12 April 2011

Pauline Hanson: the truth

I am so relieved that Pauline Hanson did not win a seat in the NSW Legislative Council. I always knew that NSW voters were too good to elect Pauline Hanson! This success on our part, and failure on hers, can be put down to the fact that she is a carpetbagger from out-of-state and that her enablers on the ground here in NSW don't understand how the game is played.

In terms of the broader picture, what makes Hanson an electoral threat is the social dislocation that comes from a diverse Australia: non-Caucasians admitted as migrants, gays/lesbians not prosecuted or even persecuted but accepted into family and social life, fluid job roles, etc. The reforms in the Hawke-Keating era were far-reaching, various and rapid, and some sort of backlash was inevitable. Hanson draws votes from conservatives (people keen to maintain the social fabric of an Anglo-Celtic Australia) as well as Labor voters (unskilled workers displaced or redundant through changes to tariffs, technology and other factors).

The relatively slow pace of reform in the Howard years, and the non-reform in NSW government services, has meant that the sorts of social pressures that gave rise to Hanson weren't as great in NSW 2011. Hanson's main beef is immigration, which isn't a state issue anyway and aside from Muslims, the generally prosperous and unreformed economy makes for greater social cohesion and embrace of differences than was the case 10-15 years ago.

Conservatives proved more adept at funnelling Hanson's preferences back to themselves and ultimately displacing her in terms of first-preference votes. Labor could not repudiate social and economic reform, which is why they got all shrieky and righteous in opposing her. NSW Labor has tried to repudiate this to some extent by dying in a ditch over electricity privatisation, but that only made them look confused and divided and brought on Ezekiel 25:17 routines from Keating and Costa.

There are 21 seats up for election in the NSW Legislative Council. To win one of them you need about 5% of the vote across NSW. Pauline Hanson has the name recognition to be able to pull that off, and of course lazy journalists who like to write the same stories all the time will give her the sort of coverage of which other independents could only dream. She got 2.4% of the vote because of the reasons in the third paragraph above. What she should have done was knit together a series of preferences that would have lifted her above 5%.

In 1999 so many people nominated for the Legislative Council that the ballot paper was enormous, known as "the tablecloth", a real bastard to wrestle around the booth of a polling place and subdue it with a pencil stub. People won by adopting superficially appealling names like "A Better Future For Our Children" and knitting together preference deals. People like Glenn Druery and Tony Recsei have been trying for years to develop the right combinatiion of preferences that will propel them into Parliament, but the reforms to the parliamentary superannuation schemes in NSW and Federally may have dampened their ardour somewhat. Not so Hanson (first entered Federal Parliament in 1996, eight years before the cutoff and would've been eligible for the full pension after less than five years in the Legislative Council. Ah well).

In 2011 there were splits between the Christian Democrats and Family First over the same voter pool. Hanson should have approached either or both and parlayed a preference deal. So too, the Outdoor Recreation/Shooters & Fishers split is also one of big egos and little policies, and Hanson should have been onto them. If Oldfield, Eldridge, Pasquarelli or Chris Spence had been on her staff - or, if she'd had the brains to learn any damn thing at all from them or anyone else over the past dozen or so years - she'd have put in the hard yards and negotiated some deals. Good help must be hard to find, particularly when you're impossible to work with and better off out of it. She coulda picked up two and a half percent - two and a half percent - from here and there (well, not here at the Politically Homeless Institute but you know what I mean) and got herself a quota. She coulda been more than a contender.

Does she have opinions on pokies? For or against? Too late now.

She could have rejoined the Liberal Party. There are more than a few members who would have welcomed her into the fold, particularly if she did a weepy prodigal daughter thing. Creatures like David Clarke would have fallen over himself to get her a place above, say, tenth on the Legislative Council ticket. Barry O'Farrell would have had conniptions and may well have succeeded in forcing her out - which would have meant more publicity and victim status for Hanson, a win-win situation if ever there was one.

Hanson's calls to reform electoral law in NSW are a bit like those silly AFL commentators who talk about "rugby" without differentiating league and union. Queensland doesn't have a Legislative Council (if it did, she'd be in it) so it's understandable on one level that she'd be keen on a cushy job without really understanding what it involves. You'd think she would take the time to study it though, especially as 2011 is not her first run at the job and all these failures might be embarrassing to someone who took more pride in her politics.

But she didn't do any of that, because she's dumb - but not as dumb as those who voted for her. New! South! Wales! New! South! Wales! New! South! Wales! New! South! Wales! New! South! Wales! New! South! Wales! New! South! Wales! (fade)


  1. Good article Andrew, but there's a slight flaw in part of your reasoning.

    You castigate Hanson for not doing a preference deal, but ignore the fact that no party would want to do a deal with her. Preference deals are all about mutual assistance, but the only thing dealing with Hanson gets you is MSM articles castigating you for being the sort of party that would do a deal with her. It also gives a free moral high ground to any opponents in that they can say unlike their opponents they wouldn't stoop so low as to deal with her.

  2. Thank goodness it's only a slight flaw, Davem, if that.

    I don't castigate Hanson: I mock her and sneer at her. Christian Democrats and Shooters/Outdoor fish from the same pond she does, so why not get over yourself and admit it? Why is it that you and I are the only ones smart enough to read between the lines when it comes to MSM, Davem, while everyone else believes every word they read/hear?

    Hanson couldn't get over herself and she hasn't learned anything about politics. If there's a "slight flaw", Davem, it's with her.

  3. Hanson's base isn't necesasrily CDP/Shooters, it's also disgruntled Labor voters - she got elected on blue-colllar Ipswich voters, and her best vote in NSW came from Blacktown. Given that she only picked up 2.4% in an election where Labor died so spectacularly suggests she ran off the fumes of nostalgia.

    Actually, this just makes her failure to look for preferences OUTSIDE that base from fertile soil such as the Shooters even more embarrassing.

    The freakish sight of leftish types rejoicing in the election of a National to 21st spot was nearly worth all the hubbub, but at least Pauline will go shrilly but quietly into the night this time.

  4. Thanks Edward. Let's hope so. It was the laziness that I was focusing on, that and the timidity identified by Davem.