Brian Burston quits One Na­tion – and Han­son loses Se­nate bal­ance of power

The Guardian Australia - - News - Amy Re­meikis

Pauline Han­son has of­fi­cially lost her bal­ance of power in the Se­nate, with her es­tranged New South Wales sen­a­tor Brian Burston an­nounc­ing that he has quit the party.

Re­la­tions be­tween Han­son and her for­mer loy­al­ist and long­time friend Burston be­gan to sour, for the sec­ond time, ear­lier this year, when Han­son anointed Mal­colm Roberts as her Queens­land Se­nate pick but said Burston would have to reap­ply for his Se­nate po­si­tion “like any other can­di­date”.

In an­nounc­ing his res­ig­na­tion, Burston said the re­la­tion­ship break­down with Han­son was “ir­rev­o­ca­ble” and his best way for­ward was as an in­de­pen­dent.

Asked about the party break­down at his morn­ing press con­fer­ence, Mal­colm Turn­bull said his gov­ern­ment would con­tinue to work with all the cross­bench, no mat­ter how it’s made up.

“I’ll leave the com­men­tary to you, but as my sen­a­to­rial col­leagues here know, and they work very hard to, you know, get the sup­port of the cross­bench to our leg­is­la­tion, we treat all sen­a­tors with the great­est of re­spect, re­gard­less of their party or af­fil­i­a­tion, and we seek their sup­port for our leg­is­la­tion and we have over the last few years had a great deal of suc­cess,” he said.

The first pub­lic in­di­ca­tion that some­thing was amiss came when Burston was dumped as party whip in May. That month he stripped his so­cial me­dia pres­ence of One Na­tion brand­ing and an­nounced that he would still vote for the gov­ern­ment’s com­pany tax cuts, de­spite Han­son’s procla­ma­tion she would be reneg­ing on the deal she had struck with the fi­nance min­is­ter, Mathias Cor­mann.

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In a live in­ter­view on Sky News, Han­son cried as she said she had been be­trayed by Burston, af­ter be­ing told he had made an ap­proach to join the NSW Shoot­ers, Fish­ers and Farm­ers party. She de­clared that Burston would not “fin­ish her” and she “will win”.

Burston main­tained that a con­stituent had made the ap­proach on his be­half, with­out his knowl­edge. But he learnt on a live ra­dio in­ter­view with 2GB that Han­son had ex­pelled him from the party ex­ec­u­tive and had writ­ten to him de­mand­ing he quit the party, and the Se­nate, so One Na­tion could take the seat back.

It was then that Burston ac­cused Han­son of run­ning a “dic­ta­tor­ship”.

“She is say­ing she’s no longer got the con­fi­dence I’ll agree with ev­ery sin­gle de­ci­sion she makes, as pres­i­dent for life,” he said at the time. “I thought I joined One Na­tion as a demo­cratic po­lit­i­cal party, not a dic­ta­tor­ship.”

Burston an­nounced his of­fi­cial res­ig­na­tion through Fair­fax Me­dia and con­firmed to Guardian Aus­tralia on Thursday morn­ing.

It is the sec­ond time Han­son has fallen out with Burston over One Na­tion. Burston was part of the first in­car­na­tion of the party two decades ago but was sacked, along with David Old­field, in the late 1990s over what he called “in­ter­nal is­sues”. The party fell apart soon af­ter­wards.

His move strips Han­son of her Se­nate bal­ance of power, with her vot­ing bloc now just numbering two, giv­ing One Na­tion the same in­flu­ence as Cen­tre Al­liance and a num­ber of cross­benchers who have formed a loose vot­ing al­liance.

Since bursting onto the po­lit­i­cal scene in the late 90s, One Na­tion has had 30 peo­ple elected un­der its ban­ner across Aus­tralia’s state and fed­eral par­lia­ments. Of that num­ber, 22 have quit the party, or par­lia­ment, been dis­qual­i­fied or forced from the party be­fore their term ex­pired.

The gov­ern­ment needs eight of the 10 cross­bench votes if La­bor and the Greens re­ject its leg­is­la­tion.

Pho­to­graph: Mike Bow­ers for the Guardian

Brian Burston fell out with Pauline Han­son in May. He has now quit One Na­tion.

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