Flat White

One Nation, many leaders, few (cogent) ideas

22 November 2016

7:25 AM

22 November 2016

7:25 AM

Controversial former Australian politiciOf all the political imperatives missing in Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party, loyalty, unity and personality rate among the highest.

Logic is also in short supply.

Ambition in Clinton-like measures is a different matter, not to mention opportunism.

Hanson’s tortured logic has broad appeal in the ten minute before closing crowd at any Australian pub, though it really fails the pub test.

Hanson’s broad appeal is not driven by the logic of her arguments but rather the worldwide phenomenon of disillusionment with mainstream political elites.

Her skill, if it is indeed a skill, is not to articulate solutions but rather to highlight frustration and perceived exclusion, spiced with a little racism and envy.

Disaffected voters are desperate for an inclusive solution to their woes and are being seduced by Hanson’s simplistic rhetoric.

This phenomenon manifested in Brexit, in the US presidential race and again in Hanson’s Lazarus-like rise in the Australian elections.

While polls have recently proved elusively inaccurate, it seems Australians at least emboldened by Trump’s triumph are now happy to indicate they are attracted to Hanson’s style of populist disaffection politics.

It is also a magnet to individual political opportunism — as the unending tragi-comedic epic saga that is Rod Culleton shows.

In her previous incarnation, Ms Please Explain was suddenly surrounded by some of the more colourful characters ever seen in Australian politics.

Sensing opportunity, political limpets John Pasquarelli, David Oldfield and David Ettridge, quickly attached themselves to the Hanson ship.

It did not have a happy ending.

One Nation co-founder Ettridge was like Hanson convicted of electoral fraud and gaoled, though both convictions were later squashed.

If there is anything a One Nation supporter loves more than life itself it is a good conspiracy theory and there was no shortage of those as to why the pair was targeted.

Pasquarelli’s pedigree included being a pre-Independence kiap (patrol officer) in Papua New Guinea, crocodile hunter and businessman and an inaugural member of the colonial PNG House of Assembly.

He was credited with writing Hanson’s original maiden speech to the Australian parliament but was booted early on as David Oldfield’s star rose.

Oldfield emerged from New South Wales local government via the office of then-parliamentary secretary Tony Abbott’s office, where he did much of the work to establish One Nation before hopping on the bandwagon as Hanson’s principal advisor along with Ettridge.

Having been elected to represent One Nation in the NSW upper house, Oldfield then fell out with Hanson and Ettridge.

Oldfield was expelled, establishing his own One Nation NSW until it too withered in 2004.

There is a common pattern of independent ambition and collective disputation that characterises One Nation’s internal machinations which is rapidly re-emerging as its supporters sense a whiff of political opportunity.

The One Nation 1998 Queensland landslide witnessed a motley collection of individuals elected whose collective motto seemed to be “Everyone wants to be fuhrer”.

None of them understood the first rule of politics, however: disunity is death.

As One Nation re-emerged from the political dung heap this year it quickly became apparent the party’s old imperatives remain.

It’s still true everyone wants to be fuhrer, so anyone can be a candidate.

Leading One Nation’s conspiracy theory faction is Senator Malcolm Roberts who has tackled CSIRO climate alarmist theories with a zeal matched only by his own leadership ambitions and his determination not to be bound by party policies or dictates.

His fellow faction member West Australian Senator Rod Culleton has demonstrated why One Nation’s pre-selection procedures are deeply flawed.

The speculation across Parliament yesterday that he feels let down by the party and may swing into Bob Katter’s orbit was reminescent of the disintegration of Palmer United.

Only NSW Senator Brian Burston has so far managed to remain below the radar.

In Pauline Hanson’s office it’s business as usual as her principal advisor James Ashby attempts to impose his authority on the party.

Serial political opportunist Ashby played a major role in destroying what little was left of former speaker Peter Slipper’s credibility and political career.

Now firmly aboard the One Nation revival, he also exhibits delusions of grandeur if not power as he attempts to impose his will on the elected senators and their staff.

In the One Nation environment, this is the political equivalent of herding cats with all the attendant frustrations.

With Culleton’s future tenuous at best, his office is in open warfare with Ashby.

Why is no one surprised?

Because we have seen it all before, it’s déjà vu all over again.

The current One Nation version is just as fragile as all the previous iterations before they inevitably imploded.

The best advice for James Ashby and all the others is people in glasshouses shouldn’t throw phones.


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