Michelle Grattan makes the case that the WA preference deal, (putting One Nation ahead of the Nationals in the upper house regional seats in return for One Nation preferencing against Labor in the lower house, which they probably would have done any way), has ‘normalised’ Pauline Hanson in the Liberal firmament.
The question now is whether One Nation has matured, whether the Liberal Party has moved towards them politically, and whether ON is actually working in the interests of the battlers Pauline Hanson claims to represent.
Before the election Turnbull was asked whether he’d agree Pauline Hanson was a “known quantity in Australian politics” and “can you rule out negotiating or horse-trading with her”.
- “Pauline Hanson is, as far as we are concerned, not a welcome presence on the Australian political scene. You’ve got to remember she was chucked out of the Liberal Party,” he said.
Grattan says after the election:
- As soon as Hanson arrived in parliament with her Senate team Turnbull changed his tune. They had talks. Hanson was chuffed. When Turnbull was recently asked about the mooted WA preference deal he dodged the questioning but did note that federally: “We respect every single member and senator”.
Senator Arthur Sinodinos told the ABC’s Insiders program:
- “They are a lot more sophisticated; they have clearly resonated with a lot of people. Our job is to treat them as any other party.
“That doesn’t mean we have to agree with their policies. When it comes to preferencing, we have to make decisions – in this case a state decision, not a federal decision – based on the local circumstances.”
John Quiggin sees One Nation in terms of the advance of Trumpism in Australia.
One Nation, Palmer United Party, the Nationals are all Trumpist, but gradually the Liberal Party also has become Trumpist. The soft liberals have been driven to extinction over the last couple of decades until the Trumpists dominate. Specifically they dominate Turnbull:
- …Malcolm Turnbull, a wealthy businessman smooth neoliberal … was widely seen as reviving of the soft liberalism of the past on social questions. As it has turned out, however, Turnbull has acted as a puppet for the Trumpists who dominate the party, abandoning everything he was supposed to stand for in a desperate attempt to cling to power.
Quiggin says the good news is that they haven’t actually done very much. Not so sure about that. They’ve done some damage in climate change and other areas.
Murray Watt, a Labor senator from Queensland, believes that Hanson is a fraud.
For months, he says, she’s been running around Queensland, telling us she’s the only politician standing up for battlers.
- But this week, Senator Hanson showed she’s the worst kind of politician. The kind who tells battlers one thing at home and then sells them out down in Canberra.
- First, Senator Hanson voted with the LNP to stop building companies, their workers and unions from restricting the use of overseas temporary workers.
Let’s be clear. Senator Hanson could have voted with Labor to stop this change going through. But by backing Malcolm Turnbull’s LNP, building companies will now be free to retrench local workers, before overseas ones. So much for Aussies first.
- Senator Hanson also flagged that she’ll vote for huge LNP cuts to pensions, family payments, and unemployed people in their 20s.
How is any of this helping the battlers she says she stands for, he asks.
- Finally, she did something too extreme even for her LNP Coalition partners, voting against legislation to increase jail time for illegal gun traffickers. That’s right, Senator Hanson sided with bikies and other gun runners, over families wanting safe streets.
That one escaped me, but Peter van Onselen says that the Liberal Party is in a battle for its soul. (Paywalled, try Googling ‘Peter van Onselen Away from the cut and thrust of the daily partisan political combat, the Liberal Party is in a fight for its soul.’
He says that Menzies chose the name ‘Liberal’ because he wanted the party to be progressive. However, the party could accommodate Burkean conservatives, but not reactionaries. He gives this explanation of the difference:
- The definition of a reactionary is someone who opposes political and social reforms. A conservative holds traditional values but, more importantly, supports change only via well-thought-through deliberation and consideration. In other words, they don’t react to progressive thinking by immediately pulling up the drawbridge on reform. They want to ensure, before change is embarked on, that unintended consequences have been adequately thought through.
This traditional brand of conservatism fits neatly with liberalism. The evolved reactionary version does not.
Van Onselen says that Menzies wanted to keep true conservatives inside the tent. However:
The things that unite progressives and today’s conservatives, however, are becoming less pronounced than what divides them. This is why One Nation is rising, Cory Bernardi has broken away to form his own conservative party, and internally what’s left of the Liberals is a divided mess.
If One Nation hold together it may become to the Liberals what the Greens are to Labor, he says.
- The mainstreaming of One Nation is the big political story of 2017. It is also the biggest challenge to right-of-centre parties in decades.
I rather think it won’t survive Pauline herself, who won’t be there forever. And I’d be surprised if she can hold a party with so many single-minded people together.
Meanwhile, in Queensland polls show ON with 23% of the vote, drawing equally from Labor and the LNP. Graham Young this morning says at an election that degree of support would carve five seats off the LNP and six off Labor. LNP leader Tim Nicholls has said the LNP won’t go into coalition with ON and preferencing will be done on a seat by seat basis. I can’t see them putting Labor ahead of One Nation anywhere.
Their aim is to seize the balance of power, from which position they can call the shots. In the short to medium term there is a fair chance they’ll achieve it.