Pauline Lee Hanson (née Seccombe, formerly Zagorski, currently Pariah), is an Australian politician who was born on 27 May 1954 and reborn at the 2016 federal election. She is the founder of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, a growing political force that welcomes all who subscribe to Australian values, aren’t the wrong sort of ethnic and never forget whose name appears right there in the name of the party.
Hanson became famous throughout Australia and infamous throughout the Asia–Pacific for her fiery 1996 maiden speech in which she attacked Asians. In recent years, however, she has reinvented herself for the new century and started attacking Muslims instead. Her opposition to Asian Muslims has remained consistent throughout.
Over the years, many have dismissed Hanson as an extremist xenophobe who inhabits the political fringe. She has been unable to shake this perception, perhaps because, as she once revealed during a television interview, she didn’t know what xenophobia was.* Hanson now claims that this was a misrepresentation, as she has never feared Nick Xenophon.
Early life and career
Hanson’s parents ran a fish and chip shop in Ipswich. It’s not known whether they vaccinated the young Pauline, or whether she instead benefited from the herd immunity she would later work so hard to undermine.
Even as a teenager, Hanson displayed the inclinations that would later fuel her political career, demanding that the shop avoid special treatment for those fish varieties that were exclusive to Australian waters, and refuse to allow salmon, tuna or any other non-white fish to ‘swamp’ varieties like flake. The young Pauline always preferred to consume her fish and chips uncooked, as the deep fryer made them less white.
In 1996, she joined the Liberal Party, and was endorsed as its candidate for the seat of Oxley, the safest Labor seat in Queensland. But even though she was disendorsed over a letter she wrote to the Queensland Times warning about ‘reverse racism’ towards Aborigines, she was nevertheless successful in winning the seat** as voters were too busy evicting Keating’s Labor to worry who they were installing instead.
Alternatively, Oxley voters may have been perfectly comfortable with Hanson’s views on race, but that conclusion is best avoided, as it involves negative stereotypes of people based on where they come from.
Hanson’s maiden speech warned about the perils of the ‘Asianisation’ of Australia, and how disruptive it would prove to ‘our’ way of life. This rang true to many Australians, who have long endured the significant changes wrought by Asian migration, such as increased access to bubble tea, yum cha and karaoke.
Hanson also criticised the special treatment given to Aboriginal people merely because they happened to have been subjected to genocide. She argued it was unfair that she was unable to enjoy programs designed to benefit Aboriginal people purely because she wasn’t one.
The first-term MP also objected to the notion that Australia was Aboriginal land—a notion rejected by Australian property law in all but the most limited cases—dramatically asking ‘Where the hell do I go?’ After the speech, there was no shortage of people who were willing to tell her.
The speech made headlines throughout the region, and even though Hanson was by this point an independent MP with no role in the government, her strident anti-immigration platform was given effect, as many Asians declined to visit or study in Australia as a result of her comments. This helped to move Australia towards Hanson’s vision of being One Nation undisturbed by tourist and education income from its economic powerhouse neighbours.***
In 1998, Tony Abbott set up the Australians for Honest Politics Trust, to try to bring down One Nation and Hanson by initiating civil cases, while trickily keeping his involvement secret.
The strategy ultimately worked too well—Hanson was jailed for election funding irregularities in 2003. This led to a huge increase in public sympathy towards her that only grew when her conviction was set aside on appeal, bolstering her trademark claim of persecution by the elites with uncharacteristically convincing evidence.
Abbott learned from this experience that it is better to co-opt the policies of the far right than to seek to exclude them, while Hanson’s treatment in this situation remains the only legitimate one of her many grievances.
Election to Senate
Before 2016, Hanson’s only election to public office had been with the word ‘Liberal’ beside her name on the ballot—after the foundation of One Nation, she unsuccessfully ran for office on multiple occasions in Queensland and New South Wales. A tradition emerged of her comeback being mooted early on election night, only to be followed by an eventual narrow loss.
This strategy of narrowly missing out proved a solid earner for Hanson, who managed to receive substantial public election funding on the basis of her strong primary votes, without the inconvenience of doing any representing.
This mutually satisfactory arrangement ended after she and three colleagues were elected to the Senate in the 2016 election. Had it not been a double dissolution election, only Hanson would have been elected, meaning that One Nation would not have been recognised as an official party—not unlike when several of its key figures went to jail.
Instead, One Nation achieved party status, and became the Senate crossbench’s most reliably cross element.
Hanson is known for her commitment to protectionism, and she is particularly determined to maintain strong barriers against foreign ideas like tolerance and universal human rights. However, she is sympathetic to the wholesale import of ideas popularised by Donald Trump, including explicit support for Vladimir Putin.
Hanson is even more committed to protectionism regarding her role as head of her party, which has no mechanisms for internal democracy. This reflects Hanson’s scepticism about elections, given her decades of difficulties with them.
Consequently, Hanson’s control over One Nation is the envy of major party leaders, and one former leader still regrets his colleagues’ rejection of his attempt to rename their party ‘Tony Abbott’s Liberals’.
Nowadays, Hanson has become a pioneer in the emerging policy area of Islamophobia. The One Nation leader has long argued against halal certification, eager to help Australian companies save money on what she claims is an excessively expensive approval process, in return for the small inconvenience of guaranteeing that hundreds of thousands of potential customers can’t consume their products.
Hanson’s party is generally tough on law and order issues, except when it comes to leaders of political parties who have been locked up for a simple misunderstanding. The party has also been known for its support of a flat tax, which has the distinct advantage of being a policy that the party’s members and leaders can easily understand, if not articulate.
One Nation is also firmly against action on climate change, and its members recently swam out to the Great Barrier Reef to prove to the media that the stories about coral bleaching had been greatly exaggerated, bolstering their case considerably by choosing a location that wasn’t part of the hundreds of kilometres affected by coral bleaching. They have since revised their position, arguing that there’s nothing wrong with things turning white.
Some One Nation state candidates have accused the ‘gays’ of using Nazi mind control techniques—in which case, the techniques are clearly ineffective, since same-sex marriage remains illegal. In any event, by making these accusations, they have made it abundantly clear that many One Nation candidates’ minds are entirely impenetrable.
Despite its maverick reputation, fringe policy positions and anti-establishment image, One Nation votes with the government nearly all of the time, allowing its voters to strike a potent theoretical blow against the status quo in Australian politics while supporting it in practice.
* Her response during that interview, ‘Please explain?’ has become something of a trademark, perhaps because she also doesn’t quite understand the meaning of irony.
** Despite the disendorsement, she still appeared as a Liberal on the ballot paper, because reprinting the papers was apparently more problematic than a major party candidate saying something that caused widespread outrage and feelings of revulsion among her prospective colleagues.
*** The enduring success of Hanson’s anti-Asian campaign is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that her former fish and chip shop is now run by people with Vietnamese heritage.
The print edition of Strayapedia also contains a helpful guide to Hanson’s One Nation associates—current, former and recently disbarred from the Senate