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The perils of pillorying Pauline

By John de Meyrick - posted Monday, 18 July 2016


The return to Federal Parliament of the controversial leader of the One Nation Party, Pauline Hanson, as a member of the new Senate, after 18 years in the political 'sin bin', has given rise to a chorus of concerns by social and political commentators.

Even before the votes have been declared and the lady has taken up her seat there are fears and loathing already being expressed of the damaging "hate speak" she may be about to vent on the body politic and the rousing bigotry she may again stir up within the general community.

She is demanding a royal commission into Islam, which she claims not to be a religion of peace or a religion at all, being more a political ideology. As well, she wants to stop Muslim immigration and refugee intake until the inquiry is complete. She is against the construction of any more mosques and the wearing of the burqa and niqab in public. She is also demanding an inquiry into the halal certification trade.

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Apparently she is not against Muslims being members of a parliament but says they should not be allowed to be sworn in using the Qur'an. (An obvious slight on the well respected Ed Husic MP, who was born in Australia of Bosnian parentage and who, as the Labor Member for Chifley in Western Sydney, is the first Muslim to enter Federal Parliament using that Islamic holy book in the process.)

In addition to her anti-Muslim demands, she rails against the sale of public assets, too many politicians and a range of other 'barbeque stoppers', whilst also seeking a royal commission into the "corruption of climate change science" and a referendum to have a definition of traditional marriage inserted in the Constitution.

Her One Nation's policy statement is less emotive and more comprehensive in regard to a grab bag of economic, legal and social issues some of which has been borrowed word for word from other sources and which, with respect, are more within Ms Hanson's "please explain" category than they appear to be in her Party's official platform. Clearly, her party's policies are being guided by more astute'faceless' people with their own agendas.

So what is the danger of having a Pauline Hanson back in Parliament? Will she be a voice for reasoned debate? Unlikely. Will she be listened to, taken seriously and be able to influence national policy? Most unlikely. Will she once more become a joke figure and the butt of sneering comments and ridicule by hubristic opinion-makers? Definitely. All much to the discreditof those concerned.

The ABC is already referring to Ms Hanson in its public affairs programs and news podcasts as a "former fish shop owner", as if running a small honest business to provide for one's family is some kind of disreputable occupation. No doubt the Chaser (whose brand of so-called humour is cast somewhere between under-graduate silliness and utter puerility) will be next.

When comment on public issues is ill-conceived, specious, hateful or wrong, then it should be appropriately confronted. But when such issues are raised by someone who is being sent to the National Parliament by almost half a million primary votes and about 4.2 percent of the total votes cast for the Senate, being the highest of all minor parties and groupings next to the Coalition, Labor and The Greens, then no matter how inept or tactlessly those issues may be expressed, they are not properly addressed nor put down by howls of political correctness, lectures in tolerance, and accusations of bigots and racists. It can all too readily overlook some well founded concerns.

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In an interview on ABC/TV (8 July 2016), former Prime Minister John Howard was asked to comment on the revival of the unsinkable Ms Hanson. He made a very astute observation: It is pointless to belittle Pauline Hanson as it only makes her more popular; and it was unwise to disregard what she has to say as she is speaking for a lot of voters and others who share her views.

(Not quite his opinion of her earlier when, as an independent MP and dis-endorsed Liberal Party candidate, she was a very irritating 'flea' in his political ear, during his first-term government in 1996).

As she claims, "I know what the people are thinking and how they are feeling". And she is right. At least in respect of a significant minority. She listens to taxi drivers and hairdressers, the barbeque chatter and the rumblings around the pubs and clubs of the nation. Among the people who matter when it comes to non-rusted on voting swings during elections.

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About the Author

John de Meyrick is a barrister (ret’d), lecturer and writer on legal affairs.

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