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Latham and Hanson's marriage of convenience

  • 08 November 2018


'Pauline Hanson's political talent lies in the way in which she embodies this mood [of anger], not so much through her ideas or opinions but through her personality. The Hanson persona is a perfect match for the One Nation constituency: resentful, distrustful and overwhelmingly negative ... If we were governed by this sort of nonsense the country would soon be in receivership.'

That's Mark Latham in 2001, writing about the woman leading the party he's now joined. Suffice it to say that until very, very recently, Latham did not like Hanson one bit.

In 2003, for instance, the press described Hanson shaking uncontrollably, medicated and under 24-hour surveillance in the hospital of Brisbane Women's Prison as the reality of her three-year term for defrauding the Electoral Commission (a sentence later overturned on appeal) struck home. Latham's response? He pointed out that she'd been campaigning for tougher jail penalties and then quipped, 'Now she's got one.'

Famously, Hanson reconciled with Tony Abbott, the man she blamed (with some justification) for that imprisonment, and so no-one should be surprised at her welcoming onboard the former federal leader of the Labor Party. Even in his current, somewhat disheveled, state, Latham constitutes a sizeable catch for an organisation previously reliant on the guy who thought the Port Arthur massacre was faked or the bloke who gave Nazi salutes next to swastikas mowed into his lawn or the man whose thoughts about blowjobs and domestic violence unexpectedly emerged during a press conference.

But why's Latham doing it? If we say the man's lost his mind, we must, in fairness, acknowledge that he possessed a mind to lose. Bizarre as the notion now sounds, Latham brought consider intellectual firepower to the Labor leadership, having articulated his Third Way program back in 1998 in the not altogether terrible book Civilizing Global Capital.

Yet his deep commitment to free market policies meant that his hostility to Hanson always came as much from the right as the left.

In The Latham Diaries, he describes what he calls Hanson's 'xenophobic maiden speech' and then adds: 'The Labor Opposition was practising its own slice of Hansonism, with a strongly protectionist stance in the tarrif debate. I was opposed to this repositioning on economic policy and argued against it in Shadow Cabinet. It was the catalyst for my disillusionment with Beazley and belief that he was an opportunist, rather than a conviction politician.'


"The division goes far further than