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?)
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 www.bigfoot.com/~cpds
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).