Lots of people are talking about Pauline Hanson: What next?

Lots of people talking about Pauline Hanson. It’s hard to think of another maiden speech that has attracted such attention.

Most people in my social network – what I imagine a standard inner-city, ‘elitist’ network looks like – are contrasting her opinions with their own. They stand with those being demonised (as do I). Many are reacting to what she says with outrage and shock. This will continue for sometime. It’s important these public reactions occur for a couple of reasons: To support people who feel genuine fear from Hanson and reinforcing social norms about what is acceptable to us as people.

Fewer are engaging, or at least in the way intended by thoughtful pieces like this one from Katherine Murphy (read it in full if you can). This is not intended as a criticism. I expect the ratio of contrast, outrage and engagement is about right. It’s also hard and takes some time to occur. After all, Hanson has given a total of one speech so far in Parliament and it occurred yesterday. With those caveats, here is something I noticed about her first speech. At one point, she said:

If you are not prepared to become Australian and give this country this undivided loyalty, obey our laws and respect our country and way of life, then I suggest you go back where you came from.

I’ve been thinking about the process of broad versus deep support for minor political parties. In Queensland, ONP gathered about 10 per cent of the vote. If these supporters represent her core support, perhaps a good thing to do is start thinking about who else might want to vote for her? Who might they be, given the opportunity?

The quote above gave me pause because I’ve seen work directly about this. In the 2015 Scanlon Foundation social cohesion survey, Andrew Markus cleverly asks about what people expect from migrants when they arrive in Australia: assimilation or cultural pluralism?

‘We should do more to learn about the customs and heritage of different ethnic and cultural groups in this country.’ (Question C4_2)

‘People who come to Australia should change their behaviour to be more like Australians.’ (Question F2_5)

With 68 per cent agreeing with the first question and 65 per cent agreeing with the second question, a decent plurality of about two in five people see this as a two-way process. Migrants need to learn about Australia and Australians need to learn about migrants.

Helpfully, the second question is a good proxy of what Hanson discusses in her first speech. People who agree with this while rejecting the notion of learning about different customs and heritages make up about one in four Australians.

(Photo source / credit unknown)

One in four Australians see this as a one-way process, where assimilation is a major priority. These attitudes may occur in places where there aren’t actually many migrants at all. I think this is true but I’m going to wait to confirm and see if I can dig deeper. People who feel this way but to date have not voted for “outsiders” might simply not see this as an important issue compared to say taxation or Medicare. However it does signal to me there is room to grow and no-one should take for granted the level of support for One Nation. There might be a ceiling but it isn’t 10 per cent.

For anyone asking, this is where I would point them towards in kicking off a conversation about what next. When Oz says on Twitter to target ‘anti-politics’ and ‘common sense’, this provides some context for the size of the potential audience (sidenote: I agree with him these should form part of the response but also it is a very difficult thing to have multiple conversations with different parts of the public all at the same time. I don’t imagine anti-politics would go down too well in my social network for instance.)

This is hardly hitting a home-run but understanding, bit by bit, who exactly we are all talking about is something worth doing. And it leads to additional questions collectively we need to answer in a relatively short time period: where potential ONP support is, who potential ONP supporters are and how to persuade them to reconsider an alternative representative for their community?

One thought on “Lots of people are talking about Pauline Hanson: What next?

  1. Hi Henry.

    Just to clarify – what I meant was that rather than pursuing anti-politics agenda, it is about neutralising that as her strength. The fact is that Hanson relies on being portrayed as an authentic political “outsider” when she is nothing of the sort. Think of all the paid platforms she has been given. She is part of the system in the same way that Andrew Bolt is. Like a lot of far right parties, One Nation is essentially a personality based vehicle. One Nation’s fortunes will ultimately rely on Hanson and if her strengths fall away, they become far weaker.

    I agree there is a dearth of information about who One Nation’s support (and potential support) base is and what their key issues are. Hopefully the 2016 Australian Election Study will clarify that. I do, however, have the sneaking suspicion that it is similar to the base on populist right parties elsewhere i.e. not the “left behind” but rather a coalition of the self-employed and non-university educated but with a lower supervisory role.

    The potential base of support for One Nation is definitely more than 10% as can be seen in other countries. I do, however, think that the ALP is far less overtly cosmopolitan and more focused on material issues than sister social democratic parties (I’d argue the strong union link is one reason why). That combined with our electoral system means that it is far harder to gain as much traction as similar parties elsewhere.

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