News National Why we should stop writing and reading about Pauline Hanson and Barnaby Joyce

Why we should stop writing and reading about Pauline Hanson and Barnaby Joyce

Hanson Joyce
It's time to cut off the oxygen for these two controversial figures, Paula Matthewson writes. Photo: TND
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You shouldn’t be reading this column. And I shouldn’t have written it. I’d rather not be reinforcing the disgraceful attention-seeking behaviour of Pauline Hanson and others of her ilk by commenting on it.

But unfortunately, this is the only way to point out that Senator Hanson’s increasingly outlandish behaviour is due to her diminishing influence on Australian politics, which can only be a good thing.

It’s true that ‘influence’ can be a relative thing. The recent federal election showed Senator Hanson’s party, One Nation, has a relatively strong following in Queensland, and this presence influences some Coalition MPs to try to be even more conservatively populist than she is.

Yet in the Senate, where the Morrison government must do deals with the crossbench to pass legislation when it is opposed by Labor and the Greens, One Nation no longer holds the critical votes.

Needing four of the six crossbench votes to succeed, the government can instead rely on the former Liberal, Cory Bernardi, and do deals with the considerably more rational Jacqui Lambie and two Centre Alliance Senators, Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff.

This means the government barely needs to pay much attention to Senator Hanson and her kooky conspiracist colleague Malcolm Roberts. It also means Senator Hanson cannot extract anything from the Morrison government for her One Nation supporters.

This has left the minor party leader with no other choice than to stage an ongoing series of provocative publicity stunts to remind her predominantly red-neck supporters that she is still waging war against the politically correct ‘establishment’ in their name.

So we had last week’s lame attempt by Senator Hanson to hijack the #WakeUpToRacism hashtag on Twitter by encouraging her followers to post examples of ‘reverse racism’ they’ve experienced using the hashtag #AntiWhiteRacism.

Completely unsurprisingly, this rally cry had the opposite effect, with many more Twitter users mocking the hashtag than ‘quiet nationalists’ using it to demonstrate how whites are being ‘oppressed’. Anyone half familiar with the demographics of political Twitter in Australia could have predicted that outcome.

Then there was this week’s determination to climb Uluru to show that the ancient rock belonged to all Australians and should not be closed in October – a message that was muddied somewhat by Senator Hanson then seeking permission to climb from an Indigenous group that claimed to be Uluru’s traditional owners.

Senator Hanson’s tune soon changed once she attempted the ascent, reportedly only climbing part of the way up and then scooting back down on her rear end to admit the climb was “quite scary” and that now “I respect the decision that there is not enough safety with regards to the rock”.

Undaunted by this second setback in the fight against political correctness, the One Nation leader took up the cudgels again – or cattleprod, that is – to suggest that Queensland Police should use the device on climate activists who’ve been gluing themselves to roadways and threatening to use similar tactics to immobilise airports.

This prompted swift action from Twitter, which placed a restriction on the use of Senator Hanson’s account after she tweeted a link to the cattleprod video, presumably because it advocated violence.

All in all, it wasn’t a great week for Senator Hanson, although her antics garnered much more media coverage than they should. Just as the political media eventually came to realise it was being exploited by the former United Australia Party leader Clive Palmer by covering his every stunt and statement, it’s time for a similar revelation to occur about Senator Hanson.

Every news story about her gives oxygen to the One Nation view of the world.

The same applies to another populist politician whose sense of self-importance has far outgrown his actual capacity to influence the government.

After trying to reignite his relevance through provocative statements on a range of issues including nuclear power and changes to the Senate, Barnaby Joyce has apparently decided that forcefully interjecting his ‘right to life’ views into NSW’s abortion debate will repair his fractured relationship with female voters.

It’s hard to see how Nationals-supporting women, even those with traditional views, would be prepared to take advice from an adulterer on what women should be allowed to do with their bodies, but that is apparently Mr Joyce’s latest course back to relevance and his party’s leadership.

Making threats to leave the Nationals and join the crossbench, however, will not endear the conservative provocateur to anyone in his party room. In truth, the NSW Nationals MPs that reportedly want Mr Joyce to be expelled from the party would be doing the Morrison government a favour if he huffed off to the crossbench.

The government would have one less MP in the House of Representatives, but still the same number as the Turnbull government, and could secure agreements with sensible crossbenchers to maintain the confidence of the Parliament.

Just as the government does not need to indulge Senator Hanson’s extremist demands to pass legislation, it could reject any conditions for Mr Joyce’s support.

This would leave Mr Joyce stranded and powerless on the crossbench in the House of Representatives, much like Ms Hanson’s predicament in the Senate. Such an outcome would allow us to relegate two more divisive politicians to the irrelevance bin.

We can help speed up that process now by giving both Senator Hanson and Mr Joyce much less attention. There are many more worthy and important things to read and write about.

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