Last time around they managed to put her in gaol. Now they are rolling out the red carpet. Pauline Hanson and her strategists must be shouting from the rooftops and doing back flips. They could never have expected such kid glove treatment from their mortal enemies.
In a radical new departure from days gone by, it is clear that the Liberal Party is now snuggling up to One Nation for nothing other than short term political advantage. (No, surely not?!)
‘One Nation is a lot more sophisticated than it was twenty years ago’ is one of the new lines proffered by Liberal strategists and senior ministers. And ‘just because we are preferencing them doesn’t mean we agree with everything they say’. Brilliant!
That’s precisely what mainstream voters will think when they decide to vote first One Nation, before they get around to even thinking about their second preference. ‘You don’t need to agree with everything she says’.
This is all that Hansen needed to finally arrive at full legitimacy in the Australian political milieu.
By this desperate act, the Liberal Party is legitimising and giving permission to its supporters to go and vote for Hanson.
Preferencing One Nation ahead of its coalition partners in Western Australia, and sending out senior ministers to tell the public that One Nation is more palatable than it was twenty years ago, is a strategic error and a huge cop out. Done behind the National’s back, it is the surest way to entrench One Nation as a serious third force in Australia politics. And it’s all on a false pretext: that One Nation has changed.
Admittedly, there is one thing that has definitely changed from twenty years ago, but it is not One Nation. It is the abject inability of the major parties to connect with mainstream Australia.
Since 2007, the two major parties have been more concerned with themselves than the national interest – and the public know it.
One Nation’s surge has been made possible by the failure of so called mainstream politicians on both sides to connect with middle Australia, particularly in the regions and outer suburbs. Sure, this has been happening throughout Western democracies, as mainstream parties professionalise, factionalise, and feast on themselves. But in Australia, we are yet to receive the full brunt of it. However, we don’t need to speculate about this any more. It’s coming.
One Nation is now filling a vacuum that is getting bigger by the day. Cosying up to One Nation is an admission that the coalition can not occupy this space. It is a sign that they do not think they can win those voters back.
Yet look at One Nation’s policies. They are on many levels lunacy and madness.
They include zero net immigration (in a country that has prospered only because of immigration); increasing the age pension and increasing its availability (when the welfare tab is killing us); a discriminatory immigration policy (as opposed to mere vetting); establishment of a government bank (what a great idea!); restoring tariff protection (in a country that has prospered for two centuries on free trade); a two per cent tax policy (which would collapse the economy); replacing the Family Court with community based tribunals (unconstitutional); discouraging foreign students (one of our largest and fastest growing export industries); establishment of a ‘Patriotic Broadcasting Company’ (let’s just reform or close down the ABC); banning the burqa (we don’t ban things, we fix the underlying problems). These are just a sample, but they are anathema to almost everyone in the broad church of the Liberal Party.
Yes, Pauline has changed. She’s less screechy, and she’s less preachy. The people think she’s honest. But her policies are still crazy.
You don’t need to ban the burqa to have an honest conversation with Australians about immigration and integration; you don’t need to ban the burqa to explain to Australians the extraordinary pressures now being placed on governments to support entire generations throughout life on welfare; you don’t need to ban the burqa to change the rules which permit politicians to take their families on holidays at taxpayers’ expense; you don’t need to ban the burqa to be upfront about the cost of renewable energy policies, including your own. You don’t need to ban the burqa to stop the spin, speak the truth and eyeball the Australian public.
Put simply, normalising One Nation is the dumbest strategic error to have been made in recent Liberal history. Dumber than knighting Prince Phillip, dumber than abandoning reform of 18C, dumber than changing leaders, dumber even than running an election campaign under a new banner. It can only lead to an acceleration of the splintering of the conservative side, alienate the Nationals and bring about the wholesale disintegration of the Liberal Party as it has hitherto been known.
Well done to the geniuses who came up with this strategy. You just sacrificed the long term political health of the nation in exchange for short term political gain.
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator Australia for less – just $20 for 10 issues