Han­son’s ab­sence is very greatly missed

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.