Pauline Hanson has re-emerged as mouthpiece for the nation’s racism, going where the dog whistlers dare not venture, vocalising “what ordinary people are really thinking and are too scared to say.” This time her bile is directed against Muslims as well as Asians and Indigenous peoples: anyone who isn’t white and Christian, perhaps?
In a rather surprising move, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that Hanson is not welcome in the parliament, surprising because he has not said this about any of his right-wing colleagues, many of whom share Hanson’s views. Surprising as well because Hanson is an elected representative in a liberal democracy, and Turnbull has no choice but to accept her presence in the Senate because voters put her there.
In May 2016 journalist Malcolm Farr wrote that voters do not want Hanson in parliament, any parliament, but voters do, and Hanson is. Railing against Hanson is getting people nowhere: she’s come back even stronger than before.
This piece by Margot Kingston in the Guardian yesterday is interesting in that Kingston advocates a change of approach to Hanson, one of respect and conciliation rather than mockery and scorn. While I don’t agree that it’s productive to embark on the re-education of Pauline Hanson, I do believe Kingston is right to suggest that we pay attention to the circumstances of the people who have voted her, and possibly two more One Nation candidates, back into the parliament. I also agree that scapegoating Hanson only gives her and her supporters fuel.
Both major parties have used racist tactics to distract voters from their failures to adequately govern: the manipulation of waterborne asylum seekers is an outstanding example of this: the creation of non-existent threats from which both major parties have promised to deliver us has led to the criminal and inhumane indefinite incarceration of innocent people on Manus and Nauru.
Hanson has been far from alone in exploiting fear and ignorance for political gain. It’s only a few weeks since Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told the country that asylum seekers will simultaneously take our jobs and bludge off our social services.
Given that John Howard co-opted most of Hanson’s beliefs and made them fundamental tenets of his LNP, where they remain comfortably unchallenged, I’m inclined to wonder how much of the elite political and media animosity towards Hanson is to do with class, and gender.
Much of what Hanson espouses seems to me gibberish: a Royal Commission into Islam, for example? She seems at times inarticulate: a seething mass of inchoate prejudice, while the more sophisticated know how to convey a not dissimilar prejudice in a manner more covert. Indeed, the only positive thing to be said about Hanson is that she lacks all subtlety: there can be no doubt about her bad intentions towards those who are not her: what you see is what you get. Hanson doesn’t spin.
Kingston herself has expressed some views on Muslims that have been interpreted as racist. She recently tweeted: OK, I’m gonna blow myself up. I think Muslim refugees should seek refuge in Muslim countries unless they embrace western values.
Kingston explained that the western values to which she refers are respect for the rule of law, freedom of speech, women’s, gays’ rights.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting these values embraced and practiced: the problem is singling out Muslims as a group that particularly needs to embrace them. Many of our white Christian politicians have no respect for some of those values, and some don’t have respect for any of them. Presumably their electorates support their views, as Hanson’s do hers. The elites who sneer at Hanson and her electorate need to attend to the racist logs in their own eyes.
I have a visceral reaction when I see and hear of particular groups being singled out for no reason other than religious belief, ethnicity, and race. I feel sick with fear, not of the groups but of the mindset that chooses certain groups as targets for “special” treatment, marginalisation and hostility. This may have something to do with my late husband being a Jew. We had friends who survived the camps. Their families were slaughtered because they were Jews. My husband and his family experienced prejudice and discrimination because they were Jews. They supported “western values,” but that didn’t save them.
I don’t like Hanson. I’m very sorry she’s back. I think it’s going to be a difficult and frightening time for members of the groups she targets, as her views are widely disseminated through her role as a senator, and parliamentary privilege.
Hanson is the head of the throbbing boil that is Australian racism. The discharge will be copious and vile. But let’s not fool ourselves that Hanson is our only problem: the racism and bigotry she extols is far more widespread than the ugly manifesto of One Nation. Hanson is right: she’s articulating what many think, however the many who think this way are not comprised solely of ignorant rednecks: they also dwell in very high places.