Senator Pauline Hanson’s decision to wear a burqa in the Senate Chamber was, unquestionably, a cheap, disrespectful, publicity stunt, which she knew would have the desired effect. She wanted to set people talking – which is what we are doing –and to grab another headline. Following her insensitive display, she made it onto every news service in the country, and many around the world. Minutes after she removed the burqa, she scuttled from the Senate to take part in a pre-arranged radio interview to brag about her childish prank. Senator Hanson loves being a celebrity. She never forgoes an opportunity to talk with the media – except the ABC – and that in itself garners her publicity. She is a calculating politician who will do anything to make her point – however odious it might be. I am astounded by the reaction she engenders from readers of this newspaper. My last piece about her had more feedback than almost anything I have written over the eight-years. One particular reader proved so strident, I was forced to order him to stop contacting me. His ramblings were irrational and deeply disturbing. It would seem, judging by the international response to her policies, her particular brand of publicity-seeking, burqa-wearing, ultra-right populism is the ‘new normal’, which is , by any standard, disquieting.
Stephen A. Russell wrote an especially interesting piece for the New Daily online website. He commented: The ‘new normal’ was the frightening realisation of award-winning filmmaker, and ‘Please Explain: The Rise, Fall and Rise Again of Pauline Hanson’ author, Anna Broinowski, when she started following the One Nation figurehead in 2015 for SBS documentary ‘Hanson: Please Explain!’
Assuming she was doomed to fail again, it soon became clear the once-imprisoned politician was back with a vengeance: “She’s our version of Donald Trump, and we need to know what she’s all about; who she’s appealing to; and why.’’ Broinowski says: “This book is my attempt at some detailed analysis of how Hanson’s trajectory mirrors Australia’s own – a long, slow, inevitable slide to the right.” Peeling-back the conflicting and often chaotic layers of the redheaded Queenslander’s appeal, Broinowski notes: “Not since the true believers handed Gough Whitlam their unconditional loyalty on a platter, have I seen an Australian politician display such visceral, godlike appeal. You had to be there.” Broinowski recalls: “People were coming up to her with battered T-shirts she signed in ‘96 with tears in their eyes, saying they drove seven hours to meet her. Men were looking like they were about to fall on their knees and propose marriage. These are the forgotten people of regional and rural Australia who genuinely see her as some sort of antipodean Joan of Arc.” Both parties have only themselves to blame for Hanson’s resurrection. For too long, city-centric politicians have overlooked the needs, and ignored the pleading, of regional Australia. Claiming federal success once more was just the start for Hanson. While checking One Nation’s incendiary Facebook page which connects them direct to their followers, Hanson’s right-hand-man, James Ashby, made it clear to Broinowski –‘they’re gunning for the upcoming Queensland elections’. “It’s the seat of her most stunning victory in 1998,” Broinowski notes.
Hanson raised four kids single-handedly after leaving two abusive partners, but has been an outspoken critic of welfare support and women’s rights: “That’s the conundrum of the woman,” Broinowski says. “She’s self-made, and proud of it. If you’re from the school of hard-knocks, you see that left-wing, middleclass compassion, which talks about society looking after everyone, as indulgent.” This is the biggest lie Hanson and former PM John Howard sold Australia, Broinowski argues: “The elite are not the intellectuals and the artists and the left-wing ideologues, they are not people working in media. They are business. It’s so disingenuous, and disempowering.”
Nor is Hanson the unpolished politician she claims to be, she claims: “She’s still positioning herself as this unmediated raw voice, but I actually think that is a carefully constructed façade now, because no matter what she says, she is definitely a seasoned operator. She’s sort of playing herself.” With Hanson’s ire shifted from Asian immigrants to Islam, the One Nation leader refused Ms Broinowski’s requests to meet moderate Muslim Australians: “She knew that if she changed her stance she’d lose her influence,” Ms Broinowski said: “She would rather thrive on anxiety and worry. That’s what drives her: this deep fear that we’re losing this mirage of the 1950s Australia of her childhood she still holds dear. There’s no way anything’s going to get in the way of that.”
‘Please Explain: The Rise, Fall and Rise Again of Pauline Hanson’ was released on August 28, and published by Penguin Australia.
Roland can be heard each MONDAY morning on 3BA at 10.30.