Giv­ing Han­son pref­er­ences will be a big mis­take for the Lib­er­als

Sunday Herald Sun - - Opinion - JAMES CAMPBELL

YOU may have thought with the news last week that the Western Aus­tralian Lib­er­als are in talks with Pauline Han­son over pref­er­ences that could see One Na­tion ap­pear ahead of the Na­tion­als on their how-to-vote cards would have caused a big fuss.

Ever since John Howard de­creed that she should be put last in every state at the 2001 fed­eral elec­tion, no state di­vi­sion of the Lib­eral Party has pref­er­enced Han­son. Why Han­son should be any less of an anath­ema to the Lib­eral Party isn’t clear to me.

As she made clear in her maiden speech to the Se­nate last year, she stands by ev­ery­thing she said in her 1996 maiden speech in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives — the one where she said we were in dan­ger of be­ing swamped by Asians.

Her eco­nomic views haven’t changed ei­ther.

She still be­lieves “glob­al­i­sa­tion, eco­nomic ra­tio­nal­ism, free trade and eth­nic di­ver­sity has seen our coun­try’s de­cline”.

In other words, at her core Han­son is against pretty much ev­ery­thing the Lib­eral Party is sup­posed to stand for.

The only dif­fer­ence be­tween Han­son 1 and 2 as far as I can see is that she’s added a new set of fears upon which she hopes to prey.

Un­less you’ve been liv­ing un­der a rock for the past 15 years, you’d be mad not to have grave reser­va­tions about the ca­pac­ity of some

Mus­lims to fit in here or the wis­dom im­port­ing large num­bers of them.

But Han­son’s claims about the dan­gers of Is­lam are ab­surd.

Only a dem­a­gogue hop­ing to ex­ploit fear would claim that if we don’t change course “there will be no hope in the fu­ture” and “we will be liv­ing un­der sharia law and treated as sec­ond-class cit­i­zens with sec­ond-class rights”.

Yet this is ap­par­ently some­one the Lib­eral Party in WA is go­ing to ad­vise peo­ple to put ahead of the ALP at March’s state elec­tion — per­haps even ahead of the Nats who they are ap­par­ently cranky with over their sup­port for a re­gional re­source tax which the Libs re­ject, as does Han­son.

When I asked Mal­colm Turn­bull at the Press Club last week what had changed about Han­son’s view in the past 15 years that made her a suit­able per­son to re­ceive Lib­eral pref­er­ences and what would he would do if he had the good for­tune to lead the gov­ern­ment at the next elec­tion, he re­fused to an­swer.

From that you can prob­a­bly de­duce the fix is in. For what­ever rea­son — most likely fear — the Lib­er­als have de­cided they are go­ing to treat Han­son like she is the head of a nor­mal po­lit­i­cal party. Her main­stream­ing be­gan, of course, a few months ago when the gov­ern­ment found it had to deal with her in or­der to get its leg­is­la­tion through the Se­nate.

Giv­ing her pref­er­ences is the next step.

Be­fore they start down that path they would do well to talk to the op­po­nents in the ALP about their ex­pe­ri­ences with the Greens. Twenty years ago the Greens must have seemed like a harm­less fringe group to the ALP. By not treat­ing them as an ex­trem­ist men­ace the ALP ef­fec­tively told peo­ple it was OK to vote for them. And as more of their vot­ers have drifted off to the Greens, the ALP has drifted left­ward on so­cial is­sues in or­der to catch them.

How can the Lib­er­als not un­der­stand that the same thing is go­ing to hap­pen to them with Han­son if they main­stream One Na­tion by giv­ing them pref­er­ences?

To bor­row a phrase from the French states­man Tal­leyrand, giv­ing Han­son pref­er­ences is worse than a crime it’s a mis­take.

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