Exactly how did Pauline Hanson claw her way back to politics?
She’s going nowhere
Back in 1996, a fresh-faced politician entered Parliament for the first time. A fish and chip shop owner from Oxley in Queensland, Pauline Hanson was viewed by some as an anti-pc voice amid fears of uncontrolled immigration from Asia while others dismissed her as a political punchline. Especially after she had to have the word 'xenophobia' explained to her by a 60 Minutes reporter and said in Parliament that one possible solution to foreign debt was to simply print more money. After serving 11 weeks of a three year sentence for illegal party registration - the conviction was quashed - in 2003, Hanson has roared back onto the political landscape with renewed vigour last year.
Despite a disastrous WA State election and some seriously misinformed comments linking autism and vaccination, One Nation is pulling some serious (and seriously scary) numbers in 2017. A February Galaxy Poll published in the Courier Mail newspaper saw the party's support in Queensland go from 16 to 23 per cent in three months. Meanwhile in NSW, a Fairfax ReachTel poll from January found One Nation with a 16.3 per cent supporter base. Now bear in mind that the party already has three members currently serving in the Australian senate where the balance of power is tenuous at best. They are not merely knocking on the door, they've kicked off their shoes and are hogging the remote control.
The question, of course, is why is this happening? The first reason is that One Nation is a far different beast than its earlier incarnations. Particularly when it comes to using social media channels to put forward policies and views they say mainstream media steadfastly ignores. Then there's the willingness to dump the looser cannons, such as Bundamba candidate Shan Ju Lin who said "that gays should be treated as patients". In other words, the cringe factor is somewhat lower.
Then, there's the undeniable wave of neo-conservatism washing over the Pacific Ocean from another orange politician, Donald Trump. His brand of nationalism laced with a suspicion of both Islam and free-trade agreements has undoubted appeal for many Australians. Swap the stars and stripes for the Southern Cross and there's a whole lot of crossover.
Hanson's message is both clear and appealing to constituents who feel the Liberal and Labor machines are essentially self-serving entities whose business is to stay in government, as opposed to serving the needs of the people. It's a tune people warm to in times of uncertain economics and international security concerns. No Muslims! More jobs! Stop telling me I'm a racist!
Thing is, Hanson is not alone. Another major player in Australia's neo-con movement is South Australian senator Corey Bernardi, who in February left the Liberal Party to establish his own Australian Conservatives party. Bankrolled by none other than Australia's richest woman Gina Rinehart.
Like Bob Dylan said, 'the times they are a changing' and in the here and now of Australian politics what were once the most marginalised and maligned voices are being heard loud, clear and persuasive.
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