Are we about to see a Pauline revival?

From today’s Crikey email:

When the venerable New York Times publishes a piece in its travel section praising cosmopolitan Brisbane to the hilt as an upscale destination, you know that you can forget all about those cliches about a “sleepy big country town”. Those of us who’ve lived through Brisneyland’s transformation (“Brisvegas” is so last year) are well aware of the pace of change. Yet, for whatever reason, many of the denizens of the Sydney-Melbourne-Canberra triangle rarely pay us a visit, and older stereotypes still prevail.

But in truth, all over the show, we’ve been witnessing the Australianisation of Queensland this decade. South East Queensland in particular, is now not too different demographically and sociologically from other bits of urban Australia, except it’s speeding ahead at a greater economic rate of knots than many of them.

Lest Crikey readers suspect I’m writing astroturf for the tourism mob, or doing an impersonation of Anna Bligh trying to lure corporates to our capital, I do have a political point. The release of Senate preference tickets has revived speculation that our very own Pauline Hanson might be about to revive her own political career.

So is the spectre of Queensland’s past returning to haunt the nation?

Probably not. Although Hanson has an advantage she didn’t have last time through having registered a party and thus having secured a box above the line on the Senate ballot, her campaign is largely a name recognition one. Kevin Andrews and his mini-me, Moreton MP Gary Hardgrave (ironically a former Minister for Multicultural Affairs), have stolen her clothes on “Sudanese gangs”, and in any case the “values” debate seems to have gone missing in action this year, rendering Pauline’s anti-Islamic musings somewhat moot. And Hanson’s name is now probably more recognised as the brand of a former B list reality TV star.

Embattled Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett is seeking to reprise Nats Senate leader Ron Boswell’s fight to keep Pauline out from 2001. (Incidentally, Hanson’s decision to preference the ALP over the Coalition is pure revenge politics against Boswell.) Bartlett’s slogan is “Choose Common Sense: Stop Extremism” which rather nicely wraps Hanson and the WorkChoices package together in one box. Bartlett is undoubtedly sincere in the work he’s been doing with refugees and ethnic communities, but there’s no doubt talking up the Hanson threat serves his political purposes.

But, as I’m suggesting, the most important thing is that Queensland has changed. I took a campaign related trip out to Hanson’s former stomping ground of Ipswich last week, and her issues couldn’t be further from voters’ minds. Infrastructure, industrial relations and interest rates are the holy trinity of Labor’s campaign in Blair this year. Perhaps Barnaby Joyce has provided something of a safety valve for it, but there’s little sign of the voracious rural discontent that One Nation also channelled in its heyday.

So I suspect that Hanson will find few votes to harvest further out bush.

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Posted in culture, elections, sociology
11 comments on “Are we about to see a Pauline revival?
  1. Actually, Pauline Hanson had a box above the line last time as well. The difference this time is that her list will be marked “Pauline’s United Australia Party”, whereas last time it just said “Group K”. It is not the case that only registered parties can run Senate tickets – it can be done by any two or more candidates who agree to do so. For example, the Coalition is not a registered party, but the Liberals and Nationals are still running a joint ticket in Queensland. As for the question in your headline, the answer is clearly no. Talk of a Pauline Hanson comeback is always good for a news story, so we have read way too much about Family First declining to put her last this time. They still have her behind the Coalition, which means their vote will probably never get to her, and it will be worth all of 1 per cent even if it does. As long as both major parties and the Greens put her last, she has no chance at all. The real preference-related story with Pauline Hanson, which everyone seems to have missed, is that she is preferencing Labor ahead of the Coalition and the Greens.

  2. mbahnisch says:

    Yes, I was going to write “named box” but then I thought that might be a bit arcane, and then I thought explaining it all at length might break the Crikey word limit!

  3. mbahnisch says:

    The real preference-related story with Pauline Hanson, which everyone seems to have missed, is that she is preferencing Labor ahead of the Coalition and the Greens.

    Yep, as I said in the piece, she would hate Boswell so it’s not that surprising. I suppose she shares the FF view that the Greens are the fount of all evil or whatever.

  4. Sam Clifford says:

    Steele Hall ran a Liberal Movement campaign about “Leave the extremes” which the Democrats have run on again and again over the years. It’s a good campaign message, especially for attracting the undecided voters who don’t feel comfortable with either major party. Of course, the ALP’s rightwards movements leaves the Democrats less as a balance between a major left-wing party and a major right-wing party and more a sensible leftwards check on the ALP to ensure they don’t drift off too far to the right. Of course, the internal politics of the Democrats has left them politically terminal and Australia has lost the only true centrist party it ever had.

    What we will have come November 25 is a Senate where the Greens keep the ALP in check from the left and Family First keep the Coalition in check from the right. With no centrist party with which to negotiate, whoever forms government may have to deal with two politically opposite minor parties (depending on whether or not Family First are able to increase their numbers and how many Coalition seats are lost) or face dealing with the official opposition. Despite the similarities in Labor and Coalition policies on things like tax cuts, they have very different views on climate change and industrial relations which are two key battlegrounds this election. Whoever forms government is going to have the unenviable job of negotiating legislation through what could be a bizarre Senate.

  5. A few comments:

    – I don’t think Kevin Andrews’ deliberate adoption of her African bashing, and the Coalition’s softer version of Muslim baiting does ‘steal her clothes’, I think it strengthens her credibility, particularly in the more general and less policy-specific ‘keep them honest’ environment of the Senate; (although regardless of its electoral effects, it certainly gives greater tacit approval for bigorty and prejudice to be seen as an acceptable part of public discourse in Australia)
    – the fact that Family First has done a preference deal with Hanson, putting her next after the Coalition, does mean she is a real chance. She got enough preferences from the various right-wing fringe parties in 2004 to be the last candidate excluded, despite polling not much more than 4% herself. The last Senate specific poll for Qld that I saw had her primary vote on 7 per cent. If that holds true and FF get say 5 per cent and the Coalition’s surplus is less than that (which it could well be if hanson polls that well), she’s just about there;

    – It is true that Hanson is preferencing Labor over the Coalition, but she is also preferencing Democrats (i.e. me) ahead of both, so in tht sense its actually in my interest to talk her down (or not talk about her at all). If Hanson is lower than Coalition surplus, but above FF (a completely plausible scenario), her preferences would flow to me (as long as I am still in the count at that stage of course)

    – it wasn’t just Boswell’s “fight to keep Hanson out” in 2001, it was also myself and the Democrats’ who took this line of attack;

    – finally, re Sam’s comment about FF “keeping the Coalition in check from the right”, I haven’t seen much evidence of that in their first 3 years in the Senate. There’s some nice sounding rhetoric now and then, but when its come to the crunch – such as on ‘welfare to work’, VSU, media ownership and small business protection – they’ve done a bit of hand-wringing and rolled over completely. Barnaby has done a better job of keeping the government in check (and I don’t think he’s been too flash either). I guess that’s part of what I see as the ‘centrist’ model – not so much an ideological mid-point, but a more balanced approach on the sometimes challenging decisions about how far to go in negotiations and reaching compromises. Somewhere between FF’s total capitulation and the Green’s (mostly) total opposition (although I expect the Greens will change that approach if they do end up in a genuine balance of power role).

  6. Sam Clifford says:

    Senator Bartlett, I think it’s fair to say that Family First exist as a right wing populist party (populism for the right’s point of view) but you’re certainly correct that they’ve rolled over on a lot of legislation when Fielding even bothers to show up to vote.

    Fielding’s no Harradine, that’s for sure, and their pressure from the right is more hot air than anything of substance. When push comes to shove, Family First roll over like a dog in filth. Their only policies, it seems, are banning sinful behaviour and cutting the petrol excise. I don’t think too many Australians are keen on the first and recognise that the second is completely unfeasible.

  7. Yes – Harradine is a good contrast. I have to say purely from the point of view of an interested citizen, I have been very disappointed that Family First to date have failed so dismally to live up to their own rhetoric, even when i disagree with it. I had thought they might turn out to be a lightweight version of Harradine, but they haven’t even measured up to featherweight (thus far), and are far more cynical and calculating in their approach. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but it is still mildly disappointing. We could do with more people/parties of substance and authenticity, whatever their politics.

  8. Andrew says:

    Senator,
    I would expect the Greens will not change their rhetoric or their voting if they become the balance of power party. Assuming the ALP form the next government, the Greens are likely to act as a genuine “check” on the ALP from the left, being less willing to “roll over” on most issues, particularly the non-Green ones.
    For example, my guess is that, if the Coalition votes against any legislation rolling back Work Choices the Greens will hold up the passage because it does not, in their opinion, go far enough.
    I would also expect any legislation implementing Kyoto or a subsequent agreement will be held up for similar reasons.

  9. jinmaro says:

    “We could do with more people/parties of substance and authenticity, whatever their politics.”

    This is pretty rich given that the Democrats have been perhaps the major minor party contributor to the corruption and regression of political democracy in the long Howard years.

  10. Sam Clifford says:

    Jinmaro, that’s a pretty tall claim.

    Andrew, at that point a Labor government would either have to strengthen the legislation to get the Greens’ approval or weaken it to the point where the Coalition supports it. Given that the Coalition hold very different opinions on amending WorkChoices and acting on Climate Change and are likely to vote against any measure the ALP put forward, is it such a bad thing that the Greens would reject what is perceived as “weak” legislation in order to press the government to commit to real change?

  11. Andrew says:

    Sam,
    I suspect you and I would disagree on what would constitute desirable change. Personally, the sort of dirigiste economic policies that the Greens are advocating I feel would take us in a direction I do not want this country to go.

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