Pauline Hanson

Sometimes the most powerful protests are those made in silence by brave individuals deciding to take a stand.

Anyone who is a public figure can expect a bit of hate mail. Recently I received about half a dozen colourful phone messages after WA One Nation parliamentarian Charles Smith published a Facebook meme attacking the City of Fremantle for having "the most Un-Australian [sic] council in the Nation". Included were my contact details and those of the Mayor, with outraged right-wingers encouraged to communicate their rage at us for "destroying Australia Day".

I had considered the racist abuse hurled at Labor Senator Sam Dastyari to be a deliberate publicity stunt by a group of neo-Nazis, enabled by a climate of rising bigotry and white nationalism, on the grounds that they deliberately sought out the senator, filmed their racist abuse and posted it on Facebook.

That was before Pauline Hanson explained otherwise. The senator, campaigning in Queensland, pointed out that Dastyari was just using abuse he faced in a pub on November 8 to sell his book.

The seeds of the current crisis of confidence in the capitalist parties in Australia go back to the 1980s when the Bob Hawke Labor government implemented its version of Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal economic policies. The Hawke government also managed to achieve what previous Coalition governments had failed to do — seriously weaken the union movement.

While these reforms did not immediately create right-wing populism, once the reforms started to really bite by the late 1990s, it began to develop around Pauline Hanson.

A poll of 1000 people by Essential Research has found 49% of respondents supported a blanket ban on Muslim immigration to Australia, 40% opposed the ban and 11% were not sure.

Young people aged 18–24 were the most likely to oppose a ban on Muslim immigration. Fifty-eight per cent of young people opposed a ban, compared with 28% who supported it.

Simon Hunt is a lecturer at UNSW’s Art and Design school as well as a political satirist. Hunt found success and notoriety in the 1990s as Pauline Pantsdown, releasing song “I’m A Backdoor Man” (1997) and “I Don’t Like It” (1998), which parodied far right politician Pauline Hanson. In 2004, Hunt released “I’m Sorry”, a parody of then-prime minister John Howard that was released as “Little Johnny”.

When a gang of right-wing goons from the Party For Freedom (PFF), dressed as stereotypical Muslims, stormed the Sunday service at the Gosford Anglican Church on August 14, their actions were nominally disowned by Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party in a written statement. However, the statement also sought to justify and excuse the actions of the PFF.

In the recent controversy over the proposed sale of key NSW state-owned electricity company Ausgrid to Chinese bidders, the primary issue seems to have been lost: a vital public asset such as Ausgrid should not be privatised in the first place, whoever the potential buyers might be.

A storm broke out over the planned sale of Ausgrid by the state government to either of two Chinese corporations: the government-owned State Grid Corporation of China; or the privately-owned Hong Kong-listed Cheung Kong Infrastructure Group (CKI), controlled by billionaire Li Ka-shing.

In the discussion about Pauline Hanson's election to the Senate and her recent appearance on ABC's Q&A there have been appeals by some commentators to go easy on her because: "She is just saying what a lot of people are thinking".

Well, dopey racist ideas need to be condemned for what they are, regardless of how many people share them.

This defence of Hanson is like the completely false idea that the degrading treatment of asylum seekers by Labor and Coalition governments is just responding to what the voters want. This of course puts the cart before the horse.

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