Hanson’s absence is very greatly missed
Yes, it’s that time of year when political tragics gather to gorge on yet another of David Marr’s Quarterly Essays.
A Marr QE is a bit like a Doctor Who Christmas special for anyone interested in Australian politics: they are always dependable, some are better than others, but everyone will probably have a good time in the end.
And who’s joining Marr on his latest adventure through political time and space? None other than that comeback star from the fish and chip shop, Pauline Hanson.
The White Queen: One Nation and the Politics of Race is Marr’s look at how the One Nation leader rose from the electoral dead and took back her rightful (or frightful) place as the rogue force in our politics.
Hanson now seems more powerful than ever. She’s at a steady 10 per cent or so in Newspoll. She has three senators by her side in Canberra. On a state level, she just added three members to the West Australian upper house (not a bad result considering she looked like she’d win one seat on election night).
Her resurgence is ripping the Liberals apart. One Nation’s rise (and the portion of the rightwing base she has snatched) has spurred on the civil war between Tony Abbott’s conservatives and Malcolm Turnbull’s moderates. Then there’s the media, rushing to broadcast Hanson’s every word. And who can blame them?
So does Marr’s essay provide the answers to the enigma of the Hanson hype? Yes and no.
Marr’s thesis is that One Nation voters are not the desperate working poor being destroyed by globalisation — the group largely considered to be the cause of Donald Trump and Brexit — but the not-unprosperous lower-middle-class Australians living in the suburbs next door.
He makes a compelling case: They are in work and middlingly prosperous. They aren’t on welfare … there’s nothing particularly special about the pattern of employment for Hanson’s people. One Nation voters are no more likely to be at the bottom of the management heap than anyone else. But here’s his central point: One Nation has always had a strong city presence … seats on the fringe of big towns and capital cities, seats on the edge of — but not actually among — migrant suburbs. Hanson lovers are not falling off a cliff, but they can see the gulf below and they’re scared. They’re particular;y scared of illegal immigration and Muslims. Something John Howard was attuned to, and Turnbull is only now starting to deal with via his citizenship test of Australian values. (No prizes for guessing who that’s aimed at, and they’re not Norwegian.)
Unlike some of his previous mini-biographies with their glowing portraiture, Marr’s essay is very much driven by data. The research of Australian National University and focus group firms shows where One Nation voters live, what their main grievances are and who they voted for before Hanson. And it’s good to have a clearer picture of just who is behind this political earthquake.
The problem with The White Queen, though, is Marr’s portrait of the said queen. Hanson is not for talking. Just as she refused to appear for Caro Meldrum-Hanna’s recent Four Corners episode on One Nation, she would not speak to Marr. Now, Marr is no fan of Hanson