Giving Hanson preferences will be a big mistake for the Liberals
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.