There were many of us who thought Pauline Hanson’s departure from Federal Parliament in 1998 meant an end to her as a political force. And we were wrong. Yet the rise of Hanson and the emergence and re-emergence of One Nation ultimately lacks a key component for long-term survival in government. The question then becomes, just how much damage will be done before they collapse for good?
Government in Australia, like much of the world, is one of political parties where a political party is formed by those with a shared political ideology. While the ideological grounds have blurred considerably between say Labor and Liberal in Australia, the political parties are still a form of collective ideology. They also represent a fundamental aspect of the concept of democracy with members of those parties contributing to political thought and direction.
In contrast, One Nation was always less a formation of collective political ideology and more an autarky – a form of political entity where one person has complete power. It is that person’s intentions and desires that count and nobody else’s.
Hanson resigned her membership of One Nation in 2002, or was expelled, depending on which report you read. She formed Pauline’s United Australia Party in 2007 but following failure to win office, deregistered the party in 2010.
In 2013, Hanson re-joined One Nation and in late 2014 once more assumed the presidency of the party, later forcing a renaming to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (but for brevity’s sake I am just typing One Nation). It was that re-naming which emphasised an important point – only one member of One Nation really counts and that member is Pauline Hanson.
To the surprise of many, One Nation did quite well at the 2016 Federal election, with four candidates being elected to the Senate including Hanson herself. Yet trouble soon emerged with Rod Culleton, the One Nation Senator in Western Australia, quitting his short-lived membership of One Nation after falling out with Hanson. Many have also questioned Hanson’s political judgement with her appointment of James Ashby as a key advisor. But perhaps Hanson keeps a closer eye on her diary than did Peter Slipper. And rarely a week goes by without yet another sign of discontent in One Nation ranks appearing in the news.
Recent months have also seen a string of One Nation candidates for the next election getting into trouble for their behaviour and losing their candidacy. And Hanson has made it very clear that candidates must do what she wants or get out. This was made even more apparent following the recent announcement that One Nation were doing preference deals with the sitting Western Australian Liberal government for the forthcoming state election. One Nation candidates in WA have expressed concern, stating that the first they knew about this deal was when it was announced in the media.
Pauline Hanson’s response to that discontent was made clear in interview with the ABC.
“They’ve joined Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and I’ve said right from the very beginning, I will run this party, meaning right from the top … who stands, policies, preferences.
” I am leader of this party. If they’re not happy with it, everyone has a choice, don’t stand under my name.”
One Nation has retreated to what it was in the beginning – an assembly which only reflects the political intentions of Pauline Hanson and to hell with what any of the members think.
The role of members within One Nation seems only to be to ensure sufficient numbers exist to qualify as a registered political party and to carry out the Hanson dictates. But unless Hanson can find enough clones to keep carrying out her wishes without question, that complete lack of shared political ideology will see the party inevitably collapse once more, hopefully for good.
In the meantime, the question becomes just how much damage shall occur before that demise? As recently pointed out by Kim Beazley, the world’s largest Islamic nation–Indonesia–is right off Australia’s northern shores, so why set out to keep kicking it in the backside rather than working with it? The Hanson-esque view would see diplomatic and economic ties to Indonesia torn to shreds. Then there is the matter of climate change. Hanson’s eager offsider in the Senate is Malcolm Roberts, a well-known climate change denier. He only received a total of 77 direct votes in Queensland, benefitting instead from party votes and preferences to get him a Senate seat. Yet he now has an eager climate-change-denying sycophancy in Hanson, with Pauline publicly complaining about all this money being given to scientists to pursue something that doesn’t even exist.
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation is doomed to fail. We can merely hope that it does so before their damage becomes irreparable.
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