Saturday, November 3, 2018

Karl du Fresne: The Canberra elite's visceral loathing for Pauline Hanson

I first wrote about Pauline Hanson in 1997. She was then a newly elected Australian MP whom the liberal media – indeed most of the Australian political establishment – openly despised.

Hanson had been selected as a Liberal Party candidate in the 1996 elections but was dis-endorsed because the party was embarrassed by her opposition to special government assistance for Aborigines. She won the Queensland seat of Oxley anyway, despite it being an Australian Labor Party stronghold, and went on to form the One Nation Party.

Journalists and commentators made much of the fact that she had previously owned a fish and chip shop. She was seen as bigoted and uneducated and therefore not worthy of a seat in the Australian parliament. It didn’t seem to occur to her detractors that the bigoted and ignorant, in a democracy, are as entitled to representation as anyone.

Hanson wasn’t helped by the fact that she came from a state that many liberal Australians considered racist and socially backward.  All this made her the target for a lot of mockery and thinly disguised intellectual snobbery. When a TV interviewer asked her whether she was xenophobic, it was clear Hanson didn’t know what the word meant. The howls of derision could be heard from Brunswick to Balmain.

Her conservative stance on Asian immigration and Aboriginal rights made her even more of a pariah. At One Nation meetings, she and her supporters were abused and pelted with missiles. Ironically they were branded as Nazis, a label that could more accurately have been applied to the people trying to silence her.

I pointed out in my 1997 column that while the media and the political establishment were busy pouring scorn on Hanson, she was steadily building voter support. In the 1998 Queensland state elections, One Nation won 23 per cent of the vote.

Notwithstanding all the derision heaped on her, Hanson shrewdly exploited her “outsider” status. There remained a significant body of old, conservative Australia – some would say redneck Australia – that liked what she was saying.

More than 20 years on, a lot has changed. A flawed human being who arouses intense feelings from friends and foes alike, Hanson has been through some turbulent times.

A gang-up by the major parties ensured she lost her parliamentary seat in 1998, despite winning the biggest share of the vote. She was later expelled from the party she founded and was imprisoned for electoral fraud, although her conviction was quashed on appeal.

Subsequent attempts to revive her political career were dogged by conflict and controversy, but in 2013 she was reconciled with One Nation and by 2016 she was back in Canberra as a senator for her home state. 

One thing that hasn’t changed in all that time is the Australian media’s visceral loathing for her. While Hanson remained in the political wilderness she could be treated with lofty disdain. But with her return to the corridors of power, elements of the media seem to be back in “Get Hanson” mode.

Evidence of this is a recent book called Hoodwinked: How Pauline Hanson Fooled a Nation, by Canberra press gallery doyenne Kerry-Anne Walsh.

If that name rings a bell with some readers, it’s probably because Walsh is a regular Friday morning commentator on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report. But judging by reviews of her new book, Walsh – who previously wrote an overwrought and highly partisan account of how former Australian Labor prime minister Julia Gillard was supposedly shafted – has done nothing to erase doubts about her ability to comment impartially on Australian politics. 

One review on a left-wing website carrying the imprimatur of the Catholic Jesuit order applauds Walsh for “dismembering” Hanson. The same review, incidentally, continues the relentless disparagement of Hanson’s background as a fish and chip shop proprietor, as if that negates any right she might otherwise have to be taken seriously.

A less admiring review in the Spectator Australia by maverick former ALP leader Mark Latham, who is something of an outsider himself, describes Walsh’s book as 300 pages of non-stop abuse.

Latham says Walsh’s first sentence sets the tone, describing Hanson as looking like “she’d been slapped with something wet and smelly from the old days, when she ran a fish and chippery”.

Ah, there it is again: the fish and chip shop. The Canberra commentariat won’t let anyone forget it. It’s a striking example of how contemptuous some of the media elite have become toward ordinary people.

From what I’ve read of her, I don’t think I like Hanson, but I like media gang-ups even less.

A tough but dispassionate journalistic assessment of Hanson would be entirely legitimate, but Walsh’s book sounds more like a toxic rant. One otherwise sympathetic reviewer described it as “depthless, open loathing”. Not much has changed in 21 years, then.

Karl du Fresne, a freelance journalist, is the former editor of the Dominion-Post. He blogs at


Brian said...

A good accurate assessment of Pauline Hanson by Karl; although the toxic verbal assassination of Hanson raises a thought that the Left mob really do fear her.
For labour to indulge in the rhetoric of Hanson being the “Fish and Chip” political ignoramus, really shows a turnaround from their socialist creed and stance against snobbery and class warfare!
The one political problem Pauline Hanson has got right is on the uncontrolled refugee immigration that both Australia and N.Z. politicians have succumbed too. Due mainly to the United Nations pressurised humanitarian blackmail brought upon our feeble and ambitious politicians!
Pauline Hansen as she has stated many times, she is NOT against immigration; but that it must be controlled, selective and that those immigrants are not a burden upon the rest of the community.
At the same time the influx of immigrants should not place infrastructure under more inflationary pressures.
A factor that has escaped our naive parties in both countries; and must be especially galling when coming from a “Fish and Chip” Realist!
Or perhaps their defence is to revert to the present use of that overused word of Racist.

Anonymous said...

The media lefties can revile her as much as they wish - ad hominem attacks being their cowardly and ineffective stock tactic when their dogma is contradicted and they have no logical argument. I admire Pauline for her courage and the way she has grown since entering politics. From the outset she has expressed the 100% sensible view that immigration needs to be rigidly controlled. Also that immigrants enter Australia on Australia's terms and are expected to assimilate. Why else would they come? They presumably seek to escape to a better place. Why is it a better place? Because it supports Western values and mores. So why on earth do some wish to bring the very same system which has produced hell on earth in their native land from which they seek to escape?

Go for it Pauline - do not allow Australia to go the way of Europe!

Aunty Podes, NZ.

bruce Somerville said...

It is very appropriate that your first commentator ( Brian ) mentioned the word infrastructure in relation to the issue of immigration.. Countries can/ could be classified as "functional" and "dis-functional", depending on the quality of their infrastructure. Western societies such as the USA, Canada, Australia, most European countries -- can be regarded as having high quality infrastructure -- and poorer countries as having low quality infrastructure. It is human nature for people in poorer countries to try and improve their quality of life by migrating to richer countries if they can. If they can successfully do so, they will enjoy the benefits of the higher quality infrastructure. It must be emphasised, however that they have not paid for those benefits. They were paid for by the existing inhabitants of the richer country and their forefathers. The entitlement to the benefits of the better quality infrastructure is a privilege granted to immigrants that they need to respect as such.
The question also arises as to how dis-functional countries will become more functional if the more capable and productive people in those countries are continually migrating to the richer countries? The better goal would be to put resources into improving the functionality / improving the infrastructure of the poorer countries. What is infrastructure? It is not just Roads and water supply ect but intellectual systems as well.
the rule of law, separation of church from state, property rights and so on. Billionaires like George Soros should be spending their money on bringing up the quality of infrastructure in poorer countries instead of diminishing the functionality of western countries by aiding and abetting mass immigration of uneducated and culturally incompatible people.