Pauline Hanson now normalised in the Liberal firmament

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.

13 thoughts on “Pauline Hanson now normalised in the Liberal firmament”

  1. We’ve had a helluva day, and it’s not over yet. A minor matter was an internet outage when I tried to finish this post.

    There’s more to say, obviously, about what is behind what’s happening to the right of the Liberal Party. Quiggin concept of ‘Trumpism’ is not defined and I’m not altogether convinced he’s characterised it appropriately.

    Some of the natural Labor voters who are turning to ON are voting against their own interest. ON is largely a rural and regional phenomenon, and in those parts people tend to be anti-union, and down on ‘welfare bludgers’ in my experience, which, as always, could be wrong.

  2. John, I guess he was writing to the international audience, who wanted to know whether Trumpism exists in Oz, so he went out and found some.

  3. Yes John, a very lazy label.

    We have had populists in Aust politics, forever…….

    One Nation
    Bob Katter junior
    Senator Xenophon
    Senator Hinch
    Senator Lambie
    One Nation (reprise)
    Premier Joh B-P

    Mark Latham – we missed a bullet there, I think

    Premier Jeff Kennett
    Premier Brian Burke

    Dr Cairns in Moratorium days – later came to be Treasurer, with no overall plan for the economy; nicknamed “Dr Yes” because of his soft spot for lobbyists

    DLP Senators

    Premier Bolt

    Premier Askin

    Premier Lang

    That’ll do for a start. I don’t mean “popular”, I mean making appeals to voters through simplistic and sloganising rhetoric, without much analytical or policy basis for announcements. I don’t want a technocracy, but using specialist knowledge where it can assist seems a fine idea.

    Also, I don’t accept that all populists must be reactionaries or conservatives.

    And I think every age and every country (and State) has its own circumstances and shades. So there will never be another Hitler, Peron, Senator McCarthy or Mao.


  4. Ambiguous: Fortunately for Australia we had Gough the populist who achieved an amazing number of things that we now take for granted.
    So you are right, they are not all bad.
    But then again, some of them have been/are seriously bad.

  5. Hmmmmmm
    I was thinking of including St Gough. 🙂

    But recalling his grand plans for sewering cities, funding schools, funding universities, reforming medical insurance, granting aboriginal land rights, abolishing conscription etc, I think he doesn’t qualify, overall, as an Aussie populist. The plans were well thought out and based on extensive consultations beforehand with experts outside the public service, as I recall.

    There was a “populist” gesture though. Gough, Rex and Lionel met – without the Treasurer, initially – and cooked up a petro-dollar loan, to “buy back the farm” and invest in gas pipelines etc. Reckless and grandiose.

    Not sure if that fully qualifies, as it was hatched and carried forward in secrecy. No appeal to the public for support; avoidance of Public Service advice, by then mistrusted by the inner circle of Ministers. Terrible public reaction led to a huge loss in the Bass by-election caused by the departure of the former Deputy PM. Beginning of the end, St Gough.

    Here’s one for you, Jumpy.
    Spell checker wanted to change “sewering cities” to
    “skewering cities”

  6. Thanks Ambi. My spellchecker fixes ” populist ” to ” vote buying debt addict “, there’s plenty in almost every party in every Country.

  7. Ambiguous: My recollection was that Labor lost Tasmania because Gough slashed protection for the Tasmanian textile industry. An early victim of free market theology.

  8. You’re right, John.
    That reduction of tariffs also hit the clothing, footwear and textiles factories and workshops in Fitzroy, Brunswick, etc in Melbourne. Bastions of ALP support before St Gough was elected PM.

    Big effects all over the nation, of course.

  9. Abbott’s outburst this week seems to me to be partly about encouraging the LNP to fight for the right wing space that ON and the Conservative party are moving into and Barnett and Nichols seem to be saying is not all that horrible.
    Problem is that this leap to the right may put off other, more liberal LNP voters to the point where they will start voting Greens and Labor.

  10. John, Margot Kingston went through the historical record of preferencing ON the first time around with Phillip Adams on Late Night Live. In the Qld election in 1998 where ON won 11 seats, the Liberals had preferenced ON ahead of Labor. Probably the Nats too, who were a separate party then.

    ON won their seats off both sides in the regions, but the city Libs were so pissed off that enough seats changed to Labor to allow Peter Beattie to form government with the help of Peter Wellington.

    Kingston says that ON policies basically have not changed. They haven’t matured, they are just more media savvy, and the media is actually boosting them, they way it did Trump in the US.

    Colin Barnett, she says, is so desperate to cling to power that he has done deal that will ensure, if he is elected, that his policies won’t pass the upper house, because ON doesn’t agree with them.

    The party that is in mortal danger from ON is the Nats, she says.

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