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Marr withers 'White Queen' Pauline



January 1996. The Urdu-speaking uncles were furious when they received the invitation for a dinner hosted by my small Young Liberal branch. 'You want me to pay money to see that bloody racist Howard?' asked one. 'I will happily give for your branch but not if it means sitting in the same room as that nasty man.'

Pauline Hanson on the cover of David Marr's Quarterly Essay The White QueenWhen we started promoting our Bankstown Young Liberals dinner, John Howard was a shadow minister. In the week before the dinner, he was elevated to Opposition leader. When we showed up to the Chinese restaurant opposite the Bankstown Sports Club (where Paul Keating gave his famous 'True Believers' speech), there were TV and radio news crews everywhere.

The man who a few years earlier had called for a reduction to Asian immigration and an end to multiculturalism was now shaking hands with Australians of Thai, Chinese, Taiwanese, Sri Lankan and Indian (yes, some uncles showed up at the last minute) heritage.

Was it all a façade on Howard's part? David Marr, in his latest Quarterly Essay The White Queen: One Nation & The Politics of Race believes so. Though the essay is ostensibly about Pauline Hanson, much of it deals with the broader issue of race politics. Marr claims Howard cynically used race when it suited his arithmetic calculations of drawing votes from marginal sectors of the electorate.

Hence Howard was happy to have Hanson disendorsed when she was a candidate for a safe ALP seat. But when she surprised everyone with her 20 per cent swing and delivered her first of many ridiculously racist speeches, Howard turned Voltaire and labelled Hanson's maiden speech a triumph for free speech. He refused to condemn her or her followers.


"If there is really a threat of this happening, Muslims might have to get the lawyers for Scientology to represent them."


Marr writes that Howard 'would keep his mouth shut and nudge the Coalition into One Nation territory'. Howard's strategy was to destroy Hanson by mimicking her.

And giving her One Nation Party preferences when it suited. Howard believed this was the only way to save the Coalition in the Queensland State election. The big winners in that ballot were Hanson and Labor. Brisbane voters abandoned the Libs.

This disaster led to pressure on Howard from other powerbrokers such as the NSW and Victorian leaders and then Treasurer Peter Costello to place Hanson last on all subsequent ballots. The practice lasted for two decades until the recent West Australian debacle that delivered a massive landslide to Labor and a few seats in the WA Upper House.

Thanks to the 'put Pauline last' consensus, Hanson's efforts in three subsequent state and federal ballots failed. Marr writes: 'The same parties that filched her policies in the campaign organised against her at the poll.' This didn't stop Howard from adopting a Hansonesque stance on a range of issues, especially refugees. The electoral returns by way of One Nation preferences seemed to assist Labor more than the Coalition.

So who are these One Nation voters? One Nation attracts next to no migrants, not even UK or New Zealand migrants. One Nation voters are even more 'Aussie' than the National Party. The gender split is fairly even and around one third are under 44. Most identify as working class.

Hanson doesn't pretend to be religious and neither are her followers. Her anti-Islam agenda isn't inspired by some rightwing evangelical passion like Danny Nalliah's nor by a conservative moralistic Catholicism like Cory Bernardi's. But she clearly can feel the pulse of many in the electorate who worry about terrorism and national security.

Hanson's politics really only work when there is a 'them' for 'us' to worry about. But where does she get this idea that Islam is not a religion but an ideology? And seriously, even if it is an ideology, what does that have to do with the price of halal Vegemite? Democracy is an ideology, as is liberalism. And Australia is ... yep, you guessed it ... a Liberal Democracy. So surely we can fight the single Islam ideology with our two ideologies.

But this isn't a matter that social justice warriors like those who read Eureka Street can deal with (or indeed this allegedly moderate deceptive Muslim contributor). We need a Royal Commission to decide this issue, apparently. Because if we strip the religious tag from Muslims then this will lead to ... um ... not quite sure. But if there is really a threat of this happening, Muslims might have to get the lawyers for Scientology to represent them.

One Nation is driven by a perceived loss of cultural privilege. As one pollster told Marr: 'What worries this group is the cultural, social slippage they feel in their life. They imagine their fathers' and grandfathers' lives were better, more certain, easier to navigate. Maybe they were and maybe they weren't, but it's the loss of that that is worrying for them.'

For the One Nation voter the world is getting all too complicated thanks not just to Muslims but to immigration in general. The anti-immigration sentiment gets more extreme. Migrants don't just take jobs away from real Aussies. They increase crime. Don't let 'em in. And if some manage to slip through and do the wrong thing, lock 'em up. Oh, and bring back the noose. Yes, One Nation voters strongly support the death penalty.

One Nation worries me. But each time my worries hit a crescendo, the party implodes. We should all dread what could happen if the implosions cease.


Irfan YusufIrfan Yusuf is a Sydney based lawyer and blogger.

Topic tags: Irfan Yusuf, David Marr, Pauline Hanson, Islam



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Existing comments

Surely she is the Wicked Witch of the West?

Lee Boldeman | 06 April 2017  

That 3rd paragraph from the bottom (starts with "One Nation") is the most succinct and lucid exposition of the Hanson/Trump phenomenon I've yet come across.

David Healy | 06 April 2017  

For some Muslims, Islam is their enemy as radical extremists use their religion's koranic military pillar to overrule their spiritual / social / economic / and political obligations. Muftis, imams and ulema-lawyers ... similar to what occurs in every other religion ... may teach nonsense. Yet no religion teaches its believers to recognise nonsense. With my daily christian prayers I recite the jewish Kaddish and the koranic Fateha daily. AlhamdulilLah ! Hear o Israel ! Kevin Aryeh haTitvah Smith ... supreme cross of honour from Benedict XVI 2005 for ecumenism . []

Kevi G. Smith | 06 April 2017  

As the world grows ever more complex -- and as education teaches more and more about the geographical, social and religious of the world beyond our own small (and mostly homogeneous) villages -- so many people seem to want to react against that reality and its perception by pretending that simple certainties are real, desirable and attainable. Some of these are to be found in Christianity; others in Islam; yet others amongst secularists. Yet, in seeking to stop immigration -- to "keep Australia as it is and has always been" -- those people entirely forget that, like their forbears, they are immigrants, too. But, simply put, they are WHITE immigrants (or their descendants). The sad truth is that, in the Australian community there is a great deal of racism (and misogyny, as well): inevitably, that will include our political parties, too (and some of their leaders) So, we all need to "examine our conscience" regularly on that question and reject organisations which espouse racism, as "One Nation". What an irony that name is!

John CARMODY | 06 April 2017  

Irfan, I was at that 1996 dinner - as a reporter for SBS Radio. Tony Abbott introduced him that night. Afterwards, we followed Howard on an audacious walk of Keating's patch - the sports club - where he shook hands with a few (mostly Anglo) members.

Jim | 06 April 2017  

Indeed Jim, Tony Abbott was MC for the night!

Irfan Yusuf | 06 April 2017  

I'm 72. My parents' and grandparents' lives were not better, or more certain, or easier to navigate than mine. They had it much tougher. Perhaps our children have it harder than we did but who knows? Being human has always been a struggle. Let us pray for the continued implosions of Hansonism and and all other populisms.

Graham English | 06 April 2017  

The anthropologists tell us that the human being is a most sophisticated herding animal. We instinctively belong to a herd . Such herds have many unifying influences including race, skin colour, place of birth, religious belief and so on and all of the various herds see their own as superior. Racism is a normal human trait controlled in most educated and thinking human beings who learn to tolerate others and recognise the pettiness of conflict based on differences of belief. The Hansons and Trumps of the world are simply unthinking people. Sadly some who are educated and can think like the Howards of the world are cunning enough to play on the biases of others to their own advantage. They are probably more dangerous than the ignorant ones! It does become very difficult, however, when we add religious fanaticism to the equation since that type of belief is probably the most dangerous and racist of all in that it isolates such people from their own herd in a new herd opposed even to their own. Let's hope Pauline's herd continues to self-implode.

john frawley | 06 April 2017  

Based on past performance, One Nation is a meretricious phenomenon. They flubbed an opportunity to show their stuff as an 11-seat party in the Queensland Parliament in the 1990s. But at least one of the issues they profess to represent is real. Not because Hanson says so, or Trump, but because Ayaan Hirsi Ali says so. The writer of this article should debate the real message-bearer, not some straw-haired woman or man.

Roy Chen Yee | 06 April 2017  

Thank you 'allegedly moderate deceptive Muslim contributor'. from a 'Eureka Street-reading social justice warrior'! (And never underestimate the political value of Vegemite! Becomes Dynamite, in the Right (sic) hands)

Richard | 08 April 2017  

'The writer of this article' is actually reviewing David Marr's recent Quarterly Essay about One Nation and its (dear) leader, Roy. But if issues are 'real... because Ayaan Hirsi Ali says so', Roy, then, rather than cherry-pick her comments, you might like to debate what she says about religion generally. See, for example, what she has to say about 'the kind of Christians who picket abortion clinics', or about religions 'where you are required to submit your will completely and conform to what is in [their Holy Book]', or about '[r]eligious groups... telling you what you can and can't do' at < https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/may/08/ayaan-hirsi-ali-interview >

Ginger Meggs | 08 April 2017  

Irfan, your review of David Marr's Quarterly Essay on Pauline Hanson makes some very important points. I think that when we are being deluged with the politics of hate, homophobia, Islamophobia, racism etc as promoted by Pauline Hanson, Tony Abbott, John Howard and their ilk, it behoves people of tolerance and goodwill, whether they are religious or not, to work together to resist the hate and work towards building a more accepting, fairer, caring and humanitarian multicultural society. One of the important positives in David Marr's essay is that it shows most Australians are in favour of multiculturalism.

Andrew (Andy) Alcock | 09 April 2017  

Forget all the intricate analysis - One Nation voters are simply fed up with being held to ransom by the two major parties with no policy integrity and no vision. I've been known to vote for equally loony left wing fringe parties out of sheer desperation while standing bleary-eyed in the polling booth.

AURELIUS | 10 April 2017  

Like Aurelius, I'm not persuaded that all the One Nation voters are unthinking racists. And while some may be mourning the passing of 'civilisation as they knew it' (should we ever have expected immigration NOT to change the culture?) the majority, I think, are just frustrated with the inability of either of the major parties to offer a strategic vision, a set of just policies based on egalitarian values, and a credible narrative to carry us forward through troubled times. One Nation may very well implode but the vacuum it fills will not go away until our major parties get real.

Ginger Meggs | 10 April 2017  

Ginger Meggs: "....rather than cherry-pick her comments, you might like to debate what she says about religion generally." As with this extract from the article: “In the new book, Hirsi Ali proposes an "enlightenment project" in which "critical thinking" be introduced to her former faith through various mediums, one of which, she suggests, is the Christian church. "That's probably going to be the most controversial," she says, smiling”? What’s there to debate? It sounds like a good idea.

Roy Chen Yee | 11 April 2017  

David Marr is probably the most knowledgeable and insightful political commentator in Australia today bar none and he understands the Hanson phenomenon very well. 'Islam' - as understood by Hanson - is her current day catch phrase/call to arms where it once was 'Asian immigration'. This nativist trend is not seen only in Australia but everywhere in the developed world. I was interested to see on TV that one of the people handing out pamphlets for Marine Le Pen was a man of North African origin. He was obviously not a recent immigrant and felt fully integrated. Some of his coreligionists probably see themselves as more 'Muslim' than 'French'. That is a problem many Australians perceive about many Australian Muslims, whether locally born or not. Yasmin Abdel Magied's recent withdrawn Twitter post has not helped her coreligionists although it was nothing about Islam per se. This is not a 'religious' issue but a political one and should be seen as such. We do not need a debate on Islam but to see what Hanson stands for. She does not represent the majority of Australians but she and her party certainly represent what many white working class Australians think.

Edward Fido | 14 May 2017  

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