The Politics    Thursday, May 31, 2018

One Nation divided

By Nick Feik

Image of One Nation leader Pauline Hanson

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It’s her way or the highway for Burston

The One Nation party is a complete mess. Again. (Still?)

Senator Brian Burston was dumped as the party’s whip last week, and this morning it was reported that he’d decided to defy Pauline Hanson by supporting the government’s company tax cut plans. He accuses her of reversing the party’s position without consulting him (and he says [$] that he keeps “finding out One Nation policies when I read them in The Australian”). Hanson refutes this, but in any case the party is Pauline’s and she brooks no dissent.

In recent weeks, Burston had been negotiating on behalf of the party with finance minister Mathias Cormann, and had reportedly agreed to a deal for One Nation to support the government’s tax cuts. (Hanson herself had earlier voiced support for them too.) Hanson then came out and, ignoring any negotiated agreement, announced that her party couldn’t back the tax cuts and was dead against them. Confused yet? There’s no need to be: in the wake of revelations at the banking royal commission Hanson sniffed the wind and, realising that the general public thinks the idea of company tax cuts stinks, changed her mind. Probably so as not to get smashed in the upcoming Longman by-election.

It seems she neglected to walk Burston through these changes properly, though.

Last week Burston started removing mentions of One Nation from his social media accounts, today he was accused of “selling out” for reaching the deal with the government, and tomorrow, well, why would he stay? Watch this space.

The other, broader context is this: Pauline Hanson has never been able to hold a party together, or to hold on to colleagues for long, because she changes her mind constantly, and believes her underlings must naturally follow suit (it’s her party, after all – she’s effectively president for life). Unsurprisingly, they get sick of this. Also, the people she recruits tend to be completely unsuitable for public office. Of the senators who followed her into the current parliament, Rod Culleton quit the party and was then disqualified, Malcolm Roberts was disqualified, Fraser Anning (who replaced Roberts) quit the party, and now Brian Burston is in the doghouse too.

At her press conference today, Hanson told the media that “One Nation is not a loose alliance, we are a party and we will form as a bloc.” (Translation, for Burston’s benefit: it’s her way or the highway.)

“We are united in our vote with this,” she added. Clearly this is not true.

Hanson also told the media that Burston hasn’t been well, and that she’d tried to make contact with him, then intimated that he might not keep his place on the One Nation ticket if he didn’t play ball. For someone who professes to be in touch with “the people”, she really has terrible people skills, it must be said.

Standing alongside her was senator Peter Georgiou, who replaced Culleton a few months ago. Towards the end of the press conference, Hanson walked off, leaving Georgiou listening to a further question.

“Actually I didn’t realise she walked away,” he said. “So I think I’ll be walking away too now.” And then he walked away.

In the meantime, the government is still short on support for its company tax plans. How many votes it needs depends on how One Nation votes. But who could predict how One Nation will eventually vote?


RETURNING FOR A SECOND SEASON
Episode 17: Australia’s free-trade fallacy
Richard Denniss talks to Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young about the politics of live animal exports and the fallacy of free trade.

LISTEN NOW

since this morning


The government has pulled its own bill that would apply more regulation to the live export trade after it emerged that Liberal MP Sussan Ley intended to cross the floor to support Labor amendments seeking to ban live exports.

Amazon will block Australian customers from its US site when GST changes kick in on July 1.


in case you missed it


The One Nation split means that the government inches one vote closer to passing its signature company tax policy. (It’s still several short, though.)

Greg Jericho explains that the Treasury’s own figures highlight just how greatly the government’s proposed income tax cut is weighted towards high-income earners.

Health minister Greg Hunt has been forced [$] to publicly apologise to the 71-year-old mayor of Katherine, Fay Miller, who says he unleashed a torrent of expletives at her and physically intimidated her.

The Catholic Church has signed up to the national redress scheme for victims of institutional child sexual abuse. (Scouts Australia, the Salvation Army, the YMCA and the Anglican Church have since followed.)


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Six exquisite tapestries form one of the great works of medieval art

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Power corrupts
How network companies lined their pockets and drove electricity prices through the roof

Nick Feik

Nick Feik is the editor of The Monthly.

@nickfeik

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