The Red Menace Flares Again

And so we see off another challenge by Pauline Hanson to the dominant political paradigm, this time by a bare thousand votes in an electorate of 5 million (or so). This time, her defeat was facilitated by preferences from Gordon Moyes’ Family First voters. Curiously enough, the Greens received the same number of preferences gained by the Nationals, showing just how weird preferences can be if most parties are asking their voters to exhaust, or, voters simply deciding how to vote without being told. It was a little sad to see Gordon go – the man who stood up to Fred Nile’s vile racism and suffered political death because of it. On that note, I see the election of the unknown new CDP member – Paul Green – as a worry for NSW, simply because of the volatile nature of a party centred on one bitter and narcissistic preacher without a church. I would go so far as to say the election of two CDP upper house members is worse than one Pauline Hanson.

Why? I hear the screams from progressives and human rights advocates that Pauline is a racist, intolerant bigot and the rest. Yes, she is – but that’s not all she is. She represents something in our population that is largely unaddressed. And what that is goes back to 1996, when Hanson was preselected as a Liberal candidate for Oxley, a seat not too different from my own seat of the time, Lindsay.

The mood of the outer suburbs in 1996 was dark and judgmental – there was a feeling that inner city areas and groups linked to those areas were receiving the attention of the Keating Government – the big ticket items, the symbolic things were attracting attention, not the economy of the “little person”. It was on the back of this sentiment that the Liberals preselected “people like us” candidates like Jackie Kelly and Pauline Hanson – people that were seen to embody the aspirations and frustrations of people in their area. In Lindsay, at least, it was a canny move, pitting a populist, clueless candidate like Kelly against a boring ALP Right Machine man like Ross Free. The Liberals, in the case of Kelly, had little idea she’d win – they told her as much – and it was a gamble, selecting someone who didn’t fit the mould of the traditional Liberal candidate. They took the same gamble in Oxley.

We know, of course, that Hanson was a different kettle of fish from Kelly – Kelly worked inside a government institution and was not a bigot (unlike, as it turned out, her husband and the husband of her heir apparent). However, Hanson did voice the concerns of many in her electorate, and electorates like it – that there were welfare inequities and that “others” were going to take over the country – going back to one of the main selling points of Federation, that Australia needed to protect against the Asian “other”. And those concerns remain today amongst people who don’t understand the need for a compassionate nation, seeing just their own economic interests as being the most important factor in Australia.

Hanson’s views in 1996 aren’t all that different to a Liberal Party of 2011, where Tony Abbott is again asking for crackdowns on welfare inequities, raising scares about large population growth and Scott Morrison is canvassing the need for exploiting fears of the new “other” – Muslims. The main difference is that Hanson was blunt and overt on her comments, as well as ignorant in the statement of facts and attitudes.

Curiously enough, though, Hanson’s pitch to the NSW voters of 2011 wasn’t so concerned with newcomers (though they still don’t assimilate) but more an agrarian socialist agenda, which was a pitch of her campaigns after One Nation bit the dust. She is strongly against electricity privatisation – indeed any kind of privatisation – as well as being for primary industry support like tariffs and subsidies. Quite Bob Katteresque in a way, as well as having some parallel with the Green agenda. But only a slight one. There also seems to be more of a sympathetic aura to Hanson since her prison term, which is intriguing in itself.

Hanson these days represents a populist view of politics – that it should be about talking without a filter, “saying what you think”. That is why she is popular – she is more like a lot of voters out in the outer suburbs – says what she is lured to believe by current affair programs and through BBQ conversations. What Frontline said about Hanson is true – believe Today Tonight and A Current Affair for any length of time and you’ll think that Australia needs a Pauline Hanson to come along and “speak” for the disenfranchised masses – either her or Angry Anderson.

While I think electing Hanson would have been a drastic mistake, I have a bigger problem with the CDP having two people beating one drum (which wasn’t the case when Moyes was in the building). They might well use their balance of power to ensure abortion control is back on the books, make sure the safe injecting room in Kings Cross is gone, to stop any more reform of laws regarding same sex recognition – any number of draconian measures that would probably not have interested Hanson. In addition, Nile is still there, wanting Australia to stop Muslim immigration. Nile plus one. The unknown Paul Green.

Now Pauline has gone, we can sigh in relief, for sure. We still have, however, a negative, bitter force in the Upper House of NSW that means that we can’t really be celebrating the Legislative Council result – and hoping that the Greens get the balance of power in 2015.

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