Them and Us

This is just great. Australia’s big business lobby now wants us to forget about competition policy WITHIN Australia so they can gobble up internal competitors to become Australian champions in the global market. And you know what that means, don’t you? Monopoly or oligopoly means super-profits leeched from OUR pockets. Imagine one huge Australian bank. Imagine our media wholly owned by Murdoch and Packer. Imagine Coles-Myer and Woolworths in total control of Australian retailing. That means higher prices and inferior services for us, bigger profits for them, and no chance at all for small business – all so they can offer cheaper prices to overseas consumers!


All that economists’ rhetoric about keeping the market honest through strong competition laws preventing mergers which would make a company dominant in an Australian market is now dead, apparently. Down with the Trade Practices Act. It’s old hat.


There’s some nice lines in today’s Australian Financial Review’s story on the latest big business power play. “There is a strong view within the business community that current merger laws prevent Australian companies from being big enough to compete successfully offshore. The argument against this view, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, is best shown by two 1980s mergers – the Coles-Myer deal and the News Corp-Herald and Weekly Times merger. Coles-Myer, despite controlling 25c of every retail dollar in Australia, is in some trouble, while News Corp’s increased domestic scale did not prevent it shifting its head office to the United States.”


And the latest grab for power without responsibility by big business doesn’t stop there. Sitting up in Coolum on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, the big business lobby group the Business Council of Australia wants to pay even LESS tax than it already does. Big Business got all its Christmases at once with the GST, because now NO wholesales sales taxes are paid on goods for export. Now, more, much more. At the moment, companies can not give money earned offshore to foreign shareholders without passing it through our tax collectors. Abolish please.


Crikey these guys are greedy. Don’t they realise the disgusting symbolism of making these pronouncements at the same time as the National Party met in Corowa to save itself from oblivion? Its a great irony, though, that the Nats now want competition policy rolled back too. But they want to save the SMALL businessperson, while big business wants to crush them. And wasn’t it One Nation who raised the hue and cry about Australia letting its great companies be sold to foreigners? Now big business is on board, raising the same alarm about us becoming a branch office economy. But big business doesn’t want to get out there on the world stage and compete the hard way, it wants to swallow competitors in Australia so it’s a more difficult target for overseas predators. AND it wants to pay less tax.


How can the losers be compensated with less tax to redistribute? Note that big business regularly denies it has any social obligations of its own, and has institutionalised unabashedly self-serving distributions of income within their own companies – with executives paying themselves buckets while squeezing the people who actually produce the goods and services that produce the profit they cream off for their back pockets. Cash incentives for them to perform, cash squeezes for those who DO perform. And when they stuff up a company? Big bucks to go quietly.


How on earth does big business expect to contribute to the stable political system it needs to prosper? Since it won’t, the government must, but without any big businesses contribution if big businesss can help it.


Us and them alright. Except the us is getting smaller and the them is getting bigger and angrier. Poor fellow, my country.


Today, contributors Susan Gormley in the United States and Murray Henman in the United Kingdom add their thoughts on the seat of Ryan to those of David Davis in Switzerland (Webdiary yesterday). Julian Evans suggests a way John Howard could deal with the One Nation preferences threat and Markus Zellner wonders why he left Switzerland to come home. Cathy Bannister and Jordan Serena engage with Don Arthur’s analysis of why the right is shredding itself (Webdiary yesterday). Hamish Alcorn and David Lochrin pick the eyes out of globalisation, and David Davis sees nothing new in “New Labor”.


SUSAN GORMLEY (nom de plume) on RYAN from the UNITED STATES



Firstly, thank you for this forum and for your honest and even-handed stewardship. It has kept me sane through my exile in the USA, and I thought it was about time I put in my two cents worth.


I spent 28 of my 34 years in RYAN, and there is one fundamental fact which seems to have been ignored in most of the commentary so far. This is the first time there’s really been a competition!


Ryan’s reputation as one of the safest Liberal seats in the country has resulted in understandable apathy from the Labor Party in their preselection of candidates to challenge John Moore. I suspect the prevailing opinion would have been that they never had a chance so why bother throwing much money or a decent candidate at it.


I hasten to add that I don’t believe John Moore personally can take too much credit for this. The socio-economic make-up of the seat was simply conservative through and through. Moore’s profile in the electorate has been minimal at best. Indeed there’s many a Liberal voter, myself included, who have long suspected that the interests of the people of Ryan have run a very poor second to Mr Moore’s interests in Canberra.


So for years its been either John Moore or no-one.


Now the picture is different. Bob Tucker is a strong candidate for the Liberals, but, unlike John Moore, whose incumbency offered him a 50 metre head start, Tucker is starting this race level with his opposition and the winds of change are in his face.


Ryan should be hard for Labor to win. The seat is overwhelmingly conservative. But Labor’s gradual shift to the centre (particularly in Queensland) has made the idea of a Labor member no longer so unpalatable to many Ryan voters. Whereas in the past they may have, teeth gritted in resentment, voted for John Moore because the alternative was unthinkable, it could well be different this time around.





I lived for ten years in various western suburbs of Brisbane which comprise Ryan before coming to the UK 2 years ago, and I still consider it home. Many of my friends still live there and I do try to keep in touch with what’s going on. I am a member of the Democrats.


Generally, I agree with the David Davis perception of the area.


While Ryan is a strong Liberal electorate, I think that many of the Liberals are the small ‘l’, old style liberals – those that were frozen out of the party in the 80s. (With reference to a previous correspondent, if the Liberals still need their softer side, what happened to people like Chris Puplick?)


I think that many of them are firm believers in traditional liberal ideas like personal initiative, free trade, competition, and small government, but they are also disturbed by the government’s tolerance of intolerance, and also (as Margo suspects) the effects that competition policy is having on small businesses


This is seen in the consistent strong vote for the Democrats in Ryan. For many years it was the Democrats’ best Queensland electorate, before a redistribution gave much of its hip inner-city areas to the seat of Brisbane. (the votes coming from a combination of the old liberals and young lefties)


It’s also worth noting that Ryan is a rather educated bunch, having the highest proportion of University degrees of any Queensland electorate.


Since it is a by-election, I suspect a number of regular Liberal voters will take an opportunity to kick John Howard in the pants (and let’s not forget that the Liberals had their own pre-selection bust ups in Ryan). Perhaps it will be enough to deliver it to Labor. I just can’t understand why Howard didn’t ask/make Moore stay there for another 6 months.





In all the fury in the debate over the causes of the election results in WA and Qld, the issue of preference swapping between the Nationals and One Nation has risen to the fore, and particularly how the Federal Coalition partners should respond to the issue.


The Hanson squeeze play, whereby sitting members must swap preferences with ON or be put last, naturally effects the Coalition more than the ALP as it has more members to lose, and more particularly holds the seats where the ON vote is likely to be the strongest. It is suggested that every preference vote gained by the Nationals from ON in the Bush would result in larger losses of deserting Liberal voters in the metropolitan areas, and thus a greater loss in the total numbers of seats.


However, there is a partial way out for Howard. He could simply state that the while the Nationals are free to choose to swap preferences with whomever they choose, any Nationals that choose to do so will not be part of a Howard or Costello government (including junior Ministries and Parliamentary Secretaries). Nor could they attend joint party room meetings (although they may attend their own party meetings).


National MPs that choose to do so would therefore represent their own electorates independently and provide a greater voice to their voters concerns, while still being members of the National Party. This would make the MPs concerned think twice before playing footsie with ON. It would also send a clear signal to the electorate that the Liberal Party actually meant it when it says it will not work with anyone using ON votes.


The other area that has been most overlooked is the effect in the Senate. How will ON decide on its preferences, and will the Coalition parties be able to agree on a Senate preference swap, if they can’t agree on preferences to ON? Leaking preference votes could produce some very strange outcomes in the last Senate position in all States.



MARGO: National Party leader John Anderson has announced that all his ministers and parliamentary secretaries will put One Nation last, leaving backbenchers free to do their own thing. But I still reckon that the Liberals won’t hold the line on One Nation preferences this time, and that Howard would love to organise a scenario where HIS backbenchers could also do their own thing.


Your point on the Senate is a vital one. At the 1998 federal election, all major parties were disciplined in putting One Nation last. This saw the election of only one One Nation Senator, in Queensland. One Nation Senate candidates outpolled their competitors for the last Senate seat in Western Australia, South Australia, and NSW, but none got up because of this strategy. Thus the Democrats’ Aden Ridgeway beat David Oldfield in NSW.


Back in Howard’s first term, before the shock 1998 Queensland election result, Howard told his partyroom he’d prefer working with One Nation Senators than Democrats. Will Pauline Hanson insist that the Coalition preference One Nation in the Senate as well as in individual lower house seats to gain her preferences? Queensland National Party Senator Ron Boswell was in tears yesterday, when he announced that after 19 years in politics (much of them spent fighting the far right) he couldn’t live with himself if his preferences won Pauline hanson a Queensland Senate spot. He’ll be putting One Nation last in the Senate. Will Hanson retaliate by not giving lower house preferences to the two National MPs who’ve announced they’ll preference One Nation in their seats?


The Democrats are caught in their own squeeze play over the GST, with their vote plummeting in the WA and Qld elections while the Greens vote surged. Five Greens members of the WA upper house now hold the balance of power, good insurance against any Labor attempt to water down its commitment to protect old growth forests.




Here follows my vain attempt to steer discussion away from One Notion and Pauline Loathsome.


Dell Horey writes (Web Diary, February 19):


“I am not a dairy farmer but I can imagine the indignation of being offered money to get out of farming when it isn’t enough to cover my costs, and more importantly fails to recognise how closely tied to identity being a dairy farmer is, and what it means in terms of my family’s lifestyle and expectations.”


I don’t fully comprehend where the “farmers are sacred” idea came from in Australia. I admit that without them the world wouldn’t eat, and recognise Australia’s past primary production focus. But farming is a business, like all other businesses, with large uncontrollable risk factors (weather, commodity prices). I once saw figures that described your average farm as requiring a minimum of $1 million dollars of equity for less than a three per cent return. Perhaps the small to medium business nature of farming in Australia has something to do with it.


People describe primary agricultural production as including lifestyle and identity. This argument seems to preclude any other profession, trade or occupation from having lifestyle and identity components. The many subsidies and rebates and schemes granted to primary producers (although dwindling) are coming from taxpayer dollars. It can be argued that the taxpayer

shouldn’t be footing the bill for the maintenance of someone else’s chosen lifestyle. I would note that Europe and America and Japan also support primary producers. The concept is not limited to Australia.


Jim Tsihlis writes (Web Diary, February 19):


“And what are we left with then… 2 major parties making Australia an easier place for people like me to fill up seats on flights to and from the US or UK. And screw the rest.”


I was one of the people on those flights.


My family and I have just returned from a two-year working trip overseas in Switzerland. We left pre GST, and returned post GST. We lived in a country with a 7.5% MWST (GST/VAT), and 30% marginal tax rates (but with a compensatory and compulsory three tier pension scheme). We returned to a country with a %10 GST and 48.5% marginal tax rates. Financially we were much better off in Switzerland.


Why did we return to Australia?


A very good question and one I don’t completely know the answer to.


We found Europe myopic, introspective, cramped, and bigoted. The Australia we left was better, but has been retreating during our absence. The Australian natural environment should not be underestimated as one of Australia’s major assets and drawcards. We are really defecating in our own nest by doing stupid things like logging old growth forest. We found the general level of competence and service lower in Europe. The cultural and industrial cringe that Australia can’t do things as well as or better than the rest of the world is just plain false. If it weren’t for Australians (and South Africans), most of the financial IT in places like London would grind

to a halt.



CATHY BANNISTER responds to DON ARTHUR’S analysis of the three strands of Conservatism at war (Webdiary yesterday)


Don Arthur’s deconstruction is interesting. Howard is economically free marketeer, socially conservative and populist whenever he looks like being able to score a cheap shot.


But I don’t believe that “for decades” all three elements have existed in the Liberal Party. Free marketeerism in it’s present form is a relatively recent invention. The Liberal Party itself was traditionally far more interventionist and, well, liberal (as evidenced by Malcolm Fraser’s performance in office). With hindsight, the difference between the old democratic socialism and old conservatism is more one of self-definition than substance.


Libertarianism appeared in the 80s and is present in the Labor Party as well. It is even less comfortable there.


The aetiology is more complicated than Don suggests. I disagree that free marketeers are without morals. Keith Thomas, in “Religion and the Decline of Magic” demonstrates links between protestantism and capitalism. During the Reformation, protestant propagandists ridiculed the rituals of the Catholic Church, where sins could be confessed and forgiven, and unabsolved sins would be punished in the afterlife. Protestants preached instead that sins would be punished by God directly during life itself. This in turn gave rise to an uncompromising lifestyle where every deed and thought had to be pure.


Moreover, fortune was taken to be proof of piety and conversely misfortune was proof of sin. Hence the evolution of the “protestant work ethic”, where hard work is pious and supposed to be rewarded in real time.


This protestantism then evolved into the libertarian free market philosophy, by direct substitution of the concept of God with the Market. The invisible hand of God rewarding pious acts and thought becomes the invisible hand of the Market, rewarding economically sound acts. The work ethic is maintained intact.


Hence, free marketeers are not amoral – they just have morals which would offend those of us raised with a sense of civic duty. They believe that the poor deserve to be poor, and if only they were not so lazy, they would have money. Welfare is “wrong” because it encourages this laziness. The “stockbrokers and fly-by-night entrepreneur” are not the most undeserving, but conversely the most deserving, simply by virtue of being able to make money.


Free marketeers are slippery fish. They have a tendency to self censor. Just before I left New Zealand, they were starting to come clean on their real beliefs, after figures emerged of the consequences of 10 years of extreme monetaristic policy and state asset sales. Don Birch (ex-Finance Minister under Jenny Shipley and Jim Bolger) stated that the rich-poor gap should widen because this motivates people to earn more. Gareth Morgan (fascist extraordinaire) commented that beggars are an “appropriate market signal”. These people are clearly mad, and their presence is a destructive force in any party.


It’s something both Liberals & Labor have to resolve for themselves.


I hope this makes sense. It’s 3.00am and I’ve only just got my three week old baby to sleep.





You seem to be bringing out the international contingent, with David Davis from Switzerland, Peter Gellatly from Canada, and now my two cents’ worth from Germany! I read with interest Don Arthur’s view on One Nation & Pauline Hanson, and suggest we change one word in his statement, which I think would better describe PHON.


Right now it’s about retribution. “They don’t expect to get their eye back but they do feel entitled to an eye in return” should perhaps read: “Right now it’s about retribution – they don’t expect to get their eye back but they do feel entitled to an ‘I’ in return.”


Isn’t this Hansonism in one sentence? The disgruntled right of Australian politics have been savaging their own – why? Surely not because the ALP or the Greens or Democrats can better serve their purposes? It is to ensure that a protest is heard. The more interesting question is WHY they feel disenchanted.


Both major parties are at the whim of One Nation, even though the left has reaped the benefits over the past three State elections. What is the only way to win government? Make your policies so similar to the other party that the option gets down to which leader is better suited to the job, or wait for the Government of the day to make sufficient mistakes through misunderstanding the electorate, a la Keating (with his perceived aloofness and desire to bring Australia into Asia) and Howard (petrol, airports, GST, etc…), to then get voted out.


The ALP should not think they are beyond the wrath of One Nation supporters. Hanson has made it clear that whoever is the sitting member will be targetted. Not one or the other party. It is the only effective strategy she has, as we do not have a proportional system to get her voice heard. In short, all States (even Queensland) will be moving towards a period of changing governments, maybe not over one term, but two.



HAMISH ALCORN in BRISBANE is my brother.


The GST was sold to us with three highly politicised justifications: It would be fairer, It would be simpler, It would stop rorting. On all three counts it has, predictably, done the opposite: It is a regressive tax with the offsetting taxcuts going to the middle/top, it is vastly more complicated for every business and for the bureaucracy, and it has – whilst forcing many small players to pay tax – also institutionalised the black economy.


The other justification, which was spoken about much less (at least outside the financial press) was the real one, which the new tax fulfilled admirably: to give Australia a better “investment climate”. I’ll get back to this concept.


Similarly “globalisation” has stated and real reasons. Like railways, the Green Revolution and World Bank loans were in other times, “globalisation” is going to make the world fairer, reduce poverty and give more of the world access to the benefits of civilisation. (I place globalisation in quotation marks as clearly we’re not talking about globalisation of human rights or environmental standards, but a specific and quite extremist form of market globalisation). The real reason, which again is occasionally stated but not by the PR experts, is to make the whole world a better “investment climate”.


Now “investment climate” is also a highly ideological term. It does not, of course, refer to a place where a worker can invest his or her savings and watch them grow – on the contrary. It is also not a place where someone can invest their nest egg of $50-100,000 grand in a business and see it prosper with a reasonable effort and competence. No – this person will likely go bust in the “good investment climate”.


It is quite simply a place where the very wealthy can get wealthier. It has no other meaning. We have a situation today where we have a “strong economy” whilst most people are getting poorer, which reminds us of Stalin telling the starving millions how many more bushels of grain they were producing.


The Stalinist analogy obviously can’t go far, but there is one other compelling similarity with the current situation. We are told that the current economic changes being inflicted on us from above are “inevitable”. The 20th century might have taught us to be very suspicious of the historically inevitable. It is ideology – no more – and it can rationalise all manner of evil.


The Pauline Hanson One Nation Party may well be a bunch of ignorant cretins. I share that opinion. But never let it be said that the current system CAN’T be COHERENTLY challenged in a radical and popular way. THAT would be burying our heads in the sand. And so long as the world is being systematically ripped off with the aid of ideologues like Howard, then the ferment behind such possibilities – Hansonesque or otherwise – remain with us.




The influence of Globalisation on local politics


I’m interested in the Hanson phenomenon, but more in terms of the bigger picture. Although John Howard attributes the One Nation vote (at least publicly) to specific issues like petrol prices and roads, I have little doubt that the underlying motivation is distrust in “globalisation” and where it’s taking us.


At some level ON supporters probably understand that their communities can expect little from “global business” because they do not offer attractive profit opportunities. Take the closure of bank branches. If there is no social responsibility to provide a service, why should a bank have a branch in some remote town when that particular branch runs at a loss, or if not, certainly doesn’t show the sort of return which could be delivered by the Money Market?


Unfortunately Government seems to be putting on the mantle of business. Indeed, some areas of the current Federal Government appear to regard themselves more as “business partners” than champions of the people they’re supposed to represent, and powerless to enforce social or environmental responsibilities onto the private sector.


Most people seem to be poor at differentiating and “compartmentalising” issues. So the real issue of globalisation becomes enmeshed with more primitive emotions about race, rough justice, and moral fundamentalism.


This same poorly-focussed distrust in globalisation probably motivates many other voters to some degree, including Greens, various independents, and even the National Party.



DAVID DAVIS on “New Labor”


I am not really convinced that Labor has found any secret recipe. Ignoring Queensland for a moment (Queensland is ALWAYS the maverick), the success of Labor elsewhere has more to do with the electoral cycle than anything else. Just like the economic cycle, every now and then there has to be a low point or a trough. The electorate gets sick of the same people being in power all the time so every now and then they change them, sometimes just for the sake of it. It’s time.


The same thing happened in the 80’s when Labor was in vogue and in every state. Then I recall they sent everywhere bankrupt and were voted out again. As usual Queensland ran kind of counter-cyclical.


Then again, there IS something a little bit different at the moment. In the three largest states, does the Liberal party (at state level) actually exist any more? What a joke they have become. Each case is a bit different (Vic, Qld and NSW) and I really struggle to find a common theme. The only common aspect is that the Liberal Party is virtually extinct.


Small “l” Labor is an interesting concept. I find Bob Carr reasonably agreeable. The best part about him is that he makes intelligent comments. I don’t see this from Federal Labor. It makes you think though. Perhaps a committed small “l” Liberal could be convinced to vote small “l” Labor. I didn’t vote in the last NSW election but I would have found it almost impossible to vote Liberal. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t vote!


I don’t think the small “l” Labor concept is new though. When the so called “Third Way” was “discovered” in the UK and the USA a few years ago, I remember having a bitter argument with a friend (over a coffee in the NSW South Coast town of Eden) who said that the concept wasn’t new at all. He said it was just old fashioned liberalism. Thinking back now, I think he was right, but it was a damn good argument anyway.


Bob Hawke should be given more credit than he gets. That first Hawke Keating government really modernised the whole concept of the Labor Party. They seemed to be pragmatic reformers who were less inclined to be bound by the ideology of traditional Labor. Then in the end it all went sour with Captain Wacky who went from merely a simple shift to the right to some other dimension most never quite understood.


It is a fine balance. Who remembers the last Federal election? In an effort to shift back to their traditional roots, Gareth Evans came up with that wonderful policy to especially tax people who drove four wheel drive vehicles. It was some kind of “punish the rich” class-driven throwback. Of course the idea that only class enemies drive these vehicles ended up being pretty funny.


All Labor has to do is package itself as a “kinder and gentler” version of the Howard government. The key thing they must remember is to study the Howard recipe. I think they should go after the “aspirational middle class” or the “Howard battlers”. Then they really would truly become small “l” Labor.


The only hitch is, if you go after these people (who I picture living in the big cities), how do you satisfy the angry regional folks? It really is quite a task. In the end it all gets back to the numbers.


I am glad you quote numbers from time to time Margo, because people so often fall into the trap of speaking of vague concepts rather than the numbers. Just quoting that Hanson got around 20% in seats where her party stood in Queensland said a lot. You can’t call her a joke and say 20% in the same sentence.


The reason John Howard is in real trouble is that he cannot withstand much of a swing at all. He holds too many seats by a wafer thin margin. It is almost inconceivable that he can get a swing to him and entirely conceivable that the swing against him in the marginals will be significant enough to give the ALP victory.


You will probably be happy, but I won’t be. To me the Liberals ooze competence. To you, I know, they ooze “mean spiritedness”. Who will be the media whipping boy once John Howard has the time to go to Hawkes Nest indefinitely?

Howard prefers Hanson?

Remember the days in his first term when John Howard couldn’t see anything wrong with preferencing One Nation? He sure changed his tune after the 1998 Queensland election debacle, and after intense pressure from the Victorian Liberals, led by Jeff Kennett and Peter Costello. You’ll recall that the Nationals and the Liberals preferenced One Nation: the Nationals lost five seats to One Nation and the Liberals lost five Brisbane seats to Labor. Since then, he’s been a put One Nation last man. Until now. Sample these quotes to decide whether he’s flirting with the far right again, and is willing to alienate some Liberals to bring One Nation preferences to sitting Liberal MPs. Dangerous, John. Bear in mind that One Nation preferences are important NOT because Coalition preferences could elect THEM, but because Pauline Hanson’s threat to put sitting members last unless THEY swap preferences with her means that many Liberals in marginal regional seats will lose to Labor as a result.


ABC AM program, this morning:


“The Liberal Party’s position I’ve stated and nothing’s changed and in the end the preferences are decided by State divisions but I would expect the position they took last time to be exactly the same position that’s taken this time. But this obsession with where our preferences go is really in the end irrelevant. Our preferences don’t get distributed…”


Darwin doorstop, today.


“I’m not aware of too many Liberal Party backbenchers who are talking about trading preferences with One Nation, in fact as I speak now, I’m not aware of any. But look, this preference issue has got out of proportion. The preferences that matter are the preferences of minor parties. The Liberal Party preferences are not going to be distributed at the next election.”


Preference deals with One Nation irrelevant? Out of proportion? So how come he successfully lobbied former WA Premier Richard Court to put One Nation last at the recent State election? He’s testing the water to see if he can get away with it in seats where it matters. For the sake of history and the echoes of it in Howard’s weasel words today, here’s two news stories written before the Queensland election in 1998.


Liberal vote to bolster Hanson



By GREG ROBERTS(Sydney Morning Herald, 14.5.97)


The (Queensland) Liberal Party is planning to direct preferences to Ms Pauline Hanson at the next election in a move likely to ensure the re-election of the controversial Federal Independent MP.


Ms Hanson’s One Nation party will offer the Liberals an arrangement in which both parties put each other ahead of the ALP on their how-to-vote tickets in the MP’s Oxley electorate.


The offer is acceptable to local Liberals, and the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, said he would not intervene to ensure preferences are directed away from Ms Hanson.


At the same time, the Opposition Leader, Mr Beazley, gave a commitment Labor would direct preferences to the Liberals ahead of Ms Hanson.


Mr Steve Wilson, president of Oxley’s Liberal Party branch, Bremer, said while he would not enter into any deal with One Nation, the Liberals would direct preferences to Ms Hanson ahead of Labor. “We will not be involved in directing preferences to the Labor Party, because we would have no chance of winning Oxley if we did,” Mr Wilson said.


“We may as well join the ALP campaign committee and not field a candidate if we were to direct preferences to them.”


..Asked by Mr Beazley in Parliament if he would intervene to ensure the Coalition followed the ALP’s lead on preferences, Mr Howard replied: “No.”


The Liberals’ plan would almost certainly ensure Ms Hanson’s re-election, obviating the need for her to switch to the Senate.


Hanson ‘irrelevant’: PM



By FIA CUMMING (Sun Herald, 14.5.98)


PRIME Minister John Howard has dismissed criticism of the Coalition’s Queensland preference deal with One Nation, claiming Pauline Hanson’s party was “irrelevant”.


During a one-day visit to the Darling Downs in south-east Queensland, Mr Howard claimed commentators who dwelt on Ms Hanson and her party needed “a bit of a reality check”.


Mr Howard also attacked Ms Hanson’s policies as dishonourable, but only because they promised simple and impractical solutions to difficult problems.


Although the Liberal and National parties’ decision to give preferences to One Nation ahead of Labor has divided the Liberals, Mr Howard said the only real question was who won the election.


“There is only one question in this election and that is whether Rob Borbidge continues to be the Premier of Queensland or Peter Beattie becomes the Premier of Queensland,” Mr Howard told a gathering at Jondaryan. “Any noise on the side is irrelevant.”


Brisbane went wildly Labor on Saturday night. Clayfield, an old money electorate like seats on Sydney’s North Shore, fell to the Reds. So did Indooroopilly, a professional class seat similar to Paddington in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs. So what will the blues who voted Labor – many for the first time – do on byelection day, March 13, in the blue ribbon federal seat of Ryan vacated by former defence minister John Moore when Howard gave him the chop from the ministry? Send a message to Howard about what they think of his renewed flirtation with Pauline Hanson, message him about the impact of competition policy on lawyers, doctors and real estate agents, or warn him about his decision to tax family trusts like companies and his all-too-hard GST Business Activity Statement? Preselection for the seat had already splintered the Liberal Party even before it became a mere splinter in the Queensland Parliament on Saturday night. Urgent plea to Inside Out readers who live in Ryan: Please consider reporting from the ground for us, nom de plume or real name, if you’re game. Howard can’t lose this one, surely. Can he?


Before we get to your reaction to the Queensland result – and I’ve been so swamped with them I’ve had to choose a selection – we’ve got a marginal seat report, a new version of One Nation’s theme song “Sunburnt Battler”, and an accountability check of Pauline.


“JOHN SMITH”, who reported for us on the NSW byelection in the seat of Campbelltown, opens the batting on his take on the race for Bennelong, the Prime Minister’s seat. He wrote it before Howard floated Liberal preference deals with One Nation, and gives us an insight into just how dangerous such a play could be to John Howard personally.




By John Smith


John Howard is stuck with his Hanson-last strategy for one simple reason – he doesn’t want to be the first serving PM since Stanley Melbourne Bruce to lose his own seat (and that was in the Depression).


Bennelong is unrecognisable from the WASPish lower north shore enclave he first won in 1974. It’s moved steadily westward in successive redistributions, long ago leaving behind the Howard family pile in Wollstonecraft. Last year’s boundary changes cut him adrift from the seat’s last really blue ribbon turf, Hunters Hill/Woolwich. It’s now at best a pale blue ribbon seat with a buffer of less than 6% on the 1998 federal vote. He may well have lost on the 1999 state figures when there was an 8% swing to Labor in Ryde. Bennelong recorded one of the strongest pro-republic votes in Australia in the 1999 referendum.


More importantly, Bennelong’s demographics render the Hanson name poison. About 25% of the population are of non-English speaking background, mainly tertiary educated Hong Kong Chinese, Koreans and Indians. The rest have benefited from booming real estate values and the spectacular growth of North Ryde, in Bennelong’s heart, as Australia’s high tech hub. Hanson’s insular, anti-globalisation rhetoric may resonate where people feel left behind – but that certainly doesn’t include Bennelong.


Howard’s prevarications when Hanson first emerged made many locals wonder if he’d lost touch with his own back yard. He’s now got the message.


PS: The critics of anonymity on this page forget the honourable place of the anonymous source in journalism. This web format simply takes it to a new level where we can see more of the source’s own words. Anonymity protects the professional life of people like me who are active in the public policy arena. Without it we simply couldn’t contribute. I understand the concerns, but this is breaking new journalistic ground and the concept should be allowed to develop. Margo is more than capable of filtering out agendas and self-serving contributions. It’s not an exact science but in my experience she’s better at it than most.
















































CHRISTINE TONDARF, a reporter for SBS radio, did the hard yards last week in testing a claim by Pauline Hanson on A Current Affair that 85 percent of Turkish migrants were unemployed after five years in Australia. This is the script of her report.


ONE NATION leader PAULINE HANSON has named migrants from TURKEY and VIETNAM as two of the groups of immigrants who are costing the Australian taxpayer money.


With only three days to go until the QUEENSLAND state election, Ms HANSON has been in media overdrive – giving interviews to radio and TV stations across the country.


Ms HANSON has been vocal on a range of issues, also making controversial comments about indigenous affairs and foreign aid to INDONESIA.


But her comments on unemployment rates among migrants have outraged ethnic lobby groups – who claim the statements are not only insulting but also inaccurate.


CHRISTINE TONDORF prepared this report






She told Channel 9’s Current Affair program that Turkish and Vietnamese migrants are over represented in unemployment figures.


She also told 2UE listeners that the only reason indigenous Australians are seeking an apology from the government is because they want compensation money.


But Ms HANSON was unable to find the time to speak to SBS Radio and answer the question – where does she get the facts and figures to support her claims about migrants and unemployment.


Neither the Australian Bureau of Statistics nor the Departments of Immigration or Social Security keep statistics on the unemployment rates of different ethnic communities.


However the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that some 150,000 people born in VIETNAM now live in AUSTRALIA and close to 29,000 Turkish migrants are here.


The Department of Social Security figures show that there are some 11,000 (11,158) Vietnamese born Australians, and 1,600 (1,639) Turkish born Australians, on long-term unemployment (longer than one year) benefits.


That means that 5.6 percent of Australia’s Turkish community, including pensioners and children, are long-term unemployed, and 7.4 percent of the Vietnamese community.


About five percent of Australians of workforce age have been unemployed for a year.


That would appear to cast serious doubt on Ms Hanson’s claims.


The NEW SOUTH WALES Ethnic Affairs Commission says it’s outrageous to accuse migrants of draining the welfare system.


The commission’s chairman STEPHAN KERKYASHARIAN: “About three years ago, half the graduates of medical and medically related colleges in NSW were of Vietnamese background – half the graduates. You go into the professions now, particularly the medical profession, the other professions and it’s the migrants who are carrying this nation. I cannot imagine and would love to know where Ms Hanson got her statistics.


The chairman of Federal Ethnic Affairs Council, NICK XYNIAS, says he is disappointed that PAULINE HANSON’S claims aren’t disputed more often.


Mr XYNIAS says an Australian radio station invited him on air to refute Ms Hanson’s claims, but he never got a chance to speak because he was dropped from the program at the last minute.


He says it’s too easy to ignore the fact that immigrants often have a lower unemployment rate than the Australian born community.


Instead he claims Ms HANSON gets more airtime than she deserves because she’s what the journalists commonly refer to as good talent.




It seems Mr XYNIAS is right — Ms HANSON has no trouble holding the limelight.


The media monitoring company Rehame has found she was the most talked about person on talk back radio this week (12/2-15/2).


But is Ms HANSON concerned that some of her statements upset certain segments of the community?


This is how the Current Affair reporter responded to MS Hanson’s statement about unemployment levels in VIETNAMESE and TURKISH communities.





Now to Queensland reaction. The first two are my favourites to date.






My god, how boring. Surely you don’t really think there is much value in combing through One Nation’s policies.


Last year you did some great work on the Telecard scandal (and the efforts of Chris Ellison and Damien Bugg to cover it up) as well as some other interesting entries on where this country’s political dialogue is headed. You can say that the One Nation stuff is linked to the second of these, but you should take a step back sometimes.


This week has been a week of your most tiresome columns.


Lead the discussion elsewhere. There must be a couple of other issues going around. Analyse the reasons for WA Labor’s stunning victory. Examine the forestry issue in WA and ask whether there is a chance of it being a major electoral issue in other states. Perhaps examine Labor’s partial release of its environmental policy, or the Liberals’ plan to simplify the BAS.


You can’t keep crapping on about a single issue to the detriment of all else, or you’ll end up like that stupid bloody Simpering Errol from the Australian and “his ABC”, or Robert Manne and his endless “talk for reconciliation”.





Pauline, Pauline, Pauline



I love it. I just love it. It is hilarious: the fear, the loathing, the scaremongering. You must be enjoying it as well! Tell me I am not the only one laughing myself silly about all of this!


Margo, I loved the photos! And the tune! GREAT! Those dresses, hot pink and everything, that really red lipstick – why does she dress like a drag queen? Is she really a man? I WANT SOMEONE TO ASK THAT QUESTION!


Those “policies” are a hoot as well. The one about lowering the qualifications to be a police officer was hilarious – that’s right Pauline, dumb them down and give them more guns!


I suppose I should reflect on it seriously… but I suppose I am exactly the sort of person Pauline Hanson would like to drop a

newly-purchased-on-donation-money Hyundai on. My life is 100ks per hour 24 hours a day, living on the edge of emerging new economy (yes it really does exist), calling friends who live in London one day, seeing friends fly off to somewhere else for high paid assignments every other day.


Globalisation is great for my circle… maybe not a child labourer in India however. Or a steel worker in a shrinking BHP.


Maybe we are a horrible bunch of young-smart-things that live in some sort of strathosphere, where nothing really matters, certainly not domestic politics. It isn’t indifference, Margo, it is just time. No one I know has it, and to be quite frank, I am probably spending too much of it writing this email. But one thing I know, though I am a tender young thing, is that “nothing is new under the sun”. Pauline will have to cough up some policy details shortly, and they are sure to be absolute shockers, and she will then fade away into moronic obscurity.


But what a shame… hopefully it will be fun until the eventual collapse.


And what are we left with then… 2 major parties making Australia an easier

place for people like me to fill up seats on flights to and from the US or

UK. And screw the rest.


Oh well, I shouldn’t get morbid about it… it’s nearly happy hour! Off I






Competition policy is horrible because it reduces people to winners and losers. We need government policies that address the need for social cohesion not just that throw money at people to get out. I am not a dairy farmer but I can imagine the indignation of being offered money to get out of farming when it isnt enough to cover my costs, and more importantly fails to recognise how closely tied to identity being a dairy farmer is, and what it means in terms of my familys lifestyle and expectations. Talking economic factors in the face of overwhelming social ones is woefully inadequate. I’d be angry too.


Human society has always undergone change. It isnt constant and there have short periods of intense change where the lives of people have changed dramatically, such as the Industrial Revolution. Resistance to change is often broken down by the appeal of the benefits that it brings such as the end of child labour, equality of civil rights and improved living standards for the majority. It has costs though – and these need to be talked about in other than economic terms.


I think that some of the current discontent (and subsequent problem for Howard) is that he offered a relaxed and comfortable future with promises of no great changes. There was no way he could deliver and it was just a matter of time before it all came tumbling down.


The Coalition has a perennial problem satisfying both the conservatives and small l liberals that form its voter base. As you have pointed out, attempts to appease One Nation mean the city will bite back. The Queensland results show that liberal Liberal voters dont like flirtations with One Nation (nor do they like the current policies on refugees and an indigenous apology).


One Nation voters are fascinating, largely because it is hard to see just how to address them and their concerns. They seem to happily hold quite contradictory opinions and think that simple solutions can be found for quite complex problems. What I can’t understand is how they can be so indignant that their pleas for compassion are unheard (or so they believe) but they show an absolute contempt for those worse off than them. How many of them could actually turn back a boatful of refugees? But they expect others to do it because we are too soft on them they want softness from the rest of us, but seem incredibly heartless in their policies to me. City dwellers could argue “hey, it wasn’t me, so why should I worry about their failure to cope”. Such strong echoes of the apology arguments.


Maybe at the century of Federation we need to rediscover the value of commonwealth. Too much political capital has been gained by setting city against country, non-indigenous against indigenous, employers against workers. A “winner take all” philosophy delivers too many losers.




ANDREW CAVE of Kuraby in Queensland, ‘a left of centre bleeding heart from a deep-rural background’.


Goodness me, that was a right bollocking Saturday night.


I wonder why the political parties keep throwing million’s of dollars into their polling when the results are increasingly divorced from what the actual community intends to do.


I think that the boasting by the professional political operators about their ability to read public opinion, and the self-aggrandising publicising of their cynical (and successful) attempts to lead it, have been become so much a part of a general community perception that people are preferring to hide their true opinions rather than have them mis-used. In short, more people are deliberately lying to pollsters. And as people joke about doing so to their friends and family, the practice will spread.


This of course raises the spectre of poll-driven parties trying to cater to a community that doesn’t really exist. And the anger this causes among people who feel left out (and many do anyway) may well destroy all public faith in the political system .


Anyways, what have the Queensland people done? The Labor Party now has the enormous weight of expectation that they will be able to do something about what’s going on. In a year’s time Beattie will be battling bored and restless backbenchers who have realised that a good slice of them will lose their seats in the next election. Almost inevitably, in that self-referential atmosphere of politics, they will have justified to each other their need, right and due to ‘maximise’ their return from public office and will be spatting over how much money they can get their hands on.


People (me!) are so irritated now by politicians that any sign of an “entitlement mentality” (to paraphrase our unlovely Workplace Relations minister) will create a reaction entirely out of proportion to the actual sin. I think that the British election this year will show exactly this dissatisfaction snapping back on Tony Blair (or Tory Blur as I prefer to call him).


On a personal note, being a left of centre bleeding heart from a deep-rural background, I have had a number of heated disagreements with family and other people over the merits of the Government of the time. But I can’t find anyone (even National party members) who are willing to put up a strong defence of the current Federal Government.


Yet I digress. I have gone to join the Labor Party on a number of occasions and each time have been repelled by the thought of the stacking and the dishonesty about what they are there for. I think Beattie can go through the party now and pull out the people who cling to the modern command and conquer style of politics. If he does, I at least will be able to join without feeling like I am part of the problem.





While it would be nice to see this as one big graffito for the Liberal Party’s federal demise, I’m not entirely sure how much one can generalise from the Queensland result to the rest of the country. Since the time of Joh, Queenslanders have always been very influenced by personality politics, and I’m sure this landslide victory was really a vote for Peter Beattie personally rather than anything indicating support for the national Labor party.


Anyway, while the QLD state election might not be a portent, the WA one certainly is, and there are others, namely the PM’s falling popularity ratings and anger over petrol prices. I’m sure the ALP is just waiting for the small business insolvency figures for the two immediate post-GST quarters. (Again, though, Howard and Costello have been unspeakably conniving in engineering a situation where they’d be able to blame a complex BAS rather than the GST itself. Was it deliberate? I wouldn’t put it past them–in every country where GST has been introduced, there has been a significant rise in small business insolvency, so they knew it would happen.)



DIANA LYONS, Port Macquarie in NSW.


Sorry, Pauline Hanson did not deliver victory to Labor in Saturday’s election. Even John Howard has admitted that Peter Beattie won all by himself. With 50% of the primary vote Beattie had no need of One Nation preferences. The idea that the Coalition was defeated because One Nation voters did not allocate preferences is ludicrous.


The National Party vote is diminishing as people come to realise that a National Party MP is useless. No matter what side is in power, safe National seats are ignored by both State and Federal governments because they are just that. It’s not worth spending money and effort on a bunch of farmers who will always vote the same way because their fathers did. Fortunately, with increasing numbers of former city-dwellers moving to rural areas to work or to retire and with increasing interest in politics the old voter stability and predictability is changing for the better. This new awareness of receiving value for one’s vote and an increasing willingness to try someone new is something political commentators seem not to consider. Take note of Peter Beattie’s comment that many people have voted Labor for the first time in their lives. A good many of these would have voted for One Nation last time and on finding that the sky did not fall when they abandoned their traditional allegiance were only too happy to actually think about who they would vote for this time. Wow! A politically aware electorate! No wonder Howard is worried.


Please note well – the One Nation vote was well down this time, with only 2 or 3 members of the new parliament instead of the 11 elected last time. Even though they did not contest as many seats this time, if they were as important and powerful as you seem to think they would have achieved much more. The real danger of One Nation is not in how many Federal Coalition seats are won or lost on their preferences (no-one can save the Coalition now) but in the rash of ill-conceived and retrograde policies that John Howard will now fling together in a frantic attempt to win over One Nation voters.



MARC PENGRYFFYN (yes, that’s my real name) of Katoomba, NSW


I’m on a disability pension, but I’ve still got my brain and I’m a keen-if-amateur historian and a complete politics junkie. I almost always vote Democrats, but have occasionally strayed to Green or Independent. I was born in the US, but have lived here most of my life and am now an avid anti-Nationalist citizen. Enough background?


I’m very, very glad the media is giving so much attention to Pauline Hanson. Yes, I’d be ecstatic if the Dems or Greens were to get similar coverage, but I think at the moment One Nation is much more important. I’m glad that I’m not the only one who thinks of jackboots and the sound of breaking glass. And I’m really glad that fin de siecle Australia isn’t

Weimar Germany. Is it?


You see, every time I calculate all the ways that Hansonism isn’t really dangerous, a little voice reminds me of the Beerhall Putsch, of the Gracchi’s attempt to control Republican Rome, of the Terror. Ok, so nobody’s talking violent revolution, and to do so would be paranoid delusion, but people who support Pauline Hanson have genuine grievances behind their simplistic solutions. Grievances which many Hanson opponents share. Which I share. And if we fail to address those grievances, we do a great injustice to our democracy. If we push all these people further down the road to desperation, it will adversely affect the whole country. Nobody wins that scenario.


So we have to be smart and creative and ruthless about the bigotry and deceit of Hansonism, and actively work to find genuine solutions to the legitimate concerns of a large number of our population. Smart solutions that work for all Australians, don’t disenfranchise any minority, and position us for a prosperous future.


Otherwise, no matter how likely it seems that Hanson will burn out (or fizzle along more-or-less ineffectively for a while), there is always a slim chance that she may just pull it off. She might go all the way and be a Hitler, or a Robespierre, or a Caligula. Don’t keep that idea in the foreground of your thoughts. Save it for sleepless nights. Most nightmares are unforseen. Yes, Hanson scares me, and I don’t think I’m paranoid.


PS- I’m actually a political optimist! Reading history has led me to conclude that the world really is getting better, and that humanity is gradually becoming more civilized. Mind you, you do have to take rather a long view, and the upward slope is punctuated by periods of horror, and there’s always the chance that we’ll pollute or consume ourselves out of existence. But if we plug away at it, we might just muddle through!



TONY MOCKERIDGE, Christmas Island


As a parent (and a single parent – shock horror) I couldn’t imagine anything worse than my children being forcibly removed from their home. Ms Hanson’s stance on giving no apology to those thousands of Australians who had their children taken and suffered all the horrors of a totalitarian regime which further legitimised not just child abduction but rape, murder and genocide and whose remnants are still in power just proves that she is completely without scruples, principles or conscience. Her continuing presence on the national stage is just another reminder that as a nation we are not so far removed from any other perpetrators of terror and crimes against humanity as many may try to make out. Thank you Ms Hanson for exposing the hypocrisy which is still alive and well and which you represent so efficiently and without reserve. I know that you have no policies other than colonial supremacy over the indigenous peoples and xenophobic, totalitarian government over the rest, but at least you have exposed the conservative forces in the Australian political system for the sycophants and hypocrites that they have always been.




Imagine the groundswell if all those disaffected PHON voters actually stood up for what they allegedly believe in and joined in the fight against globalisation. S11 and similar groups are made up of all types of people, from young leftist radicals to grandmothers who want their grandchildren to be able to work. PHON voters claim to believe in the same ideals as these groups – but instead of action they opt for whinging. What a waste of energy.




Pauline Papodopolos


It seems to me that Pauline Hanson bears some striking similarities to the Colonels who staged a coup in Greece in 1967, bringing in seven years of authoritarian rule by junta.


Like the Greek Colonels, Ms Hanson is strongly motivated by desires to defend the nationalistic cultural basis of her country. The Colonels spoke of their love and defence of “Greek Christian Civilisation”. Ms Hanson has said very little on religious matters, nevertheless she sees the Judeo-Christian heritage of Australia as one of its cornerstones and, just like the Colonels,

she wants to return Australia to the monocultural authentic Australian-ness of her upbringing.


“[These things] Australians of Anglo-Celtic and European origin value: a fair go, fighting against corruption and community spirit. Along with these goes a commitment to Judaeo-Christian values and ethics, an honest system of justice and government, and education based on English law.” Pauline Hanson, Hansard, 1996, p. 8091.


Just as the Colonels came from a rural village and middle-class upbringing Ms Hanson comes from rural Australia, and like then she believes she has retained a purity of thought and principle lost by the political elites who govern the nation. (MARGO: Actually she comes from inner-city Brisbane, where her Dad had a cafe in which she worked after school and then after work when she got a job at 15.)


More and more people are waking up and realising that [our government policies] are helping other countries, not Australia. More and more Australians are seeing that the people they elected are working for the internationalists, not the Australian people. Successive Liberal and Labor governments, including this current group of treacherous self-seekers, have worked for the interests of just about everyone except the Australian people who elected them and pay them.” Ms Hanson, Hansard, November 1997, p.11014


The Greek Colonels identified themselves as working-class patriots who wished to cleanse public life and correct injustice and inequality. The correspondence here with Hanson is quite exact. She wraps herself in the flag, trumpets her ordinariness as a fish and chip shop lady and there is hardly a speech in which she does not invoke the great Australian principle of a “fair go” in favour of correcting the raw deal given to rural and working-class Aussie battlers.


The Greek Colonels ambition was to restore Greece to a state of quintessential Greekness, a Greece where every Greek would have the same shared values of the Colonel’s own village past, “conforming to an Orthodoxy which was national as well as religious” (CM Woodhouse, “The Rise And fall Of The Greek Colonels). They wanted to instill in Greeks a sense of oneness and community in which every Greek understood what it was to be Greek and would mutually, willingly, be responsible for defending and upholding these values. If you replace “Greek” with “Australian” in the above passage you have a Hanson election speech.


Margo Kingston has drawn attention to the apparent desertion of policy in Hanson’s political strategy as she cultivates and responds to the Hanson personality cult. But, as Allan Attwood of The Age has said, perhaps it is no longer necessary for Hanson to enunciate policy since voters have a good enough feel for what she stands for.


Hanson does have formal documents which describe the direction in which she wishes to move Australia. It is unfair to say that Hanson does not have policy. Yet One Nation as a whole is no longer coherent on policy. The WA branch is neutral on gun-law reform while the Qld and NSW branches passionately oppose it. The WA branch has deleted racist immigration policies from its platform but who would dare to say Hanson, with the notorious John Pasquarelli in the near background, has repudiated her views on the supposed “Asianisation” of Australia?


It is clear that the Hanson bandwagon is now accumulating anyone and everyone with a beef, no matter what, no matter how big, no matter how small. One Nation candidates can stand for as little as crocodile reduction and voters transfer their support to her for anything from air safety regulations to restrictions on prawn fishing to disgust with the Child Support Agency.


One Nation is accumulating a rambling and contradictory nature just like the ideology and actions of the Greek junta of 1967-1974.


A significant portion of Ms. Hanson’s appeal lies in the perception that she is “one of us” and that she speaks for “ordinary Australians”. Initially the Greek population felt similarly toward the junta. The Greek people shared the Colonel’s disgust with Greece’s political dynasties and admired the same Hellenistic values as the Colonels. There was sympathy for various moral positions and a call for moral renewal.


Moves against tax evasion by the rich met with common approval. In 1968 the regime cancelled all debts owed by farmers to the state and gave everyone in the whole country a pay rise. Ms Hanson campaigns on elimination of ‘perks’ to ex-PM’s and wants low cost loans delivered to the rural sector, mirroring the populist and rural focus of the Greek junta.


Historians and political commentators who tried to define the ideology of the Greek Colonels were driven to exotic labels as they tried to accommodate the ideology and actions of a regime which was not truly fascist, not even consistently anti-communist and not populist, but certainly contained elements of all these. In the end however, the Colonels

did not have an ideology – only certain motivations: paranoid fear of Communist take-over; and disgust at corruption in the state apparatus and moral decline. They paid lip-service to “Helleno-Christian values” but their actions of beatings, murder, torture, rape and murder betrayed them as simple and ugly thugs of the most boring and predictable kind.


Similarly, Ms Hanson does not have an ideology or any real policy, only certain motivations: paranoid fear of Asian immigration and Native Title, disgust at the havoc wreaked on Australia’s rural constituency by globalisation policy, affinity and sympathy for the Aussie battler, and fear of and repulsion toward multiculturalism


And she’s semi-fascist. Anyone who can tolerate the junta-style constitution of One Nation Mark I and describe democracy as “mob rule” deserves such an appellation.


Historian Richard Clogg says that the closest thing the Colonels had to an ideology was the similarity in methods to their mentor, the fascist General Metaxas, who attempted to remodel Greek society in the 1930s. This is a concern with Pauline Hanson too. Could a “mentor” ride and grow the Hanson personality cult to a point where it is truly dangerous?


A couple of considerations incline me to believe we are probably safe on this score. Firstly, there is Ms. Hanson’s own very strong individualistic nature. She disassociated herself from David Oldfield when she felt he was influencing her public profile too much and was aware that he used her as a vehicle for access to the public gravy train. While Hanson is not academic, she is not stupid and she won’t be manipulated.


Secondly, Australians are repelled by fascism. It’s just not in our national character to Seig Heil.


So while John Pasquarelli is a noxious influence to have around someone with such unfettered access to the political mainstream I don’t think he could mentor Hanson to the extent she would change her name to Papadopolos.




Finally, at last, our ubiquitous correspondent in Switzerland, DAVID DAVIS, is back!


“Well it really seems like Christmas all over again.


For the past month I have been effectively locked into a small room in England working day and night with virtually no opportunity to access Web Diary. Now I am back in my alpine “homeland” and have had a chance to see what has been going on in Web Diary. I have to admit I am bedazzled.


There is so much content worthy of comment that I really don’t know where to start. That’s what makes it like Christmas! For once this really MAY be a relatively short comment from me for the reason that I cannot possibly hope to cover so many important issues raised.


I am delighted to see some of the same contributors from 2000 back into it in 2001 and equally delighted to hear the views of so many new people.


Firstly I want to give my perspective on the issue of the use of “nom de plumes”. In the past, there have been several topics where I would have given my opinion however I did not because it was a bit “too close to home”. The irony is that I do not comment on topics I know the most about because I have already identified my real name and location! The reality is that most of us are not independently wealthy and are therefore not prepared to become some sort of martyr to this forum to advance views which may be detrimental to our careers.


The purists such as Tim Dunlop may find this objectionable but that is the reality for a huge number of potential contributors to this forum. In the end maybe we are still serfs to medieval lords, the only difference is these days we get frequent flyer points!


I would like to make some comments on multinational corporations, foreign investment in Australia, research and development in Australia, trade policy and Globalization. I do feel however that it would be regarded as inappropriate in some quarters if I did. I am not prepared to get into these topics under my own name! Sorry, Tim!


Therefore I think the idea of “nom de plumes” is not a bad one. In the end you have to be pragmatic about this sort of thing. The reality is that you cannot express every inner most though to the world without the threat (real or perceived) of ramifications. I think some exceptionally valuable and insightful observations could come from people using “nom de plumes”. Anyway, I have absolutely no objection to it. C’mon, get serious, get realistic…….. the issues discussed in this forum are not “light” and without meaning.


The question is: would you rather people “in the know” express an opinion under an assumed name, or would it be better that the opinion not be expressed at all?????


Finally Margo, I see you received some criticism regarding the use of the word “bedazzled” and Pauline Hanson.


I think the word is ENTIRELY appropriate. Anyone who wants to belittle her impact or what it means is living in fantasy land. Quite frankly, I AM bedazzled by this woman and the impact she has. I don’t agree with much of what she says but I believe only a fool now would belittle her impact. She is a compelling and fascinating person who is really shaking up the establishment. Many (such as me) may want her to go away, but she won’t!


I don’t claim to be an expert on the Australian psyche but I am sure most would agree that there is always an element of “knocking the establishment” and admiring the “battler”. Hanson offers NO SOLUTIONS but she IS a battler and she encapsulates dissatisfaction with the establishment.


Sorry, but a woman who mobilises between 5 and 20% of the vote in various elections is worth watching. She can change governments – she is not merely a media obsession.


I say, be bedazzled, be aware, and most importantly, don’t be complacent………. read the Hanson message…… not from her lips but what underlies her message. She “articulates” the complaints. Who has the solutions?”

The blame game

“I am a very proud Australian who migrated from Mauritius 16 years ago and I will be voting as always for Pauline Hanson as my family friends and myself are fed up to these labour and coalitions politicians licking the minority’s arses all year long. Enough is enough. We must wake up and start kicking arses. All the best, JEAN-MICHEL, Kewarra beach, Cairns.” The ramifications of kick-arse politics will be clearer tomorrow night when Queenslanders’ votes are counted. In the meantime I’m going to have a big go at those of you doing the blame-the-media thing.


CON CARLYON writes: “Sorry, I thought I’d stumbled onto an old Scott Balson PHON site. Despite your denials and high sounding words of justification, you are obsessed with PH, and are no better than any other media hack looking for an easy story. Why else do you need fourteen photos of PH complete with fashion comments? The media would have us believe that all they’re doing is reporting on the PHON “phenomenon”. No, the media are responsible for the PHON phenomenon, and as such, must bear responsibility for the damage she is doing to this country. I expect she will poll well in Queensland. Why? Because this woman who has nothing but a grab-bag of populist one liners (great fodder for the next news headlines!), gets a free ride with 95% of the media coverage. Responsible journalism? Now there’s an oxymoron!”


MICHAEL MORPHETT agrees. “I enjoy your work, chats with Phillip Adams etc, but must add my criticism to that of others re coverage of Hanson. The fourth estate certainly is part of the political process especially when it comes to setting the agenda of what people will think about. This can come about just by the focus, the volume of words.People are now thinking about what the far right can do to help them do something about globalisation and de-industrialisation when they could just as easily be thinking instead, or as well, about what the left has to offer.Yes, the left doesn’t have the ability to influence election outcomes but that rather proves the point doesn’t it? Might I suggest that in the interest of fairness you go to read a bit of Green Left Weekly, read the policy statement, be pleasantly surprised at the lack of jargon and dogma and grab a quote which will be just as off-mainstream and controversial as any from One Notion, also from the heart but will reflect a carefully thought-out and intelligent alternative. A FAIR GO! What about it, do you really want Hansonism to prosper? Think about it, please.”


Excuse me, there was little or no publicity for Hanson before last Saturday. Most of us thought was about to jump off the cliff of political life and would use her celebrity to launch her “Please Explain” fashion label. The media’s charge into the Hanson phenomenon this week was a RESPONSE to her vote in Western Australia, her voters’ role in tossing out the Coalition government, and her potential effect on the federal election result. Blaming the media is sheer laziness. It’s head-in-the-sand stuff.


Hanson is getting the round of gee whiz excitement she got when she blew up politics in Queensland in the June 1998 election with a whopping 23 percent of the vote. I followed her in the last week of that campaign, and most days I was the only member of the media there. What the Western Australian vote proves is that the media is as out-of-touch with grassroots feeling as it was in June 1998, when we were shocked by Hanson’s result, and the next year, when we were shocked by the Victorian election result.


The test of the media’s responsibility is whether we will now move into accountability mode. We have a duty to explore what Hanson believes in so voters make an informed choice at the federal election later this year. We need to ask if she still supports Easytax and the abolition of the Family Court. We need to remember that just as Labor and the Coalition have multiple constituencies and therefore internal tensions, so too does One Nation.


In the city, Hanson attracts blue-collar Labor voters. In the country she attracts family farmers and the rural poor. So does she support the union’s recent win in the industrial relations commission allowing them to charge service fees to non-members when the unions gain pay increases and better conditions? When Peter Beattie introduced industrial relations legislation favouring workers, at first the 11 One Nation members were going to split. Those who’d won Labor seats were going to support it, those holding former National Party seats would oppose. In the end, the Party offered to support Beattie en masse if they got more perks!


Hanson is also running a contradictory political line. She says she’s not there to keep the bastards honest, but to get rid of the bastards. This is the rationale for her revenge f… policy of putting all sitting members last on One Nation how-to-vote cards. Yet at the same time she offers to preference sitting members who preference One Nation. So you’re not a politician, Pauline? Spare me. And how will disaffected Labor voters feel, knowing she’s propping up conservative members when they play footsie with her? It’s time for strong reporters to put the heat on.


Speaking of accountability, BLAIR THOMPSON has surfed the one nation website and found contradictions to burn.


“I have been fascinated by your take on the recent ‘resurgence’ of One Nation and agree with your view that the media have focused so much on Pauline recently, despite the greater Green/progressive vote in WA, because of her destructive potential at the next Federal election.


After all the hype of the WA poll I decided to try to find some One Nation policies. I found some awe-inspiring stuff from the One Nation site that you might have already seen. It shows just how dangerous her type of politics is. What I find interesting about their ‘policy’ document for the QLD poll is how much is already National Party policy, or at least what the Nationals would love to present if they weren’t in Coalition. The policies they manage to think of themselves are tailored to fit the local political landscape, as we saw in the watering down of their racist immigration policy for the WA poll.


Just do a quick comparison – the first was the One Nation Policy in WA from last Saturday and the second is from their ‘policy’ document for the QLD election.


One Nation Immigration & Multicultural Policy


“There has been much written and spoken about One Nation’s Immigration & Multicultural Policy over the last few years – by the media – and that’s mostly newspapers – and it’s mostly untrue!!! The plain truth is One Nation has NO PROBLEM with multiculturalism in Australia! What One Nation Spells out is that people coming to this country should respect this country; value this country; become citizens of this country; and mix their cultural heritage into this country so that we all become one over time…..without losing the richness of culture of any of our ancestors.


“What we mean by this is that people who come to this country “get involved” in this country by joining associations, clubs, groups so that they begin to experience the Australian way of life and become Australians. That doesn’t mean they give up their culture, but it does mean that they accept some of the Australian way of life and also let us (Aussies) experience some of their culture. In time of course we become ONE NATION i.e. we are all Australians – in thinking and acting and speaking. That is One Nation’s Policy – no more, no less! That means that if you want to ensure that your family members – i.e. parents, sisters etc. can come to Australia Vote One Nation. We will encourage family reunions where the immigrants are able to support themselves or be supported by their family or are able to get a job because of their qualifications or experience.


“It’s commonsense that if you want a happy country you need families – “together families”! This doesn’t exclude new immigrants, and it does mean One Nation believes that the “boat People” situation can be better handled, i.e. the “queue jumpers” must be identified quickly and dealt with in a humane way. However, we must adopt a more aggressive method of dealing with the very “rich” Indonesian people who transport the “boat people”.




* The present policy of multiculturalism is clearly divisive and pits minority cultures against that which the majority supports.

* One Nation supports the acceptance of migrants into the mainstream of the Australian community, as citizens who will give their new country their undivided loyalty.

* One Nation endorses programs that firmly empower Australians and intending Australians to communicate in our common language of English.

* At the same time we recognize that all Australians can be enriched when other languages continue to be spoken through choice.


This is what makes them so scary. It is ironic that the self-confessed anti-politician can be displaying such blatant political manipulation to get what she wants truly evil.


There are also (predictably) many internal inconsistencies in her views regarding the role of Government.


“One Nation recognizes that real long-term jobs in any substantial numbers must come from the Private Sector. Governments can embark on major works, but in most cases these are relatively short-term solutions. Long term job creation to be the basis of infrastructure expenditure, and not for temporarily massaging job numbers.”


Call me a crazy southerner, but don’t these carefully constructed dot points contradict each other? Who, pray tell, does Ms Hanson believe will provide the money for the infrastructure expenditure for long-term job creation? Oh of course, silly me, it will be all our large risk-taking Aussie companies that are just waiting for an opportunity to invest in country Queensland and help build 16 new dams in marginal National Party electorates!”


Great contributions keep rolling in from readers, finding a rather compelling upside to Hansonism, drawing historical parallels, searching for sensible ways to civilise global capitalism, and wondering whether Australians actually want chaos as an end in itself,




I for one just can’t get enough of this Hanson thang. On the one hand I feel my perineum contract at the thought of armed and jackbooted skinheads with big “H’s” tattoed on their foreheads marching down George Street. This is a minor thing, but I thought I should clear it.


On the other hand, the bubble and squeak that pours out of our Pauline seems to release, rather than aggravate, some of the potentially explosive issues that lurk in the hearts of Ur-Australians everywhere. This is, I think, because she attracts vast media attention, and hence an enormous amount of intellectual and emotional energy from all quarters. If we didn’t have Pauline, I reckon it’s unlikely that there would be as much space available for the media to deeply dissect the community views that she represents, incoherent as they may be.


In her the media (and everyone else too) at last has the excuse to discuss racism and globalisation outside either the polite constraints of educated liberal-mindedness or the dog stupidity of talk-back radio. To the extent that this broadens and deepens coverage of those issues, it must be good. You see, she’s not inventing all this stuff that she goes on about, but she is providing a focus for those views to be analysed. She’s like a self-lancing boil!


If she says “them black fellas is only in it for the money” , then to me that indicates that there’s still a large number of Australians who think the same, whether they say it or not. By saying it, she at least gives the (mostly benign) Australian media the chance to air that issue. She gives those of us who know there’s more at stake in the stolen generation issue than money the chance to say why.


It’s significant that she lacks coherent policy statements; to me this indicates that the dissatisfaction that her supporters plainly feel hasn’t yet been clearly formulated. Not by her, not by no-one! Certainly not by either Johnny or Kimbo. We’re not going to get anywhere by shouting these people down, but by putting the pressure on them to get clearer.


One last thing. I was in London for a couple of months last year. People were constantly asking about Pauline and about the racist nightmare that was Australia. I stayed in Peckham-Rye and Camberwell in the East End, and felt the racial tension in that place the way I never have in racially diverse Sydney (let’s not talk about Alice Springs, okay?!). Knifings, beatings, right-wing shit everywhere. Maybe she’s just the Pauline we had to have. At least she’s not underground!




In 1914 North Dakota’s farmers were angry. They were angry at eastern bankers, at railway companies, at the owners of grain elevators — and above all, angry at politicians co-opted by big city money. A C Townley, an former socialist organizer, formed the Nonpartisan League (NPL) to protect small farmers from big business elites and their political mates.


The NPL called for government owned banks and infrastructure as well as the right of recall – the ability for voters to remove a politician from office before their term is up. For a few years they were wildly successful. North Dakota still has a state owned bank which dates back to the years of NPL control.


There are some interesting parallels between One Nation and the kind of populism which swept across the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin early last century. Many of the grain farms in North Dakota were on marginal land. Bad seasons combined with rising interest rates and high shipping costs pushed many of these farmers close to the edge. And when things got tough they looked for someone to blame. As with One Nation the NPL pointed to big business and the political establishment.


The solution they both offered was government protection from the risks of the open market and from big business gouging. To make it happen they tried to break elite control of political institutions. The NPL pushed for the right of recall and injected itself into major party primaries, while One Nation is demanding citizen initiated referendums.


The most powerful parallel between One Nation and US populism is a philosophy US political scientists call “producerism”. The producerist ethos champions small farmers, small business people and blue collar workers – anyone who works hard for a living and produces something of tangible benefit to others.


The chief producerist demons are ‘parasites’ – people who feed off taxes or unearned profits. Major parasites include politicians, financial speculators, bureaucrats, bankers, journalists and academics. Minor parasites can include welfare recipients, ethnic minorities and petty criminals. The individuals who attract the most hostility are politicians, journalists or other public figures who look down on producers or who favour parasites like juvenile offenders, illegal immigrants or dole bludgers over honest, hardworking producers.


Producerists like One Nation or the old NPL want a government which will intervene in the market to ensure that their vision of social justice prevails – producers should be rewarded and the demands of parasites ignored. I’m curious if anyone else out there has been looking at the old populist tradition in the US and parallels with One Nation.




Vibe v Pork Barrel


The concept of Greens and Democrats being progressives and thus an alternative to the major parties is laughable. They’ve had little real influence on the trend in Federal government policy since their Senate hegemony began in the mid 80s. Certainly they’ve knocked some of the harder edges off the Hawke/Keating/Howard policies…but one should be careful to ascribe them much positive achievement. They are editors not writers!


Similarly Hanson and similar are classic upper house material – Queensland aside. Their power will ebb and flow just as that of the Greens and Democrats has. I grew up in the Dems’ only ever lower-house seat in any Australian parliament (Mitcham, SA). Any success they achieve in lower houses (cf John Schumann’s likely defeat of Alexander Downer in Mayo later this year) will be a blip rather than a sign of greater things to come.


Democrat and Green voters are taken for granted by Labor between elections, and this is why long term environmental or tax reforms (to take two examples) are so often shunted off the policy agenda. One Nation/the Nationals’ issues are usually hosed down with cash. The Demogreens are wooed by the vibe; the One Nats want the pork barrel above all.


As much as I like ancient forests, the return of Dee Margetts to an upper house does not fill me with delight. Will she be much more useful than some neophyte One-Nation member will? One yearning for an impossible future, the other turned towards an irretrievable past. It would be great if the WA Greens could at least use their numbers to destroy the gerrymander, but let’s see if Gallop actually supports a bill.


A bouquet to Ian McAuley (Webdiary, February 15): an erudite and brief statement of why the global economy is not a choice between yes and no, but rather between yes, no and “yes and more”. The maintenance/creation of steering, acceleration and braking mechanisms in world markets is THE issue in politics today. This applies to all the great trades: food, technology, people, drugs, money, and education.


Some Liberals and some ALP members know this, just as some Republicans and Democrats know it in the US and some Conservatives and Blairites know it in the UK. Can they join together with like-minded people elsewhere to effect change? We’ll see.


MARGO: Yes, yes yes, and this is why One Nation’s demonisation of internationalism is so STUPID – international competition policy and the rest is what will save country people, not back turning. But who is brave enough to take them on? Left wing Labor frontbencher Duncan Kerr has just published a book through Pluto Press called “Elect the Ambassador! Building democracy in a globalised world”, which argues that democracy must now be extended to international decision making bodies. Let’s THINK about how to civilise globalisation, and argue the case.





I am not disenchanted by the major parties. Electoral rorts do not bother me. If Telstra is sold, then perhaps we would all be better off. What disheartens me, though, is that the electorate seems utterly bored with stability and continuously embarks on crusades of malice against our governments. Perhaps we are jealous of the vices of other nations’ leaders. Why can’t we have corrupt leaders like Joseph Estrada, or Richard Nixon? Damn it, why can’t Johnny invite an intern into HIS office?


We want scandal. We want catastrophe. And if we’re good children, we may even get some stress-induced suicides.


But do we really want all this? Well, someone certainly thinks we want it, so they dig up stories about trans-party relationships (um-ah) and illicit affairs with schoolboys. Why, of course it happened years ago, but it’s still juicy isn’t it? It’ll sell, won’t it?


I see all too clear parallels between the popularity of television soap operas and the theatre of politics, with the director’s role largely being played by the media, with the occasional artistic influence injected by party spin. Are we all so tired of thinking that we now have to ‘value-add’ to our politics in order to spark any interest?


As a suburban journalist, I understand the dominant news values of the media – if there is controversy, if there is outrage, if there is backlash, then wack it on page one. Oh, and if it has some substance, like discussions on real, lasting issues like policies, we’ll give it a run as well. Maybe.


But, the ironic thing is, when there’s a scandal of the magnitude of the Reith Telecard affair, it has the half-life of a House heckling and dies a conveniently quiet death. Reith is still there. He is still a Minister, and unless some unfortunate accident befalls him, he’ll return for more in the next term.


The sad thing is, this animalistic feast of political drama has bloated the electorate, and it is the press who have locked away the Mylanta.


The electorate is apathetic. Don’t give me information, it cries, give me Pauline Hanson in the ugliest dress I have ever seen, and give it to me on the front page. Give me novelty.


The novel thing, however, is that Hanson is touted as a fresh face on the scene, someone different, with different views and opinions. Rubbish. The only reason voters cling to her like sucker-fish to a whale is that they are hoping she will carry them back to the good old days. Put those black fellers in their place, tell the international community where it can shove its free trade and roll down the shutters on our shores. We don’t want any.


I was actually surprised that Howard, who took the bold step of running with the GST as his election platform, achieved office in 1998. No surprise though, that once the new tax system came closer, the electorate, the media and the Opposition coughed and spluttered, claiming he had no mandate. July 1 was to be the armageddon of our country. Instead it was as toothless as the Y2K bug. And now we have BAS syndrome, where small businesses, who have never before been required to keep accurate accounting books, are asked to ensure their finances are in order. Please don’t make us change, the pleas cry. We’ve already defeated the Republic, surely we don’t have to face any more change?


The only change Hanson offers is a ride on a magical time machine, first stop the past. It’s like one of those carnival attractions, complete with flashing lights and fast music, with the sole purpose of strapping you in and spinning you round and around. And like all tacky carnival rides, you get off feeling nauseous, regretting you ever lined up for the thing, and wishing so desperately you staid with the dodgem cars.”


TRUDY BRAY protests against my grouping Democrats and Greens voters together as Left parties. “Since collaborating on introducing the regressive GST, the Democrats (with some principled exceptions) can hardly be called ‘Left’. Since when was siphoning tax money from the poor to give tax cuts to the rich a socialist ideal? No, the Democrats are now viewed by many as an Establishment party – part and parcel of the Coalition and, like the Coalition, they will not escape the wrath of the Australian electorate.”


TIM DUNLOP gives his last word on the nom de plume debate.


“I find it interesting that the proponents of phoney names keep saying that someone’s name doesn’t matter and that the comments should just be judged by their content. If names don’t matter, then why do they go to all the trouble of changing them? The answer is because your name identifies you.


Presumably they are all scared that someone will read what they say and therefore know what they think. This means that in their “real” life they are not telling people what they really think. So the argument is that by lying about their name on this website they can tell “us” what they really think. So we – lucky us – get hear their “real” opinions, apparently.


The question is why should “we” be concerned with the opinions of anyone who doesn’t have the courage to identify themselves with those opinions? “Stephen Henderson” (his pretend name) writes, for instance, that “If I am going to declare my political beliefs, it will be to the people I choose, not to all and sundry.” But I thought the whole idea was to share your opinions with “all and sundry”: wasn’t that why you contributed to the site in the first place? If you don’t want to “share” them then keep your opinions to yourself. There is a such a deep contradiction in “Stephen’s” argument that I won’t even begin to untangle it.


As I keep being asked why using false names shows contempt for readers let me try to answer, though I concede that someone who is willing to hide behind a false name in the first place is unlikely to agree with my reasons. It shows contempt because we are being presented with opinions from people who demonstrably do not have the courage of their convictions. It is simply an act of good faith to identify yourself in an exchange with another person. One of the “phoneys” says that it wouldn’t make any difference if I did know who “she” really is and that is probably true. But the fact that “she” won’t identify “herself” plants a seed a doubt about the intent and authenticity of what “she” says.


In fact, I’d suggest that, rather guaranteeing honesty, the use of a false name is more likely to encourage frivolousness and exaggeration. I’d reckon people are more likely to be careful and thoughtful about what they say if they are obliged to supply their real name. Dontachareckon?


I don’t want to hear their real names so I can check out who they are; it is merely a sign of the integrity of the comments themselves, that someone is willing to put their name to what they say. In the impersonal exchange of the internet the checks on truth and authenticity are limited enough as it is without openly encouraging another form of falsehood. The fact that lots of people use phoney names in chat rooms and on lists, as one person suggested, is hardly grounds for approving the practice. Using a false name undermines the good faith necessary to maintain the integrity of this sort of exchange and interaction. I wouldn’t take seriously someone at a conference who sat there with a bag on their head on the grounds that they didn’t want to be identified with the opinions they were expressing and I don’t see using a phoney name on this site as being that much different.


The thing is, we all take a risk in expressing our opinions out loud and for most of us it is difficult and nerve-racking. But that’s the price of admission as far as I’m concerned. If you don’t want people to know what you think, then keep your opinions to yourself. Margo, you may think you are getting “real” opinions by providing this mask for people to hide behind, but I doubt it. All it does is poison the well of public debate.”

Hanson and you

The perspectives of Pauline Hanson and what she means are rolling in. Today we’ve got a Liberal moderate, a Hansonite, a mad-as-hell Queenslander, a believer in ‘true democracy’, a contributor who blames the media for it all, and an academic who thinks it’s about a malaise in the structures of our democratic system. For those of you who allege I’m obsessed with Hanson, I say I’m obsessed with what she shows about our identity and how her political plays will reshape our policies and our nation. For those of you who say the media is excited by Hanson, I agree. From a professional standpoint, the bomb she’s thrown into the moribund political system enlivens debate and raises hidden questions which demand answers but are instead never spoken of. The email responses to Canberra Inside Out are always the largest when the topic is Hanson, so maybe you’re all obsessed too!


But first, CHRIS BERKELY has reworked the first stanza od One Nation’s theme song, “A Sunburnt Battler” (Webdiary, February 13). Can anyone do better?


“A fat whingeing wanker

Stands alone at his door

Too dumb even to wear a hat

The sunburn’s turning raw

In strife with his bank ‘cos he

Kept on producing stuff

That no-one wants any more

A strong wife with child

Didn’t hang around and wait

She’s living down in Sydney

With the wanker’s former drinking mate.


There could be more…



ANDREW ELDER of Petersham NSW, describes himself as a “former moderate liberal”.


One Nation are to the conservatives what the Communists were to the ALP.


All that talk of solidarity with their side of politics belies a death wish in the Liberal Party, a death wish that feels like solidarity. Every One Nation vote let in the back door expels a Liberal from the front door, as you rightly point out. This might seem like some great existential dilemma unless you really look at who makes these decisions within the Liberal Party.


Liberal right-wingers would not miss the bleeding-heart liberals if they up and went – initially. They’d have an ideologically pure party and eventually Tony Abbott or someone like him would become leader. Just one problem: they’d permanently be in Opposition, like the ALP in the ’50s and 60s.


The Liberal Party needs its liberals in order to keep winning, and to keep liberals it must put policies in place which appeal to them. The central political question facing Australia is: does the Liberal Party, dominated as it is by right-wingers – conservative is too benign a term for these often radical and boorish people – have the discipline to deny itself the One Nation temptation? True conservatives would abstain from the fleeting gains that the PHONies offer – but the Liberals today almost have to be tied to the mast, like Ulysses hearing the Sirens’ calls.


How effective are the back-room deals in producing desired electoral outcomes? For example, in WA One Nation caught the populist mood against the inadequate protection of pensioners by “Fair Trading” minister Doug Shave (in the mortgage broking scandal). The trouble is, they had a backroom deal to give Shave their second preferences, against their anti-sitting-member policy. Yet the local activist who mobilised opinion on the scandal by taking it to the media and running against Shave was Denise Brailey. One Nation initially approached Brailey to run as their candidate. When she refused, they preferenced her last – behind Shave. Brailey is neck-and-neck with the Liberals for Forests candidate to win the seat – watch One Nation claim credit for that result!


It’s almost redundant to criticise politicians for double-dealing, and to say that One Nation are no better than any of them. However that episode (and the last term of the Qld Parliament) shows the PHONies are vindictive buggers! The pettiness of their ideas and their motivations should receive a lot more attention than Pauline’s “did you get dressed in the dark?” fashion sense.


GREG WEILO, Adelaide


Response to yesterday’s Webdiary


I hardly know where to start!


Jane O’Dwyer of Canberra starts off with the standard, media-promoted accusations that Pauline Hanson is a divisive, racist and policy-free politician. One Nation haters tend to get themselves confused over the partys policies: one day they are racist, and the next day they don’t even exist. I have even framed an editorial from the Adelaide Sunday Mail which essentially states: we don’t like One Nation policies even though we don’t know what they are!


The truth is that One Nation does have policies, they are regularly promoted and are always available on the internet. The media doesn’t print them, in case too many people discover the truth about them. As an example, One Nation clearly states that all races should be treated equally, while the Liberals, Nationals, Labor, Greens & Democrats all favour the racial preferences provided by affirmative action. Affirmative action is the Orwellian policy that states “We are all equal, but some are more equal than others”. Politicians and journalists all seem to agree that racists are the people who want to treat everybody equally, while those that want to discriminate on a racial basis are non-racist. As the Americans say, “Go figure”.

I noticed that Jane is now out of step – today the media has acknowledged that One Nation does have policies. Not that there is any serious analysis of any just a few quotes taken out of context. (MARGO: But that’s what hanson’s latest policy document is – a series of quotes without a context!) The main message when the policies are acknowledged is that they are non-costed.


I can’t remember a single instance where the media made the same complaint was made about a Democrat or Green party policy. Even the major parties, when in opposition, usually state that it is unfair to expect detailed policy costing when they don’t have access to the accountants in the Treasury department. There is always the promise to fine tune costings once they achieve government, and this is usually accepted by the media. (MARGO: the media has complained loud and often that Beazley is a policy free zone, and that his policies are mere slogans and “principles”.)


Jane also falls for Kim Beazley’s spin on the analysis of the Green vote: i.e. the poor Greens have not received their share of media attention, and One Nation only did well because of the electoral gerrymander. First of all, it is obvious that the Greens are benefiting from the lack of media attention. Questions might otherwise be asked, such as “How can the Greens win more seats than One Nation when they received 20,000 fewer votes”?


The same can be said of the WA Upper House, where the Nationals won 7 seats with less than 3% of the statewide vote, while One Nation didn’t win any despite polling nearly 10%. Tell me again, who was benefiting from an electoral gerrymander?


Jane also declares that voters attracted to PHON are middle aged white blokes who are looking for someone to blame, while the disaffected left is probably made up of women, blacks, migrants and the like. Who is being divisive now?


The media analysts prefer to label One Nation voters as “rural rednecks”, despite the obvious evidence that One Nation has a wide support base. In fact, that is their problem. If One Nations voters were all based in country electorates they would be winning more seats, like the Nationals do with their narrow support base.


Margo also highlights her own biases too, just in case there was ever any doubt: progressives don’t need a cult figure like Hanson – we’re voting with our feet for Greens and Democrats. So much for impartial journalism. That’s exhibit A in the case of why the public despise journalists.


Exhibit B is that despite all their preaching about tolerance and diversity, journalists will not tolerate any diversity in political opinion. They have a license to hate. (MARGO: Greg, your opinion is published on a webpage on which I have total control – how’s that for tolerating diversity?)


Then there is the argument that One Nation only achieves protest votes, which never achieve anything. Isn’t a Labor vote a protest against the Liberals, and vice versa? All votes can be interpreted as protest votes, so this is another nonsense perpetrated by the media. In addition, One Nation doesn’t have to win government to achieve changes, as you have admitted with the prevention of the sale of Woodside to foreign buyers. More evidence of One Nation influenced policy was seen with John Howards backpedaling over the Telstra sale.


Finally, Margo states: “Yet the us and the “them” share much common ground on economic policy. Crazy.” I’ll ignore the divisiveness and political bias implicit in this statement, and focus on the confusion. It’s not crazy. Nationalist parties have always been socially conservative and economically left wing. Labor and Liberal are causing your confusion, as they have both shifted to the left on social policies and to the right on economic policies. The result is a bipartisan dictatorship, where the voters have an alternative but not a choice.




Just a few observations from a Queenslander. What frightens me this time round is how respectable Pauline Hanson is. Where are the protests? Where is all the security? Listening to local ABC talkback radio is another scary experience. Two days ago, Pauline has a tirade of Gay bashing on Brisbane ABC, and it’s let through to the keeper as if it is standard fare for a political leader in 2001.


So-called political journos are more interested in her appearance than questioning her on where the money from the last federal election went and asking her why we should reward One Nation for this and the other matter of 10 members defecting from her party. It’s like – “Let’s not upset her – or else we won’t have her on our 6 p.m. news”.


Part of the reason for all of the attention is that she has given the media a ‘story’ and an angle on which to pin the Qld election. Without her, they are stuck following Beattie, who doesn’t want to raise any fuss at all due to the rorting scandal that led to the early election, and Borbidge/Watson, who hardly raise the pulse rate.


That song with “a million joining across the land” (Webdiary February 13, “Sunburnt Battler”) also scares the shit out of me.


Federally, neither party really want to address the reason that Hanson has come about. Then again, in a strange way the Nationals and Labor have far more in common than the Liberal Party. But it is still bandaid reactive stuff. The dairy farmers scream – let’s act. The caravan owners scream – let’s act. I just don’t think they get it. She is seen as a speed bump on the road to the global market economy. If I could be a little cheeky – I sometimes think that journos like yourself (whom I respect immensely) need Pauline to help you stay excited and alert in a political world (domestically) that has been very very dry during the Howard years (MARGO: Dry? Remember Wik, the rolling back of human rights, the closing down of dissent in general, and the abandonment of the Liberal conscience vote in the mandatory sentencing debate, the GST, the demonisation fo boat people, the collapse of accountable government, the privatisation of the jobs network etc, etc, etc?)




True Democracy?



One Nation champions citizen-initiated referenda to “give people a vote on major issues.” Commentators are missing the key difference between PHON and the major parties. Hanson thus promises true democracy. What she wears or whatever else she says are mere irrelevancies: fundamentally PHON is about acting upon the will of Australians.


The major parties have a sorry record of ignoring majority opinion. Historically, a major party can count on a solid core vote , then pander to fringe elements to capture swinging votes and increase their total vote.


Australia has absurd contradictory politics: a Labor party that in practice is often anti-worker (Labor began privatisation and favoured Chardonnay socialist policies to attract Liberal voters), a rural National party that has presided over the destruction of the rural sector, and a pro-business Liberal party that handcuffs small business with a bureaucratic GST.


There is a perception that multi-nationals and United Nations committees dictate Australian major party actions. The major parties perpetuate this view when they refuse voters the ability to register opinions on these issues. What would the major parties do if a citizen-initiated referendum bound politicians to defy international pressures?


Can a major party still count on a consistent core of voters if it continues to do the opposite of its professed beliefs?


Pauline Hanson’s existence is an opportunity for all major party voters to regain power over their parties and force them to be accountable to their professed beliefs. Pauline Hanson’s existence returns power to majority Australia.


As Hanson says “she is here to get rid of the bastards.” A “bastard” is a major party politician who promises one thing but whose party delivers the opposite.


FIONA FERRARI of Canberra (non de plume)


It’s 2001, and a female politician still gets a long article in the Sydney Morning Herald about what dress she was wearing and her choice of clothes over the last few years. Now, newspapers cover what dress she wore yesterday. It’s like the crap on Kernot when she was hailed as sex object before she had her Tasmanian tantrum.


When was the last time any male politician was considered a sex object by the media? The last ones I remember were Bob Hawke (who got it a lot), Paul Keating (who became a sex object one day when he rushed by schoolgirls and Andrew Peacock, the only Liberal to ever have sex appeal.


The point I want to make is who cares what she wears. The media should not get distracted by this fluff. Keep asking her what her policies are, and more importantly, what her solutions are. What would she do if she was Prime Minister? How would she reconcile the conflicting demands of the economic system and society’s losers?


After disagreeing with Tim Dunlop yesterday (on non de plumes) today I find myself agreeing with his comments on your use of ‘wow’, ‘bedazzled’ etc. I also find it weird that you chose to put the ON “Sunburnt Battler” song on your site.

I can see why you’d put the words up (so we can have a good laugh), but why promote the music? Did you think about the pros and cons before deciding to put it on your site?


As much as I love your journalism, you’re too obsessed by Pauline Hanson. 4 out of your last 5 webdiary entries are about Pauline Hanson. Why do we need to see 14 photos of her?


Jane O’Dwyer is right-tell us more about the people voting green (the ‘progressives’) and maybe you should put on 14 photos of Green and Democrats candidates.


But you have hit the nail on the head with your line ‘the absurd belief that a free market-with no values other than maximising short term profit-will come up with a perfect solution’. This what its all about. The groupthink which accepts this absurd belief that the value-free market should run everything in our society has dominated Tweedledum, Tweedledee and the media for too long. Now the groupthink which dominates the elite’s thinking is finally being challenged by about 30% of the population, (with half of the 30% being right wing conservative, uneducated losers who lack compassion for other losers such as Aborigines, refugees, prisoners and the other half progressive environmentalists who are compassionate and want Howard to say sorry and care about social justice).


JOHN CRAIG, ,Centre for Policy and Development Systems, supports leaders developing economic, enterprise and governance systems, on the Web at



A good friend has drawn my attention to your past and recent comments about the One Nation phenomenon. It was also suggested to me that you hold somewhat cynical views concerning Queensland’s political situation – which puts you in good company as far as I am concerned.


You have correctly identified the One Nation phenomenon as a pure protest, without policy – and as starting to use electoral tactics which have the potential to be immensely destructive politically. Who can disagree? So it is necessary to look behind the politics at what has given rise to the protest and at what might be done about it.


It is now becoming accepted that the phenomenon largely reflects the impact of economic change – and that many find themselves left behind. There are solutions – but these require some change in the tactics used for economic management. While many identify One Nation as a ‘policy free zone’, I suggest that, in terms of dealing with the fundamental causes of the problems which One Nation reflects, our other political institutions are also virtually ‘policy free zones’ – they are seen to have nothing credible to propose.


Queensland’s political situation is in some disarray – and this has been the focus of much media attention. However the general media seems to be only interested in politics as a spectator sport, and not in the practical activities of government that make the real difference to people’s lives.


This emphasis on politicians’ game-playing rather than on the underlying reality reflects a serious failure by our journalists. If one does look more closely at the practical reality behind the political circus in Queensland, one quickly discovers serious problems which no one wants to acknowledge.


There is evidence of very severe problems in: society generally; the political system; the Public Service; public finance; and economic competitiveness and strategy. There are institutional weaknesses which have always led (and continue to lead) to the poor status and perception of politics in Queensland. Electoral rorting (which has absorbed most media interest) has been just the tip of an iceberg – a distraction from more significant challenges below the surface.


Neither the Government nor the Opposition in Queensland has acknowledged or stated credible policies for dealing with, the ‘iceberg’ – presumably because the ‘big-picture’ problems seem too hard to resolve. Also, Queensland has few capable independent sources of public or economic policy information and advice. Thus the electorate (which is more concerned with practical outcomes than with political gamesmanship) has, to date, faced what seems like a no-win choice between ineffectual ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘On Our Selection’ styles of government.


So long as journalists superficially report on politicians’ games, rather than probing the realities behind those games, current weaknesses and instabilities are likely to continue.


Queensland does not appear to be effectively governed in early 2001 because:

* Parliament often behaves with juvenile abandon because there is too little ‘raw material’ on policy options that might really solve Queensland’s problems;

* the ‘rorting’ culture identified in the ALP’s AWU faction in relation to filling key political positions has also damaged the Public Service;

* the Public Service lacks professional credibility and administration has been degenerating into a shambles; and

* serious financial difficulties seem to be emerging. Queensland is not ‘burning cash’ like the ‘dot.coms’ – but its spending is unsustainable.


Influential interest groups simply want political instability to end. However this is not feasible for some time because that instability is just a symptom of deeper problems. In particular:

* the community faces severe social stresses – eg high levels of unemployment, poverty, violence, dubious ethics, sexual assault, crime, fear and drug use;

* the social stresses in marginal regions that have led to political instability arose largely from very poor management in the 1990s of pressures for economic diversification;

* the economic causes of those stresses are not being resolved because recent attempts to diversify the economy (eg under ‘Smart State’) have achieved little beyond amusing the political ‘establishment’ and consuming public money;

* an even greater re-alignment of Queensland’s economy may now be required, due to the challenges that traditional resource-based economic specialisations face from continual global restructuring, international competitors and environmental constraints;

* government administration itself requires overhaul because (a) little of practical relevance is likely to be achieved until the Public Service is renewed on a professional basis and (b) both the State budget and the ‘commercial’ model for government business enterprises seem to be financially unsustainable; and

* the policies of major political groups do not address the above challenges.



The debate on the use of non de plumes continues. PAUL FLYNN of Wagga, Wagga comes to my defence with “People post all over the net under hidden identities. Let the comments stand or fall according to the sense they make, not by who said them. CON VAITSAS also sees my point.


“Perhaps no-one has offered to write about marginal seats under their real name because they are members of political parties & real-name essays could cause problems for them within their branch. Several years ago, after I had a letter to the ed. published about a change in government policy, my then local federal MP threatened to have me expelled from the party for disloyalty. This to me was great news, as I looked forward to a fight, but unfortunately the thickhead didn’t proceed with the threat. By the way this is my real name.”


FIONA FERRARI writes that Tim Dunlop has got it right when he says ‘if the culture of public debate was more accepting of the right of citizens to speak as critics …then such an issue would never arise’. It irks me more than it irks you, Tim, that I can’t write under my real name. Believe me, if I felt I could, I would. You do not know what my circumstances are, but like Stephen Henderson, I have given Margo personal details of who I am and where I work. Tim, I do not understand why you feel so strongly about this. What does a name really tell you about someone? Thanks, Margo, for recognising that people should have an opportunity to express political views without having to use their real names. Stick by your guns (as ON would say or sing).

Pauline’s mob pumps out the Sunburnt Battler


Pauline Hanson has the place rocking, and it’s over to you for reaction. But first, I had a call from a bloke called Richard Rae, who’s doing the publicity for One Nation for the federal election. He plans to flog off to One Nation supporters a song called “Sunburnt Battler”, to be professionally recorded by an Australian band in three weeks. We’re hoping to put the garage version on the web today. Rae wrote the words and Hanson approved the words, and they hope that at $10 a pop, they’ll get the readies for TV and print advertisements. The garage version I heard has a Midnight Oil beat to it. One Nation will also record what Rae calls a “teen market” song called “Take it like This”, which will cut in a Hanson speech. The lyrics will give you a good idea of the market One Nation is pitching to. The cover – a reproduction of a pulp fiction novel painted by Australian comics artist Stanley Pitt – is an image of Ned Kelly in full metal headgear, back to a tree, flashing gun in hand. Scary.


audio gifThe new One Nation jingle – a real pub stomp

Sunburnt Battler


A proud sunburnt battler
stands alone at his gate
a strong wife with child
on the veranda in wait
for the banks and the troupers
to come take their land
where are the mates
of this Aussie man

Through each generation
hopes grow and must last
turn to the future
not forgetting the past
covering our States
and Territories skies
we lift our heads facing
where the Southern Cross flies

It won’t be long now
so she moves to her man
son reaches out
to hold dads weary hand
then a neighbor walks over
and joins the small band
then more people come
from all across our land

Soon a million lone battlers
have built a wide wall
they march straight ahead
helping any who fall
they’ll fight with this family
for when it’s said and done
at the end of the day
we’re all One Nation.

GRAHAM COLE, Northern Territory


Calling Hanson a lightning rod for protest devoid of policies says it all. She came up to the Territory Show in July and the local One Nation group jammed her in a buggy behind 2 horses and ran her around the fair ground .Every one clapped her, black and white . I don’t think it was so much support as just the fun of the fair, because they were clapping louder at cattle dogs jumping over a wall 5 minutes earlier.


Any way a bloke I know is running as a One Nation independent candidate in the assembly elections and he’s protesting about the number of crocodiles that don’t get shot. Another fella I know is a member and he’s got a Darwin Chinese wife, another has an adopted Aboriginal grandson and joined up because he was lonely and they have good barbecues. You never can tell.


Any way when I saw Pauline at the Show I decided to get right up her. My kids are from Sri Lanka and I remember one of them saying to me when Pauline first arrived on the scene “Does, Pauline Hanson mean that I’ve gotta go back to Lanka?” So I fronted her, but she looked so pathetic and so badly dressed all I could say was, ” With your skin dear you should really get yourself a decent hat” and then I asked her for her autograph. So she asked me my name and I told her and she wrote it out and I put it in my wallet . I felt like some girl chasing the Bay City Rollers .


Where can I get a copy of your book? (MARGO:





TIM DUNLOP, Canberra:


There is no doubt a lot of truth in what you write about Hanson and the various elections. However, when you begin with “Wow! Here we are again, bedazzled by the extraordinary Pauline Hanson” I have to wonder who the “we” is. Is it “we” the readers or “we” the media? I want to suggest it’s the latter. You’re the ones who are bedazzled, to the detriment of your real reporting. I’m not saying she doesn’t have support or that the ON vote doesn’t merit comment. Only that the “Wow” the “bedazzled” and the “extraordinary” are media sentiments, not reader sentiments.


I reckon you ought to tone it down a bit. Give us a bit more context. As you say: “It will take a while to fully digest the ramifications of the WA result. The Queensland election on Saturday will give us more information on the nature of the one Nation threat, but even then there’ll have to be a lot of micro-analysis of who is voting One Nation and where they live before we can construct an informed scenario of the political year ahead.” So hold off on being “bedazzled “for a bit longer, please.


Even now we can see that some of the micro-analysis shows up other interesting facts, such as that the Greens got more votes than anyone predicted and more in metro WA than ON. They (or ON) might hold the balance of power in the Upper House. And what about the demise of the Democrats?


Other things I’d like to see some hard data on are the extent to which ON approaches to race HAVE actually changed (I keep reading hints to this effect, but no support). If they have, what does that mean? What about the new “party structure” of ON? Is it new? Is it as free and “floating” as one person in your piece suggests? What are the ramifications of this? (personally, I reckon it might be a good development in Australian party politics). And why doesn’t someone call Hanson’s bluff on the tag (given to her by Robert Manne, but undoubtedly part of her attraction) that she is an “anti-politician”? Clearly she isn’t any more. The ON preference strategy proves that. It might be “anarchy”, as you call it, but it is shrewd political tactic. She’s just another pollie now, and someone should point it out.





Phoenix Rising.


Just read your Webdiary entry “Behind Pauline’s comeback”. I particularly liked “Hanson is an anarchist force in Australian politics. She combines an incredible sex appeal to middle-aged, threatened men” – I’m beginning to understand.


You write: “But let me make one policy prediction. One Nation’s resurgence means that the government will block the takeover of Australian resources company Woodside by Dutch predator Shell. John Howard can’t risk igniting the Hanson mantra of economic nationalism by letting Shell get Woodside. And that will be only one of several policy turnarounds in the run up to the election.”


Is that a bad thing? I mean, aren’t most sensible, thinking people entirely frustrated and disillusioned with the political majors seeming disregard for them? I know I am.


So if Pauline “Phoenix” Hanson and her mob cause major Lib/Nat/Labor policy shifts on important issues such as the Woodside/ Shell Monopoly Game, I’m not too disappointed.






Hey Margo


The WA election result was fascinating – but not for the reasons most

analysts are harking on about. I think the Greens vote signals something

really important. It really clarifies what the protest is about. The PM

has been running around for the last few years arguing that One Nation is

about so called politically correct social values, rather than economic

policy. Hence his justification for his socially conservative agenda. But

when we are getting huge showings of protest votes for progressive social

parties it means the PM can’t hide behind that argument anymore. It

indicates that people of a wide range of social values are pissed off with

the major parties. It is not about progressive vs conservative social

values. It is about economics. Finally, government might start to take a

closer look at its economic policy.


I think the Greens vote is also enormously important for a couple of other

reasons too. The first is the assertion of quality of life over pure

economic drivers. The electorate have made their priorities clear on the WA

forests. An end to growth at all costs?


Second, the green vote in itself is interesting. Is it possible that

environmentalism is the new morality? Contrary to all traditional political

thinking that people will only care about things that are tangible and

impact on their day to day lives, people have shown enormous concern about

abstract long term issues like greenhouse. I can’t help but wonder if that

is because people have latched onto the environment in a search for values.

We no longer judge an upstanding citizen by whether they have sex before

marriage, are God fearing or a member of rotary. Now we ascertain people’s

integrity by whether or not they recycle. Somehow caring about the

environment is about integrity, responsibility for the world we live in, and

being attached to something more real than sheer materialism. To me it

seems like people reaching out for something deeper.


A nice development I feel.





The Big Red P


It appears that the formula for scoring the balance of power is easy:


1. Identify difficulties and prejudices, real and perceived, of a large enough target demographic;

2. Define as many groups as possible to blame for these difficulties; and

3. Promise to stick it to ’em.


Being entirely cynical about it, it should be possible to create a Pauline for the urban poor and between them they’d grab about 20% of the vote across the board. One of the radio talkback fascists would be a perfect figurehead. Imagine a party fronted by someone with charisma like Lawsy. All he would have to do is promise to stick it to the banks, illegal immigrants, non-English speakers, unemployed New Zealanders, “Spoilt Canberrans who get all the good roads”, “freeloaders” in general, recipients of arts grants, and greenies, and bingo! he’s in the Senate, no worries.


That these are pretty much all Coalition policies already is not a problem – our targets will have never noticed). Thankfully Laws would never bother, given that he has more power than a local council and earns what must be about ten times the salary of a backbencher.


It’s all rather depressing, really.


Anyway, I still reckon the whole Pauline phenomenon could be pretty much

erased by resolving the land rights issue the way responsible ex-British

colonies (i.e. Canada and New Zealand) have.




I am not a supporter of Pauline Hanson but I must make the comment that whereas she is asking the questions but doesn’t have the answers, where are the answers from Tweedle “Dumb” and Tweedle “Dumber” , alias Messrs. Howard and Beazley? Both leaders’ parties have forgotten what Government really is, while they spar at each other on unimportant issues.


I think Howard forgot that, in Australia, elections are not won – the Government simply loses. John Howard and Peter Costello have done such an excellent job of alienating so many people with their pig-headedness on GST, BAS and fuel that Kim Beazley simply has to keep his nose clean (perhaps not even that) to gain enough swing to win Government.


The coming recession will hit Australia particularly hard. You can’t crow about raising extra billions in taxation and pull it in faster without seriously interfering in the normal course of business. Something politicians and public servants just don’t understand.


If I may explain. Each quarter businesses will have to remit by 21 days (actually 19, as the Taxation Office idiotically treats Sundays as normal business days) PAYG, PAYW and GST. Businesses don’t pay each other in 21 (or 19) days. The normal term is 30 days after month end and not everyone pays within the 30 days. The farce is that the Government says they “have use” of their GST but the reality is that businesses have to remit everything to the Taxation Office before they have received 33% (more if some clients are slow payers) of the quarter’s money.





I’m not sure that the Liberals can fall too much further in Queensland, as their current representation would reflect fairly “rusted on” voters, as journalists like to say. I suspect that they will finish up within 2 or 3 seats of their current level. I don’t expect them to recover their previous (pre-1998) level of representation. I expect that the Nationals will do better, but not enough for the Coalition to win outright government.


I think that a hung parliament is the most likely result (say 45%), but I agree that an ALP win is much more likely (say 35%) than a Coalition win (20%).


By the way, did you notice Greg Robert’s preparatory spin in anticipation of a continued low liberal vote, despite their decision to put One Nation last? (MARGO: Greg is the Herald’s Brisbane correspondent.) “Coalition strategists fear many traditional Liberal supporters will vote Labor in protest against the National Party’s decision to direct preferences to One Nation ahead of the ALP.”


I suppose it was smart to give ownership of this ‘analysis’ to “Coalition strategists” rather than himself. I suspect he is just floating this nonsense to see if it will fly next week.


He must really think that the public is stupid. Liberals to vote Labor to protest a decision by the Nationals? Get real.


The reason that journalists can’t understand what’s going on, is that they are as out of touch as the politicians are.



FIONA FERRARI (a non de plume), Canberra



Anonymous contributors


I disagree with Tim Dunlop’s objections to the use of non de plumes. As a public servant working in a parliament, I know that it is unacceptable for me to write letters to the editor on political issues under my real name. I appreciate the opportunity to express my views through your site.


Tim claims the use of non de plumes shows contempt for your readers. Why? I think it shows respect for the views of people who know their professionalism and job prospects will be compromised if they write letters to the editor. You are promoting free speech.


This country has become more and more unnaccepting of freedom of expression and dissent over the last decade. Witness the defunding of WEL and peak youth bodies. And with more people employed on contract in the public service, more people with good inside information are inhibited from voicing their opinions.


You made it clear that those writing about marginal electorates should identify any political associations and I believe this is a sufficient check. Why do we need to know everyone’s real identity? Surely readers are capable of assessing arguments put by contributors on their merits? Please do not change your policy on non de plumes.




It’s a pity Labor isn’t running hard on this one. I think a hard line supporting Australian ownership could help them take One Nation votes rather than give One Nation more steam. But they are scared of ‘the market’s’ judgement. Surely with the Australian dollar so low, though, one FIRB rejection of a foreign takeover isn’t going to spook ‘the market’ too much- they’ll still want to try and buy all our other cheap companies.


Still, the Woodside case is a beautiful illustration of Labor’s fundamental dilemma in the current political/economic environment. With globalisation, nation states, voters and governments have less power than they had in previous times. The range of policy options available to governments is shrinking at an ever-increasing rate and democracy is losing ground to the power of major companies and the narrow views of ‘the market’.


The ‘market’s’ views are not in tune with ‘the people’s’ views (Pauline’s parlance), and not in the interests of a significant proportion of ‘the people’ and often not in the national interest of individual countries.


The ‘market’ is especially bad at meeting the needs of country people, hence their support for One Nation.


While Tweedeldum and Tweedeledee have their ears tuned to what the market wants, they are not listening to what voters want. This then creates a frustration in those voters suffering under the new system of market domination. These voters (‘the people’) think their only way to be heard is to vote One Nation or independent. The recent re-emergence in WA of One Nation demonstrates that Howard has not learnt the lessons he said he’d learnt after the Victorian election.


Both major political parties need to work out a better way of resolving that fundamental conflict between the views of ‘the market’ and the views of ‘the people’.


Somehow One Nation has grabbed a large proportion of those disenchanted with ‘the market’ and with the Government’s over-the-top sucking up to the market. Unfortunately the fact that One Nation promotes racism and has no realistic policy solutions takes away from the real problem that governments have to find a better way to manage ‘the market’. It is really unfortunate that any questioning of ‘the market’s domination is considered old-fashioned, unreconstructed and uneducated because One Nation has linked it with racism and old-fashioned country values.


S11 is the only group to present a cynicism with market domination in a way that appeals to Australians who do not equate anti-market sentiment with racism, ignorance and backwardness. Labor, the Greens and the Democrats need to do something different so that educated Australians can feel comfortable challenging excessive market domination without being called a redneck. Labor needs to take the only good argument One Nation has away from them (that is questioning market domination) and hopefully that will squash the racist vote.

Behind Pauline’s comeback

Wow! Here we are again, bedazzled by the extraordinary Pauline Hanson.


During the 1998 federal election campaign, she told reporters many times that she looked forward to winning the seat of Blair, walking back into Parliament, and yelling, “I’m Back!”


She had to wait a long time, but she’s certainly back now to add spice and fear to what will be a wild election year.


Since I wrote the story of Pauline Hanson’s 1998 federal election campaign in “Off the Rails: The Pauline Hanson Trip”, Hanson has refused to speak to me, and I gratefully moved on from the wreckage. This is my first take on the weekend’s events.




Last year Pauline Hanson publicly divorced David Oldfield when she locked herself in the NSW One Nation office while he banged on the door outside. She’s now removed the two Davids from the One Nation executive and taken total control. Last week she brought back her first Svengali, John Pasquerelli, the man who wrote her maiden speech and whom she had ejected from her office in 1997 by a security guard. He’s a big, vulgar, politically astute bloke who’s been critiquing the two Davids and Pauline from the sidelines ever since.


At the time of the Hanson/Oldfield denouement I suggested she might rise again, at least to win a Senate seat in Queensland. The perception in her heartland that she was a mere puppet of Oldfield had hurt her vote – she admitted as much to me during the 1998 campaign – and Oldfield’s drive for control of One Nation split the party into warring factions. Now he’s gone, she has returned to her core instincts and returned One Nation to a vehicle for the cult of Pauline Hanson.


Hanson is an anarchist force in Australian politics. She combines an incredible sex appeal to middle-aged, threatened men with plain speaking and intense listening to society’s losers. What she learned in 1998 was that she is a lightning rod for protest, not a purveyor of alternative policies. She has no policy answers, and her disastrous Easytax policy and plans to replace the Family Court with people’s tribunals comprised of the divorced couples’ neighbours proved the point. Her “policies” turned voters away, not brought them in.


She is now pure protest, no policy. She has learned that those attracted her believe she is asking all the right questions, but has no answers. She is anti-establishment – political, media, academic and business. People who vote for her want her to give the establishment curry and MAKE them notice Pauline’s people. .


During the 1998 election she announced to the travelling media that she would put all sitting members last. Oldfield overruled her then, and now that he’s gone she’s returned to her anarchic instincts, designed to ensure her personal stardom. She and her people are willing to churn governments – to dump Labor or Liberal governments after one term until they get satisfaction. She said on Saturday night that people were sick of

Richard Court and John Howard. She has her first scalp and is gunning for her second.


Unless, of course, the Nationals swap preferences with One Nation. If they do that, she’ll take the risk of reelecting them for the chance that they’ll elect her people instead.




WA’s One Nation is different. Some Western Australian Liberals sick of the machinations of Right wing power broker Noel Crichton-Browne defected to the new party, and it does not have the crazed edge of branches in some other states. A One Nation candidate in 1998 told me Pauline saw One Nation as an association of independents, and that he’d have no qualms supporting gun law reform, whereas in Queensland and NSW, candidates passionately opposed it. One Nation in WA has dropped its racist immigration policy and predicted the same will occur at a national level. ,


Western Australia’s One Nation feeds on the endemic perception in the State that it is trodden on by the Eastern States – that WA produces the wealth and gets none of the benefits. This was exemplified by the recent farmers’ protest when National Party leader John Anderson toured the WA regions – that their pleas for flood and other relief got stuck in the bottom drawer while NSW farmers only had to make a phone call to get results.





WA and Queensland are frontier States. WA citizens hate Easterners, and Queenslanders hate Southerners. But unlike WA, in Queensland One Nation’s 11 sitting members have splintered into the Country Alliance and independents. One Nation’s first foray into the State parliament was, quite simply, disastrous.


There is another factor that I believe will help Peter Beattie retain government. In 1998 Labor lost 5 regional seats to One Nation, but picked up five liberal seats in Brisbane, partly due to the Coalition’s decision to preference One Nation. After the WA result, many Liberal voters will be seriously considering voting Labor, perhaps for the first time, to ensure stable government.


The Nationals have humiliated their leader, Rob Borbidge, by preferencing One Nation against his wishes, while the Libs will put One Nation last. But the Liberals would be a junior partner in a Coalition government that could easily depend on One Nation or other far right independents to hold power. That’s bad for business. The WA election result – which comes despite a massive injection of funds and other resources into the bush since the 1998 federal election – shows that the discontented remain that way. In a way, it is now war between the winners under a stable political system in which both major parties share common core beliefs and those who perceive themselves as losers. In such an us-and-them atmosphere, I think Labor could pick up some unexpected Liberal seats on Saturday night.




John Howard and Kim Beazley won’t change their decisions to put One Nation last. That means that the many Liberals in regional seats will be scared out of their brains today. It also means that some Labor seats considered safe before Saturday night are now not safe at all. One Nation polled more than 7 percent in the city of Perth, and there’s no reason to think she won’t pull in at least that in western Sydney seats.


Labor numbers man Senator Steve Conroy says that Labor won four federal Perth seats in 1998 on the back of One Nation preferences. If those preferences go Liberal this time because Hanson puts sitting members last the Liberals would win those seats.


Everything is up for grabs. No one is safe. Anarchy rules.


Independents and minor parties polled 30 percent of the first preference votes in WA. That means it’s not only One-Nation preferences that will influence the election result. The Greens had a say in WA through Liberals for Forest, a breakaway group from the Liberal Party. A Liberals for Forests candidate appears to have toppled Liberal Minister Doug Shave in his seat. I think there will be a multitude of independent candidates, on the right and left, whose preference swirls will be impossible to predict.


As for the Nationals, John Anderson is already on his knees after the road-funding debacle last week. The WA result will trigger screams from a party that got out of jail free in 1998 only to face another test of its survival this year to make preference deals with One Nation.


After the Queensland election in June 1998, where One Nation polled a whopping 23 percent, private polling showed that in Anderson’s own seat of Gwydir in regional NSW One Nation was polling 49 percent. He had to stay home to campaign to save himself.


Country independent Tony Windsor, who won a NSW state seat in Anderson’s electorate, has threatened to stand against him in the federal election. If he does, I doubt whether Anderson has the personal and political strength to withstand the push to preference One Nation. If he loses that battle, John Howard will fear that some Liberal voters will abandon him and vote Labor for stability.


It will take a while to fully digest the ramifications of the WA result. The Queensland election on Saturday will give us more information on the nature of the one Nation threat, but even then there’ll have to be a lot of micro-analysis of who is voting One Nation and where they live before we can construct an informed scenario of the political year ahead.


But let me make one policy prediction. One Nation’s resurgence means that the government will block the takeover of Australian resources company Woodside by Dutch predator Shell. John Howard can’t risk igniting the Hanson mantra of economic nationalism by letting Shell get Woodside. And that will be only one of several policy turnarounds in the run up to the election.

Last dispatch from Canberra

It’s my last day in Canberra after more than a decade. Gulp. My last Inside Out in Canberra is about a Canberra silence. Is it in the national interest for a foreign company to take over Woodside, our premier natural gas company? The Western Australian government has urged Treasurer Peter Costello to reject the bid in the national interest. National interest is not defined – instead a secretive body within Treasury, The Foreign Investment Review Board, makes a secret recommendation to Costello.


On January 18, the Australian Financial Review led the paper with the news that a decision had been postponed for ninety days, taking it past the WA election date. The stories on the issue have been largely confined to the business section of newspapers. Are we too immature to debate this one? Are we too scared to?


It’s a hard one, isn’t it? We don’t want to become a branch office of multinationals, like New Zealand has, but we don’t want to upset the markets by blocking a takeover. Woodside won’t publicly argue the national interest point because its job is to maximise shareholder value. And there’s a much bigger question hidden away in all this. We get all excited about maintaining competition in the domestic market, but there is no mechanism to maintain competition in the global market. What is to stop two global companies eventually dominating the world energy industry when the world is one big market? And now that global companies are bigger and more powerful than most nation states, will they come to rule the world according to their narrow brief of maximising short term shareholder value regardless of the consequences for national economies, in particular ours?


What gets me is that there is a conspiracy of silence surrounding the Shell takeover bid, based partly on the fear that One Nation could get a huge head of steam if Costello gives Shell the tick. Costello has said only that “the bid will be approved if it’s in the national interest, and if it’s not it won’t be”. Shadow treasurer Simon Crean will say only that “the Treasurer needs to very carefully weigh up Australia’s national interest”.


Yet concerns about cut-price takeovers of our major companies, due partly to our low dollar, are whispered privately at the highest levels of corporate Australia. The Chairman of the National Australia Bank – which is pursuing as global growth strategy – went public at NAB’s annual general meeting on December 14.


“It is important that Australia have a number of major companies in our key industries of competitive international scale, capability and reach, if we are to retain adequate control over our domestic economy,” he said. “These issues are fundamental to Australia’s future. I don’t believe anyone wants this country to become a branch office. Retaining our brightest people, creating real employment opportunities for our children, our influence in the region and the world and access to and choice of goods and services are all impacted by these issues.”


Woodside is world class. Should we keep it Australian and let it grow into a global company?


David Cox is the Labor member for Kingston, in South Australia. He’s worked for two State mining and energy ministers, Labor Treasurer, Ralph Willis and Labor finance minister Peter Walsh. He did his honours thesis on mining policy. On Tuesday he tried to get some public debate going in a speech to Parliament. It went unnoticed. Cox told me his speech “was the most considered I’ve ever made in Parliament”. Last night I had a farewell drink with my favourite politician, WA Liberal backbencher, Judi Moylan and mentioned the Cox speech. She read it and decided she’d say something too, before she gets briefings from Woodside and Shell next week. So here is David Cox’s speech, and Judi Moylan’s piece.


DAVID COX, Adjournment debate, Tuesday 10.29pm.



Royal Dutch Shell’s bid for Woodside – the operator of Australia’s largest resource project – is in a league above other foreign investment applications and is a test of whether Australia has an effective foreign investment policy based on a national interest test.


It is very infrequent that a major foreign investment proposal carries with it adverse economic implications that are particular to it being foreign owned. Is it in Australia’s interest to entrust the development of the North West Shelf to the national oil company of another country? This world-scale project produced exports $3.6 billion in 1999, generating government revenue excise, royalties and company tax of $1.6 billion. It accounts for 1.1 per cent of Australia’s GDP and directly and indirectly employs 80,000 people. The development of the fourth LNG train – including a second trunkline and offshore facilities – will have a capital cost of $3 billion and will employ 2,000 people during development.


Where is the precedent for a country allowing strategic control of the development of its resources to be subordinated to the other commercial interests of a foreign company? Shell has a substantial stake in similar projects in Malaysia, Brunei and Oman, and a new one in Russia Sakhalin Island, north of Japan that, are competitors with Australia for its Asia-Pacific liquid natural gas market. These countries will not hesitate to intervene to protect their own national interests at the expense of Australia. To maintain shareholder value, Shell must apply high hurdle rates of return across the company when considering new investments.


Among world-scale LNG projects, the North West Shelf is probably one of the higher cost operations. If Shell controls alternative resources and has any reluctance to develop the North West Shelf, then we can assume that it will be much less enthusiastic about committing capital to Australian exploration than would an independent Woodside.


Australia’s level of self-sufficiency in the production of petroleum is declining, so any reduction in exploration effort over our most prospective acreage is going to impact heavily on the balance of trade in a few years. Shell may argue that taking over Woodside would only give it a 33.4 per cent share of the North West Shelf and other participants could still outvote it on questions of investment.


However, the position of operator it would acquire would put Shell in the drivers seat controlling the process with double its current weight in negotiations.


The primary responsibility of the directors of Woodside is to advise the shareholders if the price on offer represents full value or better for the asset; it is not to determine the national interest. They could seek a white knight Australian or a foreigner who does not have the conflicting interests that Shell has and who is prepared to give the shareholders full value.


At the end of the day, the Foreign Investment Review Board is there to advise the government of the day. It does not determine the national interest. Under the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act, it is the Treasurer who ultimately has the responsibility for determining the national interest.


In the case of this application, the national interest is that exploration and development of the North West Shelf not be impeded by the conflicting interests of Shell. The Treasurer must first consider whether the non-Shell joint venture partners have both the information base and the influence over joint venture processes to ensure the optimum development of the resource when that is at the expense of Shell’s other interests.


Recent newspaper reports indicate that at least one of the non-Shell joint venture partners has serious concerns that they would not have that control if Shell were the operator. If the Treasurer cannot satisfy himself and publicly demonstrate that this national interest test is met by the current application, he can consider whether there are enforceable conditions that he could impose that would protect the national interest.


If the Treasurer is unable to develop an effective set of conditions that are acceptable to Shell, or if the company is unable or unwilling to amend its application to satisfy the national interest test, then it should withdraw its application to avoid rejection.


If the Treasurer fails to ensure that the development of the North West Shelf cannot be impeded by Shell, he must admit that Australia no longer has foreign investment controls based on an effective national interest test.





By Judi Moylan


As a Western Australian, I have watched Woodside grow from a blue-sky concept to become a major generator of income for Australia. Revenue generated by this giant, homegrown, resource company accounts for 1.1% of Australia’s GDP and employs around 80,000 people either directly or indirectly.


Woodside has been an undeniable success. The company generates an average of $3.6 billion per year in export revenue. It contributes $1.6 billion to Australia by way of taxes and other government charges.


I have been a frequent visitor to China over the last two years. This has made me acutely aware that Woodside has the potential to grow these revenues if it can enter the China market. On many occasions I have spoken to Chinese officials about the importance of this contract to Australia and our fine record of successfully delivering gas to Japan. Woodside has a real chance of becoming a major global competitor for the supply of gas.


Is a Dutch company trying to buy a significant Australian competitor to access the Asian market and in particular the Chinese market?


Since its inception the Australian people have made a significant financial investment in the development of the biggest resource project in Australia.


Over 20 years ago, the Western Australian Government underwrote the sale of gas in the biggest take or pay contract at that time, investing $7 billion in taxpayer money in the North West Shelf Venture. The Federal Government has provided excise relief.


This is a case where Australia has taken a blue-sky concept and seen it through to produce outstanding results for the company, the shareholders, the economy and the Australian people. This is a good example of Australia investing in research and development and being richly rewarded for the risk and the long-term commitment.


In Woodside we have a case study of what Prime Minister John Howard’s recent innovation statement is trying to encourage.


So should we fight tooth and nail to keep this major project in Australian ownership or should we cede control to a foreign company?


Woodside has enormous growth potential in its own right and it is not just Woodside shareholders that have a stake in that potential. The Australian taxpayers and in particular Western Australians have made a major long-term investment in the company.


Australia has precious few companies anywhere near the magnitude of Woodside, with the capacity to become major global competitors.


Some have argued that if Shell is not successful it will deter other foreign investment in Australia. This is drawing a long bow. The hard, cold facts are that if foreign companies can see the benefits of investing in Australia they will not be deterred by the failure of one transaction.


The business media and other commentators are debating whether the possible takeover bid by Shell for Woodside is in the national interest.


Maybe it is time to seriously engage the Australian people in a debate about just what the national interest is. Personally I cannot see that losing control over one of Australia’s premium resource performers is in the national interest.


I am a passionate Western Australian and equally passionate about the survival of Western Australian companies. Anyone who has made the long trek from the East to the West coast of Australia, knows that many companies have had to work excessively hard to overcome the isolation that comes from not being in the golden triangle of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.


Shell is obviously desperate to win Woodside. How desperate are we to keep it? If we are not, why not?



TIM DUNLOP of Canberra abhors the appearance of anonymous contributors in Inside Out, writing about marginal seats they live in. He writes: “A quick note to say that I think the practice of people writing under false names on your website is appalling. From what I’ve read, they say nothing that is particularly ‘radical’ or anything that would threaten their jobs and yet they feel the need to hide behind a phoney identity. It sucks, and I don’t think you should encourage it. It shows contempt for your readers. And surely such sanctioned dishonesty is not good for journalism in general. Cheers.”


Would appreciate your thoughts.



If you’re in the private or the public sector, it’s not really done to pen political pieces. It’s part of the censorship which inflicts most of us. Journalists are supposedly immune, but even we are controlled by the news space available, the editor’s interest in stories, and, of course, the dominant economic and social fads, let alone the imperatives not to offend the proprietor.


I know anonymity is not ideal, but the contributors to Inside Out are invariably tuned in and interesting and in the case of reporting on marginal seats, they actually live in the seats they’re talking about. As the idea develops, I’ll work out some guidelines.



GREG WEILO is annoyed with my take on the reasons for Labor’s win in the 1998 State election (Webdiary, Monday February 5).

“You wrote: “Back in 1998, One Nation won five seats from the Nationals and six seats from Labor, but Labor snuck into government with the support of independents after it snatched five Brisbane seats from the Liberals, partly because many Liberal voters were furious that the Coalition and the Libs had given their preferences to One Nation.”


“I am amazed that you can continue to print this nonsense. Isn’t it equally valid to say that One Nation “snatched six seats from Labor, partly because many Labor voters were furious that Labor had not given its preferences to One Nation”?


How will your theory fit in the forthcoming Qld election, where the Liberals have not preferenced One Nation, but some Nationals have? Are you prepared to say in advance what your new spin will be? Just what will you say if the Liberal vote remains low, but the National retain or increase their number of seats? In fact is there any scenario that, if it occurred, would convince you of the error of your current theory?


MARGO: Everyone’s got their theories about One Nation and preferences, now I’ve got yours. One Nation voters hate all major parties. If Hanson sticks with her pronouncement to put all sitting members in Queensland last, except where she’s done deals with the Nationals, anything could happen. My guess is that Liberals will lose ground in some Brisbane seats because Liberal voters will fear an unstable Coalition government relying on far-right independents to govern. The National MPs who’ve defied Rob Borbidge and preference swapped with One Nation have obviously done so because they fear the consequences if they don’t. Borbidge’s public opposition to such preference deals will, I think, deliver more votes to One Nation, and I think One Nation or an MP who used to belong to One Nation will win one seat, maybe more. Beattie’s tactic of urging no preferences, just voting 1 for Labor under the optional preferential system takes the One Nation heat off Labor. I wrote weeks ago that Beattie will win the Queensland election.


From next week, I’ll write Canberra Inside Out from Sydney, while returning to Canberra once a month.

Pauline Hanson rises from the grave

Coalition pollies are meeting in Canberra today for a session on the federal election to come and how to play the tough issues like petrol prices and the BAS tax statements. They might also reflect on Saturday’s result in the NSW State seat of Campbelltown, vacated on Michael Knight’s resignation after the Olympics. One Nation and Australians against Further Immigration clocked up 20 percent of the vote, just as Pauline Hanson rises from the grave in Queensland and threatens to repeat the havoc she caused at the last Queensland election.


Back in 1998, One Nation won five seats from the Nationals and six seats from Labor, but Labor snuck into government with the support of independents after it snatched five Brisbane seats from the Liberals, partly because many Liberal voters were furious that the Coalition and the Libs had given their preferences to One Nation.


When a party wins seats off you on your preferences you usually don’t invite a repeat performance. But National Party leader Rob Borbidge appears to have lost his battle to put One Nation last. Labor’s Peter Beattie, who knows One Nation attracts some Labor voters too, has sidestepped the preferences problem with the recommendation that voters vote Labor and leave all other squares blank. Optional preferential voting is not possible in the federal election, and federal National Party leader John Anderson must be praying One Nation falls flat in Queensland, otherwise he may be unable to hold the line in federal National seats.


It’s going to be a wild ride in politics this year so let’s have fun. Today a former colleague now in the corporate sector gives us his take on the Campbelltown result. He’s writing under the non de plume John Smith, and has also promised to report on Bennelong, where he lives and John Howard rules. After his piece, a critique of current trends in political journalism from the Washington Monthly, courtesy of JAN STUART in Perth. It’s a great analysis of where we’re going and how we can change direction. The website is



By John Smith



Campbelltown doesn’t quite fit the stereotype of the safest Labor seat in New South Wales, and probably Australia, based on Saturday’s by-election result for the State seat.


The sprawling suburbs include pockets of welfare dependency and very low incomes. But there are also vast tracts of well-tended brick veneer housing, a good mix of white and skilled blue collar workers, low unemployment levels and its share of million-dollar homes on acreage. The population is overwhelmingly Australian born and of European background.


There are few signs of Campbelltown’s heritage as the cradle of Australia’s wool industry. Its streets and shopping malls are an hour by train or road (on a good day) from the bright lights of downtown Sydney but are indistinguishable from Brisbane’s Strathpine, Perth’s Armidale, Adelaide’s Kingston or Melbourne’s Pakenham.


These are the people who turned their backs on Labor in 1996 and generally stuck with John Howard, despite some misgivings about the GST, in 1998.


On Saturday they turned out once more for a by-election which conventional political wisdom says was a difficult one for the NSW Labor Government. It was caused when the effective but unloveable Olympics Minister Michael Knight took off for greener pastures after the Sydney Games. Knight long ago alienated his constituency by moving to affluent Roseville on Sydney’s north shore and the locals were glad to cut their remaining ties with him. But they also have plenty of gripes with Bob Carr’s Labor Government. The Olympic afterglow has gone and so have the air conditioned trains that ran like clockwork for a few short weeks. It’s back to delays, cancellations and windows that won’t open in stifling heat and humidity.


On the roads, the lead-up to this by-election saw a hefty toll increase on the main route to Sydney and huge traffic snarls as the city’s infrastructure once again failed to cope with a bit of heavy rain.


And it was back to school time, with headlines about the state of disrepair of main schools and a shortage of text books for a new higher school certificate curriculum. Then there’s hospitals, crime, etc etc etc.


A government should brace for a good kicking when forced to a by-election in such circumstances. After almost six years in office, blaming one’s predecessors wears a little thin.


The first sign that this one would not follow the script came when the Liberals decided not to run. They felt, quite reasonably, that there was no hope of winning and their money and energy was better saved for the upcoming battle to hold the federal seat of Macarthur, held by Finance Minister John Fahey but marginally Labor now due to a redistribution.


This did not go down well. Campbelltown Liberal supporters had already been alienated by Fahey’s plans to run for neighbouring Hume rather than stay on and fight.


In stark contrast with the vacuum on the conservative side of politics, Labor did not take Campbelltown for granted. Their campaign was highly visible and energetic, with young Labor supporters parading in sandwich boards at peak hour at railway stations. 27-year-old candidate Graham West was locally born and raised and very much reflected Campbelltown’s positive self image – young, bright and full of promise.


On polling day, Transport Minister Carl Scully did the rounds of the booths and listened sympathetically to gripes about trains and roads.


Labor achieved a new high water mark on the seat of more than 58 per cent of the primary vote, building on an eight per cent swing in 1999 when the Coalition self-destructed statewide.


Claims of a 15 per cent swing in two party preferred terms are probably gilding the Labor lily since polling officials did not bother with a notional two-party-preferred count. and other scrutineers said most non-Labor voters did not allocate preferences – except One Nation supporters


The fragmented non-Labor vote did demonstrate the durability of the Pauline Hanson name and her brand of politics. Local Liberal branch president David Barker branded head office as “gutless and ran as an independent. He got just 8% of the vote, behind One Nation and the Australian Democrats.


One Nation cleverly overcame its deregistration in NSW by printing candidate Oscar Rosso’s how-to-vote card over a pink portrait of Pauline Hanson. His 11.5% was an improvement on One Nation’s 9.3% in 1999 despite the party’s organisational collapse. With another 8.5% for Australians Against Further Immigration, xenophobia pulled 20% of the vote.


This aspect of the Campbelltown vote should worry the Coalition, in particular, but also Labor. Scrutineers said One Nation voters showed remarkable discipline in following the Pauline Hanson portrait ticket, ensuring Labor went last even though preferences were optional.


If One Nation can repeat this effort in Western Australia, Queensland and federally, it will make good its threat to decide who governs Australia.


The Liberals should also worry about the state of their organisation in John Howard’s home state. They need to win seats like Macarthur to be sure of retaining office. Yet the local branch is demoralised and will struggle to mount an effective campaign.


In 1998 Fahey narrowly won Bradbury, the largest polling station both in Campbelltown and in the redrawn Macarthur – beating Labor on primaries and two party preferred.


On Saturday night, the result in Bradbury pretty much reflected the rest of the electorate with a clear absolute majority for Labor.


Winning enough of those people back in a few short months is a huge task – and probably beyond the Campbelltown Liberals.




Why reporters won’t tell us what we need to know

By Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel


The first presidential election of the 21st century may go down in history as the moment when campaigning disappeared into private space. Eighty years ago, radio allowed people to hear candidates by their firesides for the first time. Thirty years later, television added pictures, which transformed even party conventions into events arranged for people to absorb in their living rooms. Video tapes, computers, and direct mail added to the precision. This year, the Internet, with its personal “cookie” technology, joined automated celebrity phone calls, push-poll proselytizing, issue Web sites, and political e-mails to drive politics even further into a personalized, invisible space.

All this has presented a challenge for journalists, a challenge that the 2000 campaign suggests we are failing to understand. As the mechanics of the campaigns have become more sophisticated, the press has changed the way it focuses its attention. Unfortunately, however, the press has moved further away from the invisible space where elections now largely occur. The new culture of political journalism gives us a better understanding of large-scale campaign mechanics, but a weaker grasp of how voters are actually reacting. As a result, we have a shallower understanding of what our elections say about America, and why elections turn out the way they do.


Political Reporting to Campaign Reporting


In the last decade, the press has turned more of its focus to understanding the mechanics, tactics, and strategies of increasingly elaborate campaigns. This may seem a natural response–even logical. But it has significant implications for citizens. Political reporting has given way to something else–and something narrower. It has become campaign reporting. In 2000, the Committee of Concerned Journalists and the Project for Excellence in Journalism conducted four studies of campaign coverage that offered clear evidence of the trend.


The first study examined 430 stories in five major newspapers and nine programs on five television networks over the two-week period leading up to the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. This was when voters were just beginning to focus seriously on the presidential campaigns. The study reveals that during that period, the press provided only scant reporting on the candidates’ backgrounds, records, or ideas. Remarkably, less than one percent of the stories–two of the 430–explored the candidates’ past records in office with more than a passing reference. Instead reporters focused more than 80 percent of their stories on matters that affect the campaigns or the political parties (i.e., changes in tactics, fundraising strategies, and internal organizational problems).


This focus knocked Bush’s main competitors, except John McCain, out of the race, and it played a crucial role in the final lap before the election as well. The October debates were notable, particularly the first, for being substantive and outlining differences of philosophy and policy between the two major candidates. But a study of the coverage during this period found that the reporting on the debates was quite different. In all, seven out of 10 stories focused on either the candidates’ television performances or their strategies. Less than one in 10 stories focused on the candidates’ policy differences; three percent were framed around the veracity of a campaign or candidate; a mere one percent focused on their broader vision for the country.


News You Can’t Use


At times, the coverage read more like reviews than news. Just 14 percent of the pre- and post-debate stories were written as straight news, except for those about pure logistics. The great majority were notably thematic or interpretive. Consider David Von Drehle’s front-page story in The Washington Post about the third debate: “The bigger man never looked so big as he did inside the debate hall tonight. Vice President Al Gore has a couple of inches and a couple of pounds on Texas Governor George Bush–but it might have well been feet and tons … Bush read Gore’s effort to overshadow him and, in an odd way, opted to make himself a bit smaller. There was something puppy-like about him.”


The coverage also tilted more towards performance criticism as time went on, the study found. For example, Richard L. Berke’s lead story in The New York Times on the first debate began: “Vice President Al Gore and Gov. George W. Bush presented starkly different stands on issues ranging from taxes to abortion to oil drilling tonight as Mr. Gore repeatedly cast Mr. Bush as a friend of the rich and Mr. Bush upbraided his rival as a Washington insider.”


By the third debate, Berke’s lead account, by contrast, went 22 paragraphs before outlining any policy positions. Even then, it cast these positions in the context of theater instead of policy. The first substantive policy mention in the story was this: “One of the most heated exchanges was over reducing the cost of prescription drugs.”


Covering the mechanics, strategies, and performance of the campaigns allows reporters to become more subjective and interpretative. Assessing a campaign’s strategy is safer than making judgments about a candidate’s plans for Social Security. It’s also easier. No one is going to accuse the reporter of ideological bias or ignorance. One can write more freely in the style of Von Drehle. Thus, the push to offer something more than simple facts also reinforces the focus on mechanics and tactics.


This focus on campaign-as-theater redounded to Bush’s benefit. Bush, by most judgments, ran the better campaign. And in October, the committee study found that coverage of the two candidates was twice as likely to be negative toward Gore as it was toward Bush. The benefit went the other way as well: Coverage of Bush was twice as likely to be positive than was Gore’s throughout late September and into late October. The result of this lens is that we have a sophisticated understanding of the intricacies of media buying, push polling, the techniques of consultants, the nuances of ad-making, and other tactical considerations.


In the process, however, reporters became adjuncts of the campaigns they covered. They became, as Susan Herbst noted in her book, Numbered Voices: How Opinion Polling Has Shaped American Politics, “particularly interested in how consultants work. These days, the names of major consultants are almost as familiar … as the names of candidates.” As the journalists become more concerned with strategies and tactics of the campaigns they cover, their perspectives come to reflect those of the consultants and managers who necessarily see voters as an abstract mass that can be manipulated and moved with just the right mixture of fear and promise.


The consultants and campaign professionals themselves are focused on the presentation of a candidate rather than the substance of his ideas. Bob Shrum and Karl Rove don’t tell Gore or Bush what to believe, but they can shape how the candidates present it. Implicit in the focus on campaign mechanics is a cynicism about voters, a notion that they respond to the amount of rouge Gore might be wearing, his hair style, or the body language of the candidates during campaigns. Bush’s unexamined position on Social Security is a given; the news is whether he flubbed the numbers. This implicit sense of a readily manipulated public bleeds into the coverage, suggesting citizens are so much putty being shaped by artisans. The critical issue is what has been lost.


Politics is broader than campaigns. In the hands of the father of modern reporting, Theodore White, presidential elections were quadrennial mirrors on the nation. The point of the election in White’s work was less who won than why–what the election told us about ourselves as a people. This kind of political reporting is concerned with a dizzying array of information, which is now missing in political coverage.


Voters Become Abstractions


As the campaign has moved into the private space of people’s homes, the press has not followed it there. The campaigns are narrowcasting, but because journalists are trying to understand the intricate nature of the campaign organization and strategies, we are less able to understand the effects of that narrowcasting. It is axiomatic that the press is always trying to cover the previous campaign, but the changes in campaigning have occurred so rapidly that we have fallen further than four years behind. With each campaign, the press focuses on the new uses of technology and sophisticated management but falls even further from understanding their effect on voters. Effects are always elusive. Franklin Roosevelt’s campaign manager Jim Farley once said, “I know half the money I spend is wasted. I just don’t know which half.” As campaigns become even more expensive and sophisticated, the problem is compounded.


Voters have become abstractions, a reflection of the consultants’ worldview or the creation of pollsters’ questions. In part, the problem is practical. Getting deeper inside the campaigns means reporters have less contact with voters, county party chairs, local political organizers, activists, and bosses. Consultants–with their focus group and survey data–appear to offer a more scientific shortcut to ascertaining the public’s views. This lack of contact with voters and local political leadership in turn leads news organizations to depend more and more on public-opinion polling in an effort to forge a connection between their reporting and the public. One result is a sense that the public doesn’t care about the race or about politics, since that is the impression left more by polls than by actually talking to voters. Even network focus groups find political coverage bad for ratings. This anti-political attitude seeps into reporting in odd ways, even in the form of an overt cynicism about the authenticity and value of the campaign. Consider the coverage of the primary debates offered by CBS’ “The Early Show,” which was handled each Monday morning with glib chatter between host Bryant Gumbel and Chris Crawford, the editor of Hotline, a magazine that aggregates the reporting from other news organizations but does little or no actual reporting of its own.


Gumbel: “I stumbled upon Saturday’s [debate] and it seemed a rather sad show. I mean, here were all the Republican candidates sitting there on a Saturday afternoon answering questions from people in Iowa, and it seemed like, you know, it was just going through the motions.”


Crawford: “Yeah, … these debates are sort of like phantom pain … It’s sort of–it’s gone away, but we still feel it.”


The reliance on polls versus people becomes self-fulfilling. “[W]hen newspaper journalists use the sample survey to describe public opinion on an issue, they are less likely to conduct in-depth interviews with knowledgeable citizens and political activists,” Herbst writes. Such door-knocking is laborious and seems unnecessary. It also can seem less useful, since it’s less scientific. But is this assumption correct?


Who’s There?


Polls obviously have the advantage of large representative samples. But they are constricted by the limits of the questions. The reporter lacks the serendipity of discovering how voters frame ideas in their own minds. Anyone who has talked to voters over time knows that the rationale campaign professionals or polling researchers may use is often quite different than the constructions that voters arrive at. In a country of 100 million voters, there are far more reasons why people vote than can be found in a survey–and they may not always seem rational. One need look only at the few stories by reporters who do talk to voters to see it. When Jennifer Steinhauer of The New York Times interviewed people in their neighborhoods near Pittsburgh, this is just what she found. “For some people, the shifts [in attitudes about the candidates] have sprung from large single events–a convention speech, a tax proposal, a choice of running mate. But for many others, their change in thinking has emerged from the smallest but most resonant of details, like a well-placed bottle of wine in a televised home video of Al Gore … or the discovery that Mr. Bush’s running mate did not favor the Head Start program. Rebecca Hepka, 23, was more or less indifferent to the race until she heard one of Mr. Gore’s people use the term ‘living wage,’ which sent her into paroxysm of rage and made her decide to vote for Mr. Bush. ‘I don’t like that term, no way,’ said Ms. Hepka, who sells medical insurance. ‘I don’t want to give away all my taxes to have other people set up for life,’ she added.” A survey won’t help you understand a voter like Ms. Hepka, who only became passionate after hearing a tangentially related phrase.


Such insights are not discerned by polls, but they reinforce all the odd, idiosyncratic, and unexpected nuances of elections that political reporters who have spent time with voters have encountered themselves. This is the kind of stuff that makes politics interesting. It also does not comport with the rationality of polling questions, focus groups, and consultant-driven use of language. The disconnection from voters increased exponentially in 2000 with the explosion in the use of daily tracking polls by the media. This development has come as a direct result of the rapid growth of the number of outlets for news and information spawned by the new communications technology. Even outlets that devote few resources to reporting, such as MSNBC, apparently feel a need to brand themselves with their own poll. The growing reliance on tracking polls adds another dimension to this shallowing out of our understanding of voters. Tracking polls are different from more in-depth, stand-alone polls. They were originally used by campaigns to test the efficacy of ads and other tactical maneuvers. The samples were too small, and the margins of errors too large, to trust the actual numbers. But the trend lines up or down were considered an important indication of whether the latest maneuver was working. ABC was the first news organization to use them in New Hampshire to sense motion toward Gary Hart. But the precise numbers were considered too rough for anyone to put on the air until CNN did so in 1988.


By 2000, any inhibitions had been swept away. A host of news organizations, from The Washington Post and USA Today to CNN and MSNBC, featured daily tracking in their coverage. As it turns out the polls were generally accurate, since the race was usually well within the margin of error, but most of the reporting failed to communicate the margin of error or its real meaning–a margin of error of plus or minus three points does not mean a spread of three or less indicates a tie. The margin of error applies to each candidate’s number, which means the margin is closer to six points. Thus even the polls that predicted, the day before the election, a slight popular vote victory for Bush were technically accurate.


The bigger issue is that tracking polls are limited, with only occasional exceptions, to measuring only the horse race. Unlike more in-depth polls, they rarely get at the reasons behind voter attitudes or the reasons behind any shifts in those attitudes. They tell us how the race is going, but never why. That is left to reporters to infer, and they don’t seem equipped to do this well.


Coverage of citizens tends to take on a surreal dimension. Journalists, especially on television, assemble citizens into the artificial surroundings of focus groups and dial groups, especially to listen to debates. They remove people from their homes and communities. Social scientists scoff at the value of such unrepresentative and easily manipulated environments. Talking to voters at their kitchen tables can offer the reporter endless clues about how someone really thinks.


The Meta-Narrative


To bridge the loss of connection with the public, journalists have begun to rely on story-telling themes as a way of organizing the campaign in an engaging manner. They use story lines such as: Bush is a different kind of conservative. Bush is a natural politician. Bush is dumb. The Bush campaign is in shambles. Gore is a stiff. Gore is a liar. Gore is a political carnivore. We call these story lines the meta-narrative. As campaigns progress, coverage swings from one meta-narrative to another, and sometimes the story lines begin to contradict each other. The meta-narrative poses grave risks for journalists.


One difficulty is that the narrative tends to trump reporters’ judgment. It becomes difficult for an individual reporter to write a story that differs from the popular meta-narratives. How does one write a story in which Bush is a good debater when the conventional wisdom holds that he is not? Ann Richards, the one politician who had been up against Bush in debates, warned reporters not to underestimate him, but her hard-earned wisdom was seldom reported. An initial faulty performance early in the primaries set the meta-narrative that Bush could not hold his own, and he benefited from this enormously in the general election.


The second problem is what to do with facts that betray the meta-narrative. The most dramatic case in 2000 is the argument that Gore was a liar. After The Washington Monthly cast doubt over several of the key allegations of Gore’s lying, journalist Mickey Kaus decided to scour “the whole, worst case against Gore,” expecting to find that the vice president really was a serial liar. Kaus found, to his surprise, “Gore isn’t as big a liar as I thought.”


Gore’s claim that he “invented” the Internet was a misquote. He actually said he “took the initiative in creating the Internet,” and it is true that he took the initiative in getting funding for it. Gore, it turns out, actually was one of the prototypes for the male character in the book Love Story, though his wife was never the prototype for the female character. Gore’s fudge on his abortion record, Kaus concluded, was “mostly a bum rap.” And Gore did support campaign finance reform in the Senate, though the bill was not yet called the McCain-Feingold bill. As for Gore’s discovering the Love Canal toxic waste site, Gore never said he did. The meta-narrative of Gore as liar led to strange epistemological debates in the press over whose lies were more serious, Gore’s because they were so niggling or Bush’s because they were about bigger things. It’s not that Gore didn’t lie, but the notion that this defined who he was–or distinguished him as a less honest person–was questionable.


There are other examples of facts not supporting the dominant story line of the moment. When Bush’s campaign appeared to be in trouble after the conventions, the notion that he was a bumbling idiot–helped initially by an ambush interview by a Boston TV station–resurfaced. Bush’s habit for malapropisms became a sign that he had sub-par intelligence for a man in public life.


Perhaps just as easily, Bush’s misstatements could have been accepted as the flaws of anyone under pressure and constantly on the record. But they fit a meta-narrative–despite the evidence of his performance in the debates and his popularity as Texas governor. In reality, Bush’s lack of intelligence and Gore’s lying are examples of media stereotyping–all in an effort to forge a connection with citizens that has been lost through the neglect of more compelling storytelling.


Even worse, the meta-narrative device can become an impediment to reconnecting with voters. In the early months of the campaign, journalists assumed that the race for president would come down to character, since there was supposedly little meaningful policy difference between the candidates. By the eve of the conventions in midsummer, that meta-narrative had been turned on its head. Policy differences were the decisive factor, and the conventions focused on these matters as much as anything.


Either the public is tuning out the press or simply rejecting what it has to say. Whichever it is, the evidence suggests that the public forms different impressions of the candidates than the meta-narratives the press offers.


A study by the Committee of Concerned Journalists of the five months of coverage from February to June probed the major character themes the press used to organize the race for audiences. Using a sample of one week from each month, the study found a striking similarity among reporters on how they defined Bush and Gore.


The most common theme of the campaign was that Gore was scandal-tainted. This accounted for 42 percent of all the assertions about Gore’s character. The second most common assertions about Gore was that he was a liar. These accounted for 34 percent of stories about him. The least common of the major themes, accounting for 14 percent of assertions, was that he was competent, experienced, and knowledgeable.


It is arguable how accurate a picture these themes paint of the former vice president. Regardless, the study made it fairly clear that at least as of July, citizens either were not receiving or not accepting the messages the media were offering them.


While the least common theme about Gore was his competence, by late July the public was more likely to attribute this feature to Gore than any other quality surveyed, and noticeably more than for Bush. Similarly, despite the heavy press coverage of Gore as scandal-tainted, by late July, only a quarter of the public attributed this to Gore.


The most common assertion in the coverage about Bush was that he was a different kind of Republican. This accounted for fully 40 percent of all assertions about the Texas governor. Next was the idea that he was unintelligent, which accounted for 26 percent of character assertions. Last was that he was coasting on his family name and connections, which accounted for 10 percent of assertions about him.


Yet again, the public had formed quite different impressions. On the eve of the conventions, a greater percentage of Americans actually attributed being “a different kind of politician” to Gore than to Bush, despite the coverage. A slightly greater percentage of Americans also attributed “not being a serious person” to Gore than to Bush as well. And though it received little coverage, the most common perception of either candidate was that Bush had gotten where he was on family connections. The one point that ultimately stuck with voters was Gore’s shading of the truth, but the public did not come to this judgment until after the debates.


Here, early press coverage probably helped shape attitudes but voters still had to see for themselves. One may question the rationality of these public judgments, but that is precisely the point. The public is less monolithic than either polling or crude story lines can cope with. It may also be less logical. The pluralistic nature of the American electorate suggests that trying to weave a complex campaign into a single narrative is fraught with difficulties. The older method of reporting–the inverted pyramid of the daily campaign story–may no longer work in an era when people already have instantaneous access to the news and are skeptical of what politicians have to say. But the thematic narrative may be a dangerous substitute.


We Understand Spin Doctors, But Not Substance


Taken together, the move inside campaigns, the loss of connection with voters, and the reliance on faulty story lines create a serious vulnerability in the modern campaign press culture. We have a better understanding than ever before of what is occurring inside campaigns at any moment. We have a stronger understanding of the horse race and more information about the strategies inside the campaigns. We know the “what” of campaigns as never before, but we have little idea why.


Despite the televised debates and an extraordinary quantity of coverage of the campaign, the meaning of the 2000 election remains remarkably opaque. We know less about the underlying factors of this race than we did at the time of other close races, including those in 1960, 1968, and 1976. The reason is that the bulk of the information provided about the public was how it factored into the grand plan of the campaigns, not on the leadership it expected from the ultimate winner.


The definition of political reporting has been seriously thinned. This not only robs us of understanding; arguably, it makes it harder for the victor to govern. It also leads to press coverage of government as a continuing campaign, dictated by winning the war for the message of the day, and measured by another set of polls. The ability of a president to accomplish anything is determined by the latest approval rating. These trends cannot be laid entirely at the feet of the press. But as we understand the mentality of the spin doctor and the consultant better, we have come to view the world through their eyes, and helped make their definitions self-fulfilling.




How can journalists think about covering these campaigns in more meaningful ways? Evidently, especially after the election-night debacle, many news organizations are already rethinking their campaign coverage. We suggest a few ideas that might not only make election reporting more accurate, but also make the coverage more relevant to the audience.


Armed with the understanding of changing demographics the polls provide, the election cycle could be preceded by reporting on the changing society and the issues that energize it. Not only will this reporting help us recognize how communities have changed, but it would focus on the trends that the successful candidates will face once in office. There is no better context within which to report an election than the changing face of the community. Because it might really connect with voters where they live and also make the election coverage relevant, it might even draw journalism and the public closer together.


Journalists should also think about how members of a community come to their political conclusions and where they discuss their political judgments. Most news organizations conduct very sophisticated surveys of how people in their regions spend their time and money, which are used for advertising purposes. But the treasure trove of demographic information in these studies is seldom used by the news department. A thoughtful analysis of such material–plus the mountains of similar data compiled by the Census Bureau, the Labor Department, and other agencies–can help editors understand the venues within which political opinions are being formed.


The press should also do more bottom-up reporting. Grassroots decisions begin just there, at the grass roots. Why not report them that way? Cover the venues in which the political conversations are likely to occur: civic clubs, lodges, union halls, church organizations, local political organizations, and coffee shops. Regular reporting that sweeps through these venues during an election year could provide a wealth of information about the mood and the interests of the voters. It could provide insights into whose ideas are changing and why. The same technology that allows campaigns to disappear into private space can be used to monitor their work there. But first we have to recognize that what makes elections interesting is what they say about the people, and here the press is moving profoundly in the wrong direction.



(Bill Kovach is chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists. Tom Rosenstiel is the director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.)