Australia Former Nationals deputy prime minister John Anderson seeks political comeback
From quiet conservative to YouTube radical, John Anderson didn’t go away
The former Nationals leader was once a fairly traditional moderate, but he's since taken a sharp right turn.But the “man of great heart”, as former Labor leader Kim Beazley once described him, has undergone somewhat of a political transformation since his time as John Howard’s steady-handed deputy PM.
Former deputy prime minister John Anderson is seeking to make a return to federal politics more than a decade after leaving it behind, seeking pre-selection for the Nationals in the Senate in New South Wales.
Mr Anderson was a prominent figure in the Howard government, serving as Nationals leader and deputy prime minister between 1999 and 2005.
He left politics at the 2007 election, and his former seat of Gwydir has been abolished.
Nearly 15 years on, he is looking to make a return, switching houses and .
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Mr Anderson said one of his key motivations was tackling the rise of "identity politics" and returning the country to a more civil style of political discussion.
"What you've had is a winding back of an understanding and adherence to the traditional sort of political mainstream philosophies, and their overtaking by identity politics," he said.
"By its very nature, identity politics has us not talking about broad philosophies that might take the nation forward so much as dividing often very hatefully along society's different lines.
"And I think that is disastrous, we need to get back to a serious debate about the things that affect us all."
Identity politics is commonly defined as politics placing a particular importance on a group within which a person identifies, like a person's race or gender.
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Mr Anderson did not want to spell out particular examples of identity politics influencing broader Australian political debate with which he took issue.
"They're there every day, read the newspapers, listen to the ABC," he said.
"People know exactly what they are, and they're very frustrated with it.
"The 70 or 80 per cent of Australians who live in the middle [are] crying out for a higher standard of public discourse."
Anderson warns of 'four or five' foreign threats to Australia
Mr Anderson wants to see a significant increase in national defence spending, warning of the threat posed by an "unstable and uncertain" world.
When asked if he was referring to the role of China, Mr Anderson said that was not the case.
"The reality is that there are four or five seriously dangerous and unstable trouble spots around the world today," he said.
"Any one of them could blow up, preoccupy great and powerful allies and create very great difficulties for Australia."
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He said Australia needed to take a very different approach to international relations and be more aware of threats.
"I think we need to realise that what we thought was the peaceful global era that emerged after the collapse of the Berlin Wall is now descending into something much more dangerous," he said.
"Globally, it looks more like the 19th century. And I don't think we're talking enough about it."
Mr Anderson also pointed to the challenges the economy faced in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic as a significant motivation for returning to politics.
He said he supported the measures taken by the federal government so far, but worried the ongoing recovery would be more difficult than many realised.
"Coming out of it, we need to sober up, we need to prepare for the next shock because there will be one," he said.
'No interest' in undermining current leadership
Should Mr Anderson be successful in rejoining Parliament — and his peers Michael McCormack andalso re-elected and their positions unchallenged — he would be the third current or former leader to serve among the Nationals team.
, and Mr Joyce has previously served in both roles.
Mr Anderson said he was not interested in undermining current Nationals leader Michael McCormack, but would pitch his experience as an asset.
"I want to support those who are taking forward the party's interests at the moment," he said.
"I want to do what I can to deepen us and bring a sense of experience too."
The pre-selection battle for the Nationals' NSW Senate spot at the next election is currently an open contest, with no incumbent.
Nominations for the spot have opened, and the ticket is expected to be formalised in June.
Whoever is pre-selected would take second position on the Coalition's Senate ticket at the next federal election, all but guaranteeing a Senate seat.
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