaped by two impulses: popular input and the rule of law. Occasionally these battle each other – especially when politicians call for increased executive power, saying that in times like these exceptional measures are required. Generally, though, a democratic government is tempered by public opinion, whether through community-based activism, street rallies, strikes, letters to the editor or political protests. In a system like Australia's, media focus is even more crucial.

Over the last decade, political engagement has ossified in Australia. There may be a record number of volunteers, but charity work does not make an informed citizenry, eager to shape public policy. When people have tried to counter the Coalition agenda, the impact has been marginal, short-lived and generally inconsequential, as the death of a forgotten refugee shows. When Shahraz Kayani set himself alight outside Parliament House in 2001, media reports immediately emphasised the story's human interest. Dubbed "burns man", the Australian citizen's four-and-a-half-year wait to be reunited with his family briefly stirred public interest.

Kayani's daughter, Annum, has cerebral palsy, and the Department of Immigration estimated that she might cost Australian taxpayers $750,000 over her lifetime. For this reason, she was denied a visa. The Commonwealth Ombudsman later claimed the case was one of "administrative ineptitude and broken promises", but the then Minister for Immigration, Philip Ruddock maintained it was about "fairness and the government's responsibility to take decisions with the whole community and national interest in mind".[ix]

Undeniably, later accounts of Kayani's death in a Sydney hospital are tragic. Yet it is surprising that none of the reports considered the political dimensions of his suicide. While acknowledging that Kayani felt desperate, could it also be said that his suicide was an act of protest? This is an intriguing absence, especially as his self-immolation took place outside Parliament House. Compare this action with other better-known acts of public self-immolation: Jan Palach, who in 1969 placed his coat on the rubble of Wenceslas Square, then set himself alight to protest the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet Pact Forces; or Thich Quang Duc, who burnt himself to death at a Saigon intersection in 1963 to protest against the persecution of Buddhists by the Diem regime. Both suicides were immediately understood as political. Yet in Australia in 2001, Shahraz Kayani was said to be acting personally, not politically.

Two days after his death, in an unrelated event, unrest erupted at Curtin Detention Centre in Australia's north-west. The media reported that, after two buildings were set alight, tear gas was used against asylum seekers. "Some people seem to believe that they will be able to force our hand," Ruddock said. "There is no way that we will succumb to that kind of pressure." [x]

Soon afterwards, the Minister introduced legislation that gave staff the power to strip-search children as young as ten. Penalties for escaping a detention centre increased to five years in prison and detainees found to have made weapons faced three-year jail terms.

Over the years, detention centre protests have been described as "blackmail" and essentially foreign.[xi] Rarely has commentary linked the unrest with the detainees' right to protest, placed it in a broader political context or expressed curiosity about its motivation. Similarly, unrest among impoverished Aboriginal communities at Palm Island or Redfern was dismissed as meaningless outbursts of criminal elements, while generating calls for more police powers.


IN CONTRAST, WHEN violence spriralled out of control in French cités in November 2005, politicians called for an increased policing, and ultimately declared a state of martial law. Yet there was also an understanding that, far from being alienated from French culture, the rioters were enacting a tradition extending back to the 1870s communards and the pavement-throwing youth of May 1968. One friend joked that, rather than showing a lack of integration, in their volatile response to what many see as the injustice of decades of high unemployment these men from the suburbs could not have been more French.

In 2006, French columnists grouped the middle-class students battling riot police near the Sorbonne with the street battles on the outskirts of France's major cities the previous winter. Francois Dubet, a sociologist writing in Le Monde, noted how both groups were united by anger at a society that welcomes them as consumers, while denying them a secure economic future.[xii] What is immediately apparent is that in France – unlike Australia – such events were seen as political. Some commentators and politicians sought to essentialise the November riots as the work of extremist Muslims, but this was not the majority view in France. One Australian newspaper early on, for instance, struggled with what to call the rioters from the depressed suburbs, then chose "immigrants" – although there was no doubt they were French-born youth.

This resembles the contortions of some journalists following the Cronulla riots. Men from Sydney's west were called "Lebanese", "Middle Eastern" ("of Middle Eastern appearance") or "Muslims". Only one name was avoided – the one that would have made the most sense, considering that most grew rather than flew here – and that is "Australian".

The domestic has prevailed and weakened Australian dissent. Others point to the tabloidisation of the local media as the source of the problem, especially since so many debates here rapidly descend into verbal fist-fights, or sentimental drivel. Observer columnist Will Hutton sees this as a journalistic attempt to "entrap and draw blood" so that public life becomes "a kind of soap opera in which issues are less important than private foibles, wobbles and passions of the actors in the drama".[xiii]

Robert D. Putnam's Bowling Alone (Touchstone, 2000), a work that charts the decline of US civil society, argues that personalising issues on television effectively works against political agency and awareness. Not only do Americans watch much more television than previous generations, eating into time that could be spent elsewhere engaging with their peers, but Putnam suggests that there is something about the programming itself that limits community and political engagement.

Putnam writes that television offers a "disarmingly direct and personal view of world events in a setting dominated by entertainment values". By privileging "personalities over issues and communities of interest over communities of place", it reinforces a sense among viewers that they are powerless to enact any social change. Political scientist Allan McBride describes the effect: "Television programs erode social and political capital by concentrating on characters and stories that portray a way of life that weakens group attachments and social/political commitment."[xiv] A better definition of the lure of the domestic is hard to find.

Maybe it is unfair to single out campaigners for their media fixation when this is how society works: PR companies, politicians and protesters all vie for a spot on the nightly news, churning out releases each morning alerting the media to their headline-grabbing event. The government has shown itself to be extremely sensitive to bad media coverage, seemingly back-flipping as each new departmental "bungle" is exposed, or intervening when the media take up individual cases such as those of workers disadvantaged by the industrial relations laws.

Patrick West's notion of "conspicuous compassion" is useful in assessing the extent of this situation where politics becomes an extension of personal preferences. West describes this as a situation where people fall into a kind of emotional vortex, unable to see issues or events as they really are.

In August 1997, US journalist Anne Applebaum found herself in a strange situation in the heart of London. The scene was a cocktail party, not long after the funeral of Princess Diana. There were canapés, crudités and champagne, men in suits, a speech from the man whose birthday it was.[xv] "Wasn't it ghastly?" one guest said to another. He was referring to the funeral, not the accident in the Paris tunnel when the People's Princess died. Another journalist recalled Nuremberg rallies and mass hysteria, while a historian said people "baying" for the Queen to make a public statement of regret recalled the behaviour of medieval mobs. Applebaum wondered whether the social elites were looking down on the working classes wiping away tears, and propping up teddy bears and flowers against the Kensington Palace gates. No – as she soon discovered, the disquiet was widespread.

Patrick West recalls that summer of grief as particularly "ghoulish".[xvi] This "mourning sickness", as he put it, was little more than attention-seeking by recreational grievers. "In truth the mourners were not crying for her," he writes, "but for themselves." Guardian columnist Isabel Hilton similarly expressed dismay at the "floral fascism" and mused: "If a powerful demagogue had arisen from the crowd, they would have stormed the palace gates."

Though much of West's critique is impatient to be accepted in conservative thought (see his approving quotation of the Spectator's Theodore Dalrymple that the three Cs in contemporary Britain are "compassion, caring and crying in public"), his argument is helpful. Displays of compassion, such as the wearing of ribbons, extended minutes of silence, signing of petitions and mass anti-war rallies, are little more than expressions of moral vanity. Such ostentatious displays do nothing to benefit the victims.


THE UNIVERSITY OF Western Sydney's David Burchell made a similar point in Griffith REVIEW 8: People Like Us when he excoriated the Australian refugee support movement's reliance on "empathy" (and mawkish sentimentality) in its attempt to arouse public shame about mandatory detention.[xvii] Neither approach works, he argues, because of the narrow base of the movement itself. He maintains that the most outspoken refugee advocates are university-educated and hail from an unrepresentative group of professions: "human-rights lawyers, social workers, the left wings of the Christian denominations, artists, writers, and playwrights – these were all of them the main battalions of the pro-asylum seeker cause as represented in the electronic media".

While Burchell over-simplifies a political movement as much defined by a farmer from the drylands of northern Victoria as a well-heeled lawyer, he nails one of the campaign's flaws. Using what a former Woomera psychologist termed the Titanic approach (women and children first), many were dudded into believing that, if women and children were released, the worst would be over. In June 2005, the government tabled a Bill that released families with children into community detention, introduced time limits on the assessment of claims, increased the Minister's power to grant visas, and allowed the Ombudsman to make recommendations to Parliament on those held for more than two years.[xviii] On offer, said then Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Peter McGauran, was mandatory detention with a "softer edge".[xix]

Yet the government remained committed to existing policy that included the excision of Australian territories, "offshore processing and in the unlikely event of it being needed in the future – the policy of turning boats around". The Ombudsman still lacked the power to order a detainee's release and any increase in executive power, without judicial review, should be a matter of concern.

None of this is pedantic nitpicking. No matter how welcome the recent shift in the department's operational style, this improvement came from a low base. Furthermore, as Senator McGauran and many since have stressed, the key elements of the government's mandatory detention policy remain firmly fixed in place.

Highlighting the plight of women and children to communicate a complex (and divisive) issue is not confined to Australia's refugee movement. World Vision's fundraising campaigns inevitably end with a doleful-looking African child staring blankly at the camera; in every radio, or TV interview he does, the Australian Conservation Foundation's Don Henry calls on us to protect the environment for "our kids and grandkids".

This approach may work to "humanise" an issue, but it also has a negative effect. Every time the ABC uses a starving child, cradled in his mother's arms, to embody African poverty, the message is a patronising, even colonial, one: this child will starve if not for your benevolence. No attempt is made to engage the audience with the underlying issues that caused this situation. No mention is made of the community's agency, or how such a situation came about or could be avoided. Such sentimentalising also risks an instinctive backlash from the audience – one that can easily transform into racism or resentment, as in the coverage of the execution of Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van. At some level, the less sympathetic feel that they are being tricked into caring, or that they are not being told the full story.

Injustice can, of course, simply continue in another guise. Virginia Leong and her three-year-old daughter Naomi were released last year from Sydney's Villawood detention centre. Amid sunny pictures of a child experiencing her first days of freedom, few knew that the toddler lacked Medicare entitlements, or that her mother had a debt of $500,000 for detention costs. Similarly, when Peter Qasim left an Adelaide psychiatric hospital after almost seven years in detention, few mentioned that his visa demanded he give up future legal challenges and leave the country whenever the government asked.


THESE EXAMPLES FROM Australia's refugee movement illustrate the point, but the clearest examples of the failure of dissent are the national marches in support of Aboriginal reconciliation and those against the Iraq War. In 2000, the Sydney Harbour Bridge was closed to allow 150,000 people to participate in a "mass ritual of apology to Aborigines". Described by the Guardian correspondent as having a "carnival atmosphere", the event suggested that, after decades of public indifference, Aboriginal issues would now take a central role.

Within a few years, the nation's peak indigenous body, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), was scrapped – despite United Nations fears that this would further entrench disadvantage. It was replaced by Shared Responsibility Agreements. Larissa Behrendt, Professor of Law and Indigenous Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney, notes that ATSIC enabled Aboriginal participation in the political process: "It was the first national representative body that gave indigenous people both advisory and decision-making capacity."[xx] Lacking fiscal responsibilities for health and education, the body was flawed; however, it gave Aborigines a political voice.

The meaningless mass mobilisation recurred three years later, when one million anti-Iraq War protesters took to the streets in the first three months of 2003. As soon as Australian troops were deployed, support for the war rose: "We can explain this very easily in terms of the bounce you would expect a government to get once it commits troops to a war," said politics and international relations expert Dr Greg Pemberton, from Macquarie University.[xxi]

Many in the anti-war movement, it seems, were caught off guard when Operation Iraqi Freedom got underway, then meekly accepted that the fight was over. This defies the logic of long-term campaigning, which – expecting such an outcome – shifts its emphasis or its method of attack. But it suits the immediacy of a public sphere which is cluttered with stories of tales of personal achievement, gratification and failure – a virtual permanent present beset by one crisis or another.

Post-mortems for this retreat point towards splits within various groups, with the Walk Against War Coalition falling out with Resistance-backed youth movement Books Not Bombs, for example. While former New South Wales Premier, Bob Carr – erudite populist extraordinaire and long-standing Labor leader – said that high school students skipping classes to attend an anti-war rally was unconscionable and supported the Police Commissioner's push to ban their next march.

Others have blamed the media for what UK commentator Stephen Cushion calls its attempt to discredit politically active youth. Young anti-war protesters appeared as sexualised actors (remember the prominent photos of girls with school uniforms knotted to show navels adorned with anti-war slogans) or mindless consumers, simply following the latest trend. A Reuters journalist reported on a 10,000-strong protest in this way: "In a Books Not Bombs protest on Wednesday, the high school students, some with permission slips from their parents, forced lunchtime traffic to a standstill in Sydney's central business district ... In a mood more like a pop concert, the students ran and skipped down the city's main boulevard." The journalist commented that protesters included "girls in black plastic Gothic outfits, Britney Spears look-alikes and boys on skateboards".

While some groups have maintained their anti-Iraq War stance, little remains of the extraordinary show of opposition that mobilised so many Australians in 2003. This is not the case elsewhere. In the United Kingdom, for example, the organisation Iraq Body Count has continued to lobby media and government to recognise the Iraqi death toll. Co-founded by a Psychology Professor, John Sloboda, and freelance researcher, Hamit Dardagan, the organisation aims to counter the "inertia" and lack of interest surrounding civilian deaths. Another group, Military Families Against the War, last November launched a High Court bid to pressure the UK government to establish an inquiry into the legality of the conflict, arguing that the government's refusal violates Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Even in the United States, where public opposition to the war is growing, daily newspapers publish the list of American war dead, using "human interest" stories to illustrate the cost of war.


IN THE WEEKS before drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van was executed in Singapore in December 2005, an orgy of sentiment oozed from the media. Headlines from The Age newspaper marked a new low in the tabloidisation of our culture. The Age reported: "Mother will touch Nguyen's hands" as if the execution of the young man were a long-running soap opera, not a criminal case involving the fundamental breach of human rights.

"A mother's last touch" recounted how Nguyen and his mother would be "allowed to hold hands, but not hug, before he is put to death". Another story, entitled "A last sunrise, then a day of farewells", described how Nguyen would see his final sunrise the "time the sun breaks the South China Sea horizon".

While poetic, the stories did not convey the execution's political significance, or place it in a human rights context. When commentators asked why a majority believed there should be no exceptions for Australians convicted in countries with capital punishment, they framed the issue in terms of compassion. "Why don't Australians care?" they asked.

Many did, as evidenced by the thousands who attended Nguyen's funeral at St Patrick's Cathedral and the 65,029 signatures on a petition to save his life.[xxii] An Age blog, however, expressed impatience with a criminal's canonisation. Concerns about human rights faded amid hearty support for the Prime Minister's attendance at a cricket match on the execution day ("The PM should not only attend the PM XI cricket match," sarcastically wrote a contributor to another site. "[We should] rename it the Nguyen Tuong Van memorial").


MANY DATE THE Department of Immogration's thaw to the Cornelia Rau exposé. I see it differently. The Rau tragedy – which was quickly termed a "bungle" as if all other cases of departmental mistreatment or ineptitude remained legitimate – forced the public to acknowledge the human impact of Australian immigration politics. However, it was the official investigations which were more influential.

These two reports, Mick Palmer's Inquiry into the Circumstances of the Immigration Detention of Cornelia Rau (July 2005) and Neil Comrie's Inquiry into the Circumstances of the Vivian Alvarez Matter (September 2005), characterised by a measured tone and persuasive evidence, made it impossible for the status quo to remain in place. Here we see two contrasting presentations: the first was a perfect made-for-TV story (strange Sydney cult, a pretty blonde in a Qantas uniform, alleged institutional abuse, mental illness); the second involved official reports which did not lend themselves to sustained media coverage. And yet, as the media backlash against Cornelia Rau developed, it showed that harrowing stories are unstable and no substitute for good public policy. Sensitive political issues are better addressed by an analytical approach that focuses on systemic failure than individual tragedy which can fleetingly galvanise public opinion in the populist entertainment sideshow that passes for the public sphere.

The official agencies – the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) and the Commonwealth Ombudsman – which should act to correct and limit the excesses of the system, are themselves limited. Both agencies lack the power to compel the Minister to act, and their investigations largely remain private. In contrast, the best human rights organisations work publicly and see this as central to their effectiveness. Working with the media, they embarrass governments while informing the public.

Some, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), take an active role in shaping debate, as when the ACLU launched actions on behalf on Americans whose phones were illegally tapped by the US government.

The value of this multi-faceted approach cannot be under-estimated. What happens in Australia is ad hoc, with activists contacting a handful of journalists and hoping for the best, underpinned by leaden debates with lawyers relying excessively on international law because of the lack of any comprehensive Bill of Rights.

One of the most refreshing aspects of David McKnight's book, Beyond Left and Right: New Politics and the Culture Wars (Allen & Unwin, 2006) is its analysis of the intellectual foundations of US conservatism. Behind the ideology is a ferment of ideas. As Friedrich Hayek, the father of free market liberalism, wrote: "We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage ... If we can regain that belief in the power of ideas, which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost." McKnight notes the way Thatcherites viewed their politics as a "crusade against the pettiness, restrictiveness, traditionalism and inertia that characterised (Britain's) post-war settlement". Sound familiar?

Ideas, whether they are about the value of universal human rights or the nature of society, are essential to any oppositional movement. Not only do they maintain momentum over the decades, they encourage people to focus on what matters. Emphasising the domestic and the personal does the opposite. It relies on sentiment to reinforce the populism that informs organised politics and culture. Rather than accepting the Coalition's cynical world-view that sees human rights as "practical" (that is, to bring real improvements and a "fair go" to the lives of individuals), we need new ideas that take us beyond the domestic to engagement with the world in a way that embraces dissent as a part of the democratic experience.


[i] Quoted in Maryse Souchard et al. (eds), Le Pen, Les Mots: analyse d'un discourse d'etrême-droite Le Monde Editions, Paris, 1997, p. 23. Translation by the author.

[ii] R Manne, "Political experts discuss upcoming election", Lateline broadcast, February 23, 2004.

[iii] M. Kazin, quoted in Hans-Georg Betz and Carol Johnson, "Against the current – stemming the tide: the nostalgic ideology of the contemporary radical populist right", Journal of Political Ideologies, vol. 9, no. 3, 2004, p 313.

[iv] Quoted in Paul Taggart, "Populism and representative politics in contemporary Europe", Journal of Political Ideologies, October 2004, vol. 9, 3 p.272.

[v] Quoted in Robert Manne, The Barren Years: John Howard and Australian political culture, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2001, p.158.

[vi] Quoted in David McKnight, Beyond left and right: new politics and the culture wars, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2005, p. 149, and Judith Brett, Australian Liberals and the moral middle-class from Alfred Deakin to John Howard, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003, p. 188

[vii] Kim Beazley Budget Speech in Reply, House of Representative, Hansard, May 11,2006.

[viii] Betz and Johnson, "Against the current", p. 313.

[ix] Commonwealth Ombudsman, "Report on the investigation into a complaint about the processing and refusal of a subclass 202 (split family) humanitarian visa application", August 2001, and the Department of Immigration Affairs, DIMA, "Ombudsman's report is unbalanced", August 22, 2001.

[x] Quoted in Regina Lohr and Linda Tenenbaum, "Australian govt announces tougher laws against asylum seekers", World Socialist Website,, April 18, 2001.

[xi] There is one exception to this generalisation. Sean Scalmer spoke in 2002 about the way hunger strikers in Australian detention centres were fitting into a "Western" tradition, dating back to the suffragettes and battle for an Irish Republic. Moreover, "Christian history is replete with fasts of a mystical and sometimes political nature." "Hunger-strikes, lip-sewing and ‘Un-Australian' protest", Radio National, January 29, 2002.

[xii] François Dubet, "Le movement anti-CPE est la réplique, dans les classes moyennes, de celui des banlieues", Le Monde, March 18, 2006.

[xiii] Quoted in Catherine Fieschi and Paul Heywood, "Trust, cynicism and populist anti-politics", Journal of Political Ideologies, vol. 9, 3 October 2004, p. 295.

[xiv] Quoted in Robert D. Putnam, Bowling alone: the collapse and revival of American community, Touchstone, New York, 2000, p. 242.

[xv] Anne Applebaum, 'For many in Britain, the mourning became excessive‘, Washington Post, September 21, 1997.

[xvi] Patrick West, Conspicuous compassion: only sometimes it really is cruel to be kind, Civitas, London, 2004.

[xvii] David Burchell, "The trouble with empathy", Griffith Review 8: People like us, Winter 2005.

[xviii] Media release, Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet,, 17 June 2005.

[xix] Peter McGauran, Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Migration Amendment (Detention Arrangements) Bill 2005, second reading, 21 June 2005.

[xx] Larissa Behrendt, "The abolition of ATSIC – implications for democracy", Democratic Audit of Australia, November 2005.

[xxi] Quoted in Andrew Stevens, "Asian war protests lacking voice", CNN, March 27, 2003.

[xxii] Quoted in McKnight, Beyond left and right, p. 29.

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