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                                                  BY NIVEDANA SRIKANTHA

Are fervent nationalism and economic self-sufficiency good for Australia? Indeed they are. Yet, will an isolated Fortress Australia, cut from foreign trade and investment, and divided by narrow-minded nationalism be good for Australia? The answer is self-evident. Hansonism, a phenomenon which advances nationalist approaches to the existing complex socio-economic, cultural and political problems has the essential capacity to generating positive outcomes. Yet, if manipulated subtly, it also possesses the capacity to ruin the nation which it claims to serve. 'Australia is a multiracial country...but not a multicultural country' proclaims Ms.Hanson. Assimilation is the best policy for promoting the national well-being, and protecting the country from being 'swamped' by Asians, she insists. On face value such arguments might appear as rational and reasonable. Yet, such propositions fail to accommodate the reality of migrants' nationalism as complementary to Australian nationalism.

Any migrant who flees from the political, economic and emotional hardships experienced in the home country feels a spontaneous and intense gratitude towards the land which has provided them with a safe haven. Soon, this gratitude takes the form of respect and gradually a genuine love towards this country. Indeed, it is a transition process that would certainly take time. Yet, it is a process that fosters an emotional bond. It is a spontaneous assimilation that springs from the moral duty felt by the immigrants. Obviously, Hansonism negates this process by demanding a forcible assimilation imposed externally. Renunciation of one's own cultural identity under external pressure will only foster resentment among the migrants. Such an assimilation will not inspire noble sentiments of patriotism. Instead, it will also discredit Hanson's calls for teaching patriotism at schools, as stimulating racism. Hanson's demands to cut migrant cultural assistance and adjustment programmes will also serve to further discriminate and ostracise migrants.

Of course, higher levels of migration add to the pools of workforce and worsen the competition for scarce jobs. With persistent high unemployment rates , it is understandable that people's discontent and resentment will be directed against the new arrivals. Yet, is the title of 'outsiders and exploiters' fully justified? Does not higher levels of consumption stimulate higher demand for production of goods and services? Hence, in the economic cycle, does not this set the wheels of industry rolling at a faster rate? Besides, Hansonism opposes outright economic reforms. Although economic rationalism Involves closures of sun setting and inefficient industries and job losses in the long term it could deliver productivity gains. Hanson's calls to raise tariff walls could only be a short-term bail-out for plunging industries. Job security will continue to be illusionary, unless efficiency is raised. Hence, Hanson's promises over simplify the existing complex economic problems and ignore the prospect of international retaliation. Our exports could suffer similar disadvantages in overseas markets and we would be a nation discredited for failing to live up to our international commitments to a level-playing field of economic globalisation. This would cut down foreign trade and investment. Thus Hanson's vote-luring promise of two percent loans for farmers would prove to be an eye wash.

On the socio-cultural front, Hanson has also called for the abolition of aboriginal organisations such as ATSIC. She has criticised its operation as a separate 'aboriginal parliament' undermining the sovereignty of the nation. She has also sought to justify her demands on the grounds that such provisions contravene with the principle of equality. Aborigines have suffered from century long oppression inflicted by a system of internal imperialism. Hence, any attempt to redress the past injustice should restore the victims to an equal position, enabling them to exercise equal rights. Organisations such as ATSIC promote this mood of reconciliation. Therefore, Hansonism, in demanding their abolition in the name of equality only mocks the concept of equality.

Besides, by calling for a separate body for monitoring the actions of the judiciary, Hanson has challenged the fundamental doctrine of judicial freedom. A free and unbiased judiciary alone can protect and uphold democracy. Hanson's attacks upon the judiciary, therefore, undermine the concepts of democracy itself. Also, by calling for a watering down of national gun laws, Hanson has lent her support to small-minded propaganda which would only promote gun culture in this country. We have already witnessed a bloody Port Arthur. Do we still need American-style massacres by adolescents to learn the lesson?.

On the whole, Hansonism consists of forces that have the capacity to destroy the national well-being if unleashed freely. Yet, it is said that the emergence of Hanson represents the disillusionment of people with the elitist political leadership, and their nostalgia for the prosperous past of the 1950s and 60s.Whatever the true extent of this representation be, It is clear that the moral duty to check Hansonism rests upon us whom she and her agenda claim to represent. The media should play a constructive role as a forum for public debate in assisting the general public to apply proper yardsticks to evaluate the true merits of Hansonism. Sensationalising Hanson will not serve this purpose. A balanced evaluation will, and serve the nation truly by exposing its defects.