WHENEVER Pauline Hanson runs for elections, there is but one reason – the woman has run out of money. She made much of the fact that she was leaving Australia and moving to England last year but is back again like a bad penny to contest a seat in the New South Wales election that is scheduled to be held on March 26.
Hanson is the type of phenomenon one sees in countries like Australia and the US; countries which are built on immigration but where a certain percentage of the white people have unreasonable fears about being swamped by the tide of migrants. (Her story is told well here.)
The first time Hanson stood for election, she was accepted on the Liberal party’s ticket in 1996 for the seat of Oxley in Ipswich, Queensland. She had been a local councillor from 1994 till 1995 before that but lost her seat.
Shortly before the 1996 election, Hanson made some comments to a newspaper about the abolition of special government assistance to Aborigines; she was disendorsed by the Liberals but won anyway. Her first speech to parliament in September that year made headlines – she complained about Australia being swamped by Asians and raved against the benefits given to Aborigines.
The prime minister of the time, John Howard, made no statement to indicate that he disapproved of what she was saying; this came as no surprise, as he is also known to quietly harbour similar feelings.
Hanson has stood for election numerous times and often succeeded in getting the necessary percentage of votes to obtain funding from the taxpayer. She faced bankruptcy in 1999 after being sued.
She has a following among sometimes unusual circles – when I came to Australia in 1997, I was surprised to note that a senior Salvation Army official was a fan of hers. I had gone over to the Salvation Army office in Melbourne’s Bourke Street to borrow some furniture for use in the little house in which I was staying.
The man, one Captain Stevens, took my details and then advised me to listen to Hanson’s message as he said she was a very sensible woman. His attitude made me sick – that of a Westerner who thinks every brown man is an idiot and knows nothing. A little over a year before that I had been sorting copy at the paper I worked for in Dubai and, after reading the Reuters account of her maiden speech, wondering out of what kind of hole this woman had crept.
But Hanson still enjoys support among many classes of people in Australia. It is amazing than an uneducated person, who believes that every migrant who comes here is potentially taking away a job from a white Australian, can hold such sway. But then Sarah Palin has proved that it can be done, provided that one plays the them-and-us card. The two are birds of a feather.