There has been widespread shock at the news that Pauline Hanson has won a Senate seat in Queensland. Her racist One Nation party could take up to three seats in the upper house, including in NSW.
One Nation has fed off the racism stirred up by Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, as they talked of the need for “border security”, presenting refugees as a threat to jobs and services, and whipped up Islamophobia by spreading fear about terrorism.
Following the Orlando attack, Hanson issued a revolting video where she demanded “no more Muslims in Australia”. She wants to ban Muslim immigration and new mosques and has called for a Royal Commission into Islam.
But she also appealed to the disenchantment with the major parties and people’s contempt for politicians. She attracted many of the same people who voted for Clive Palmer in the Senate at the last election.
The party won 4.1 per cent in the Senate nationwide and 9.1 per cent in Queensland. There were big votes for Hanson in Queensland in areas hard hit by job losses from the downturn in the mining industry. In Capricornia, which covers the Bowen Basin coal mines as well as Rockhampton and Mackay, One Nation polled 15.7 per cent. In Flynn, which includes Gladstone but also a number of mining areas, One Nation polled 16.8 per cent in the lower house.
Many of these are also people that could be won over by the left on the basis of opposition to the political system that targeted the real enemy—capitalism and the rich.
After her election in 1996, Hanson set out to build a racist party with a national speaking tour and an effort to launch branches across the country. But One Nation membership collapsed under the pressure of continual demonstrations at her meetings and a campaign to brand the party as racist.
So far there is no indication that their vote reflects any growth in One Nation membership, with reports from across Queensland that despite standing in 12 lower house seats they were unable to staff most polling booths. But we need to keep close watch.
The combination of a grouping of One Nation members and fellow Islamophobe Jacqui Lambie in the Senate will give bigotry a dangerous boost. But the main reason for the growth in Islamophobia is the fearmongering coming from Turnbull and the political mainstream. We have to fight both of these sources of racism together.
By James Supple