Stand by for Pauline Hanson’s counter attack. Such is the level of detestation of the so-called elite media’s perceived sanctimonious pretensions, its ‘targets’ can be emboldened by the noisy support they receive.
After the ABC’s Four Corners interviewed disgruntled One Nation officials and supporters to expose leader Senator Hanson as a “brutal dictator”, the counterattack on the ABC began. News Corp columnist and Sky News presenter Andrew Bolt, ignoring the complaints of the program’s distressed and alienated eye witnesses, blasted the ABC.
Soon Senator Hanson is expected to mount her own counterattack, this time with the benefit of parliamentary privilege. But first she, and her party’s director, James Ashby, must answer questions of slush funding and non-disclosure from the Australian Electoral Commission, allegations raised by Four Corners and its witnesses.
Pauline Hanson has been through this furnace before.
In 2003 she was jailed after a five-week trial on a conviction for electoral fraud, then released and exonerated after an appeal 11 weeks later.
Ms Hanson’s electoral success started in 1996 when, at the insistence of then-incoming prime minister John Howard, she was dis-endorsed as the Liberal Party candidate for the blue collar Queensland seat of Oxley. She would not withdraw derogatory remarks she had made about Aboriginal welfare. Her political persona as a battler against the big parties, multiculturalism and ‘political correctness’ started from that moment.
But this image needed sustained embellishment if she, as a shunned independent, was to go anywhere in Australian a politics.
On September 10, 1996, in her maiden speech, perhaps the most notorious parliamentary address in Australian political history, she did just that, declaring, “I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians.” The incendiary domestic and international media attention this generated propelled her profile into prime time and onto front pages.
At the height of her One Nation Party’s electoral success she won 11 seats in the Queensland parliament and a primary vote of up to 36 per cent in some federal seats in the 1998 Federal election.
But One Nation was snookered federally by the full preferential voting system. With all rival parties declaring One Nation would be last on all how-to-vote advice to electors, she could not engage the preferential system to get her candidates across the line.
Last year, in a revealing SBS documentary Please Explain, prepared with Ms Hanson’s co-operation as she was heading up her party’s run in the 2016 double-dissolution election, three of Ms Hanson’s spin doctors, John Pasquarelli, David Oldfield and James Ashby, showed just how skilled they all are in public opinion manipulation.ca
“Please explain?” Ms Hanson famously asked a journalist who had suggested she was xenophobic.
“Couldn’t have scripted it better myself”, said Mr Pasquarelli gleefully, noting that 90 per cent of the audience did not know what ‘xenophobic’ meant either.
While under 24 hour AFP protection Pauline Hanson was flat-lining in the polls after a period of racial tension stirred up by her protest rallies, then spin doctor David Oldfield orchestrated a big poll boost. A supposedly secret video found its way to prime time TV current affairs. “My fellow Australians … If you are seeing me now … I have been murdered”.
“Our poll numbers just went up and up and up,” a satisfied Mr Oldfield observed as Pauline Hanson became a martyr for her cause.
Now with spin doctor James Ashby at her side, Senator Hanson has challenged anyone to prove she is a racist. She says she is not against Muslims, but is against Islam. What she and her spin doctors are good at is, in fact, racist dog-whistling, couched around concerns about Aboriginal welfare, migration or fear of terrorism. It seems to work every time.
While One Nation candidates in the recent West Australian election achieved over 8 per cent of the primary vote in seats the party contested, Ms Hanson had to concede her unilateral preference deal with the Liberal Party had backfired. The voter imperative was to get rid of the unpopular Colin Barnett Liberal government.
ABC psephologist Antony Green says both One Nation and the Liberals may have to play the preference game differently in the coming Queensland state election.
Queensland has contentiously changed its electoral laws to impose full preferential voting after more than 20 years of optional preferential. Neither Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his federal Liberal Party nor the Queensland LNP will now declare their hands on preferences, despite calls that One Nation again be put last.
Significantly, last year Tony Abbott, Ms Hanson’s once-hated nemesis, appeared to reconcile with the One Nation leader with a handshake and stilted couch conversation whose video was posted on Facebook.
Four Corners‘ revelation of a Machiavellian meeting in Perth involving Pauline Hanson and Turnbull ministers Michaelia Cash and Mathias Cormann to thrash out the WA preference deal indicates there is an active back channel.
Senator Cash’s warm embrace of Senator Hanson, photographed in the Senate chamber, is further circumstantial evidence of allegiance.
In the Queensland state election we can probably expect both the LNP and One Nation to shout “No deal!” when questioned about preferences.
But the parties’ officially registered how-to-vote cards, electorate by electorate, will tell the truth about what looks like a new political alignment.