Senator Cory Bernardi’s defection from the Liberals to form his own party is the latest sign of a shift in Australian politics towards the right.

However, Australia lacks the kind of leadership in this political domain that has underlined the emergence of right-wing populist parties in Europe, a political scientist at Griffith University says.

In this context Dr Duncan McDonnell points to the re-emergence of One Nation and Pauline Hanson since the 2016 Federal Election.

“The first thing to say is that Australia has been through this before in the 1990s and the same phenomenon is happening now, pushing exactly the same anti-establishment and anti-immigrant buttons that are being pushed in countries like the Netherlands, France and most recently the United States,” he said.

Queensland hotbed

“Queensland is a hotbed not unlike some of the provincial and regional parts of Europe where people who feel that the distant capital does not care about them turn to the nearest populist for their solutions.

“Pauline Hanson does well in areas that don’t typically have high levels of immigration but where there is a fear of immigrants and people with different values, of different religions and traditions.”

Dr McDonnell (left) is a researcher at the School of Government and International Relations and was awarded an ARC Discovery Grant in 2016 to investigate ‘Radical Right Populist Parties: Mainstream Partners or Democratic Pariahs?’.

He said One Nation differs significantly from dangerous populist parties in Western Europe when it comes to leadership and the management of a political party.

“While Pauline Hanson is a great campaigner, she has still to prove herself a capable party leader over the longer term like Marine Le Pen in France or Nigel Farage in the UK.

“It may well be that for a right-wing populist party to enjoy sustained success in Australia it will take a different leader to do so. Whether this is someone like Cory Bernardi remains to be seen.”