A Note Of Caution On Pauline Hanson

Reports have resurfaced in the Fairfax press today relating to claims she was “robbed” of a seat in the NSW upper house at the recent election.

Hanson claims to be in receipt of a leaked NSW Electoral Commission email which allegedly substantiates her claim that 1200 first-preference votes cast for her were placed on the pile of blank ballots in a wilful act of sabotage.

She lost the count for the final seat in the upper house by 1306 votes.

Whilst my instinct is to say “whatever” when Hanson’s name is mentioned, I support her right to be heard; to stand for parliament; to avail herself of various rights and protections afforded to her at law (in this case, to challenge to validity of an electoral declaration); indeed, for her to do anything any legally-entitled citizen in this country may choose to do.

Even if she’s a right-wing wacko. Even if she jumps from state to state in her quest for seats in Parliament, and from level to level of government. Even if her views are incendiary, and the simplistic and erroneous logic behind them flawed or non-existent. Even if all she ever does is articulates “problems” with nary a word about “solutions.”

I know Pauline Hanson; she owned a fish shop five blocks from what was then my parents’ house in Ipswich. She was very good at fish and chips, and I believe she should have stuck to it, but that’s another story. I haven’t laid eyes on the woman or spoken a word to her since she entered Parliament in 1996 and I fervently hope that remains the case.

However, she has the same rights as the rest of us as an Australian citizen, irrespective of her empty and idle “threat” to relocate to Britain. Those rights and her entitlement to them must be respected, and this brings me to my point.

Proceedings such as those being undertaken by Ms Hanson in contesting the election result in NSW will inevitably find their way into the press, and rightly so; they are news.

But regarding such matters generally and where Ms Hanson is concerned in particular, perhaps sections of the press ought consider treating her more like a cross-bench backbencher (which she was in Canberra from 1996 to 1998, and potentially could be again in NSW) rather than according her exposure commensurate with a senior government figure or party leader.

It is one thing to report on what she may have to say. It is another matter altogether to provide the political oxygen required, through repeated and excessive allocation of column inches and airtime, to allow Ms Hanson and her odious world view to disproportionately dominate political discussion and debate.

It can feasibly be argued that Hanson’s preference strategies directly contributed to the downfall of the Court Liberal government in WA in 2001; angst over preferences and One Nation played a similar role in the fate of the Borbidge government in Queensland in 1998. Similarly, the near-death experience of the Howard government in 1998, whilst partly attributable to a GST scare campaign, was also the result of many thousands of votes hived from the Coalition primary vote by One Nation which did not return, in full, on preferences. The list goes on, but these examples serve admirably to make the point.

What if people ignored what Hanson had to say? People can make their own judgements. They don’t need sensationalist rubbish from a media endlessly rehashing every last word and conferring a perverse legitimacy upon her ramblings in the process.

There’s an old adage that the worst humiliation is not to be taken seriously. Report the facts about Hanson, and leave it at that. A fire needs oxygen to keep burning, and unless she has anything meaningful or useful to contribute, she shouldn’t be given any.

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