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.”