By Phil Craig:
Pauline Hanson is well known for utilising the politics of fear to gain the support of Australian voters.
In the 1990s, her attacks on Australia’s first nations and Asian communities was unrelenting. Her comments about Asians led to the conservative PM John Howard demanding she quit the Liberal Party because he was worried about the impact on trade with Asia.
In Hanson’s first speech to the House of Representatives in 1996 she said: “I won the seat of Oxley largely on an issue that has resulted in me being called a racist. That issue related to my comment that Aboriginals received more benefits than non-Aboriginals.”
Hanson then asserted that Australia was in danger of being “swamped by Asians”, and that these immigrants “have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate”.
Hanson said that “mainstream Australians” were instead subject to “a type of reverse racism … by those who promote political correctness and those who control the various taxpayer funded ‘industries’ that flourish in our society servicing Aboriginals, multiculturalists and a host of other minority groups”.
This theme continued with the assertion that “present governments are encouraging separatism in Australia by providing opportunities, land, moneys and facilities available only to Aboriginals”.
Among a series of criticisms of Aboriginal land rights, access to welfare and reconciliation, Hanson criticised the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), saying: “Anyone with a criminal record can, and does, hold a position with ATSIC”.
And yeah, Hanson still denies that she is a racist.
In 2016, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (PHON) party won four Senate positions, including Malcolm Roberts who believes that NASA manipulates the scientific data on climate change as the world, apparently, is not warming. He says there is no “empirical evidence” to show that carbon dioxide even affects the climate.
The resurgence of PHON is being supported by the small far-right groups, such as Reclaim Australia and the United Patriots Front, and the Party of Freedom whose goons recently stormed a Sunday Service of the Gosford Uniting Church dressed up as Muslim stereotypes.
But around half a million others voted for PHON, largely because of its right-wing popularism: it attacks the major parties for being out of touch but doesn’t criticise their economic and social policies which have led to job cuts, precarious employment and a lack of services.
Instead, minority groups are being blamed.
The major parties are responsible for setting the political framework for racism and xenophobia. The bipartisan anti-refugee policy and the bi-partisan “war on terror” policy which allowed for the deployment of troops to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have helped develop a racist, right-wing populist support base.
Some of PHON’s reactionary policies are:
Surveillance cameras for mosques (but not in Christian churches).
A Royal Commission into the corruption of climate change science (but not into the billions the dirty fossil fuel companies receive from our tax dollar).
Stop Muslim immigration and the intake of Muslim refugees (discrimination based on religion).
No marriage equality (because apparently it could lead to child marriage).
Abolish multiculturalism and the Racial Discrimination Act (opening the floodgates even more to hate speech and discrimination).
Ban Halal certification (halting exports to several countries and costing billions)
Ban the Burqa and Niqab in public places (similar to the divisive policies adopted in France and Belgium and which leads to pressuring women to stay at home).
How are we going to respond? It’s useful to look back about 20 years and see that Hanson has been subject to a great deal of resistance from those, particularly high school students in the late 1990s, who rejected her divisive racism.
We have to step up that organising again, in particular in support for refugees and asylum seekers, Muslim women and First Nations peoples, all of whom need allies in their struggles for freedom and against discrimination. Hanson’s divisive policies are doing anything but creating a ‘one nation’ that is inclusive of all Australians.
Phil Craig is a member of Resistance Young Socialist Alliance at WSU. Get in touch with him here …