Nation-states that are characterised by their capacity and willingness to take up "right and just causes" in the international arena (such as engaging in peacekeeping, promoting human rights, avoiding deliberate acts of conflict), are often characterised as "angel-states". Australia, Canada and New Zealand have each adopted this appellation as a mantel of political identity, especially in a context of medium powers jockeying for position within an international arena of great power politics. Yet paradoxically some locally defined "right and just causes" place these states at odds with international opinion and hence lead them to become (temporary) "devil" states. For example, Canada's accommodation to Inuit seal harvesting places it at odds with international animal rights activists. Or Australia's regional role of peacekeeping often leaves it appearing more as a bully than a protector. While the appearance as angel or devil may well be in the eye of the beholder, and more importantly a consequence of local political decisions and histories, we would suggest that there is a deeper comparative story to be told. In fact, claiming an "angel" identity is often a form of the "devil in disguise" political behaviour. In this paper we argue that Australia, Canada and New Zealand adopt a form of politics built on a rejection of commonly held "angel" understandings of political behaviour. We use the concept of the ''governance state" to consider aspects of the political behaviours of these three states. Australia, Canada and New Zealand need to be understood as governance states in which they adopt a form of politics built on a rejection of commonly held angel understandings of political behaviour. In a number of instances political parties have positioned themselves as devils opposed to the angels of the political system, not just to get elected but also to address key social and political issues once in government. This has implications for how each understands its national political identities and how each should be understood as a player on the world stage.
Australasian Canadian Studies Vol. 28, Issue 2, p. 1-18