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Brace for Trump-style politics in Aust

AAP logoAAP 10/11/2016 Belinda Tasker

The cheers and applause rang out in the small bar upstairs in Sydney's inauspicious Rugby Club.

But the jubilation wasn't for the Wallabies or another Australian sporting team.

The cheers were solely for Donald Trump.

A ragtag group of about 50 mainly middle-aged, white Aussie blokes gathered there on Wednesday to watch the US election coverage beamed in by Fox News from the US.

No one had really expected the outspoken Republican to win, but as the hours ticked by hopes soared as Trump won key swing states from his presidential race rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump", they chanted as news broke the billionaire had won Pennsylvania, all but assuring his victory.

While no one in that room had cast a vote for Trump at the ballot box, their elation at his victory could easily serve as a warning to Australia's main political parties.

"I love his phrase 'drain the swamp'," says Jeff, who declined to give his last name.

"America isn't the only place with a swamp, we have a swamp here - it's called Canberra and that needs draining as well.

"I hope whatever he does there, reverberates here as well. We need an Australian Donald Trump because our swamp is fettered as well and needs draining."

A home-grown Donald Trump is a real possibility unless our major political parties lift their game, says Monash University political science lecturer Dr Matthew Laing.

He believes Trump's election win gives a huge confidence boost to populist political groups across the Western world, including One Nation and Rise Up Australia.

"I think it's a warning sign to the major parties that unless they get their act together we could be in Trump land in 10 years," he says.

"We ignored Brexit, we thought it was an aberration. Trump proves that it's not, that it's there, the wave is on.

"Australia cannot assume that it's going to be insulated from it. We think we have a progressive coalition all sorted out and it couldn't happen here, but I'm sure it definitely could."

Trump's surprise win came despite outrage at his boasts about groping women, his desire to ban Muslims from the US, and descriptions of Mexicans as rapists and criminals.

In his victory speech, he spoke of the need to "bind the wounds of division" and promised to take care of "the forgotten men and women".

And there's plenty of people feeling forgotten, not just in the US but in Australia as well.

Assoc Prof Laing says while Australia's economy didn't fall into recession like the US as a result of the GFC, leaving millions of people out of work, there's a risk that in the long term people here will look for scapegoats as the local economy feels the pinch from the mining boom's end.

"A large section of Trump voters were so desperate for change and if you look at the areas that really switched to him the rural areas, the regional towns, they are so desperate for economic hope that they were willing to hold their nose even though they were well aware Trump was a flawed candidate and a flawed man," he said.

"At the end of the day people will still vote for their economic interests and vote for what they think are hopes for their own lives rather than try and conform to political norms."

Trump had huge appeal among white working-class men in America. But a majority of white women also voted for him.

Shortly after congratulating Trump on the phone on Thursday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull acknowledged that Australian politicians had to ensure that no one felt left behind during times of rapid economic change.

"It is vitally important for leaders such as ourselves here, and around the world ... to make the case for strong economic growth and above all ensure that in our own nations, in our own communities, everybody is able to benefit from that and that nobody feels left out or overlooked as those changes occur," he said.

Populist politicians including Pauline Hanson, Jacqui Lambie and Bob Katter were all quick to congratulate Trump.

Mr Katter also had this message for the Liberal and Labor parties: "I warn the major parties that we little parties got 25 per cent in the last election, and we will get much more in the next election. When we hit 30 per cent your day is finished, and you deserve it to be finished."

Assoc Prof Laing says given the recent lacklustre federal election, low voter enthusiasm and inability of politicians to get on with fixing the budget and outlining a vision for Australia, the path is opening up for populist politicians.

"I think we've already had a canary in the coal mine in the form of Clive Palmer," he said.

"Someone who was more competent than Clive Palmer could easily have mobilised a bigger section of the vote.

"If we continue to play the race to the bottom between the Liberals and Labor then I think the inevitable result is the populists come in and say, 'Well they're all hopeless, let's get rid of them all'."

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