Editor’s Note

Editor’s Note April 2017

Pauline Hanson has never struggled to attract attention. And she’s never managed to hold on to it.

Her regular returns to public life are often blamed on “the media”, for giving her too much oxygen – as if denying her a voice might assuage others’ feelings of disempowerment. This line of argument neglects, or forgets, that exposure has always brought Hanson down, too.

Hanson’s inarticulate rage speaks to some who feel disenfranchised or overlooked, but the moment her ideas move beyond simple slogans of resentment – the moment they are exposed or articulated outright – it all falls apart. Always. This is the nature of pure protest politics.

“The same quality that attracts some voters to Hanson ultimately makes them punish her,” writes Richard Cooke in this month’s cover essay.

“Hanson speaks freely without regard to consequence, detail or even reality. No one is more attracted than her candidates, who then use the ‘open mic’ the party provides to riff on Port Arthur trutherism, or Aboriginal IQs, or ugly single mothers, or LGBT mind-control devices, and then get disendorsed or go off in a huff.”

Since entering federal parliament more than 20 years ago, Hanson has never managed to hold together a political organisation, nor produce a policy program of any substance.

“Policies pass the pub test,” writes Cooke, “but not a test anywhere people are sober … Not surprisingly, she has a long history of falling out with colleagues, employees and even family members. Voters are last in a long line of the jilted.”

Nevertheless these things seem continually forgotten, most particularly by the Liberal Party. Cooke joins David Marr, who has written an excellent Quarterly Essay on Hanson, and George Megalogenis (also in this issue), to create a trio of incisive analyses of not just One Nation–style politics but also the Coalition’s recent softening towards her.

Even in strategic terms such appeasement is foolhardy, writes Megalogenis. “The lesson of her previous term in politics, between 1996 and 1998, hasn’t changed: One Nation is a direct competitor to the National Party, but it poses the greatest threat to the Liberal Party’s standing as a governing party. If the Liberal Party preferences One Nation ahead of Labor, it loses more primary votes to Labor than it saves for the Coalition cause.”

More importantly, however, the Coalition’s reframing of her race-baiting, mock-commonsense brand of politics as “more sophisticated” or mature is an insult to the electorate, the vast majority of which has long since realised that the future of Australia will never be found in a whitewashed past.

Nick Feik

Nick Feik is the editor of the Monthly.