“The return of Pauline Hanson calls for national reflection,” writes David Marr in his sixth Quarterly Essay. “A strange gap has opened between the mood of this country and the temper of its politics. The decent Australia revealed in poll after poll seems not to be the country our politicians are representing.” Indeed.
Utilising in-depth poll research, Marr has figures that back up his argument that the majority of Australians reject “everything Hanson stands for” but politicians (and the media) have enabled her return to Canberra and unfortunately it’s all about race or, in this case, religion: Islam.
So why is she back? Pauline Hanson should have been an embarrassing ‘90s footnote in Australian political history, a cringe-inducing joke with her ‘please explain’ (which she has utilised as a marketing tool) that made her ripe for parodies, most memorably by Pauline Pantsdown. But her shocking anti-immigration views were appropriated by the Howard Government, and then after 9/11, refugees seeking asylum to this country by boat were used as a political football.
Hanson didn’t totally disappear after shining brightly and seemingly burning out. She was seen as a joke, yes, but was handed primetime exposure on Dancing with the Stars and then given a platform on breakfast TV. Now she’s back in federal politics with her group of conspiracy-theory pushing senators. Marr writes that Hanson is an Australian story and she doesn’t have the support or power of Trump, Farage and Le Pen in the US, the UK and France.
She’s a white woman speaking for old white Australia. While it would be careless to compare the return of Hanson to the rise of Trump, they share common ground, mainly attacking the so-called elites and professional politicians and holding anti-immigration views. They both want to return to the past, “If Trump is Make America Great Again, Pauline is Keep Australia Anxious,” Dr Anne Aly tells Marr. Hanson’s views on Islam drives her support this time around. She plays the race card, and unfortunately her hand works, as the media and mainstream politicians aren’t as hostile to her views this time around.
This is a powerful tome that argues against enabling figures such as Hanson merely to please the few; especially the major political parties that espouse that they speak for the sensible centre. Australia is better. Australia deserves better, as Marr reminds us.
Author: David Marr
Publisher: Black Inc Books