There’s a racist in our midst, and she’s been here for quite some time. Pauline Hanson’s at it again, back in federal parliament and insulting most of the nation with her vitriolic speech. That’s except for the vocal minority who support her, or is it?
Last week, Hanson made her maiden speech in the federal Senate and she took the opportunity to unleash a tirade upon the Australian Muslim community.
What Hanson had to say
The senator proclaimed that Australia’s “in danger of being swamped by Muslims,” a section of society she claims is “incompatible” with the mainstream. She also accused the Muslim community of having a lack of tolerance towards other Australians and their customs.
Hanson claimed that Islam is more than just a religion, as it has a “political agenda”, warning that Muslim Australians want to introduce Sharia law into the country.
She also implied Muslims don’t assimilate or integrate into the rest of the community, which are concepts that flew out the door along with the White Australia policy and bear no weight in today’s multicultural nation.
According to Hanson, Muslim Australians are disproportionately imprisoned, unemployed, involved in organised crime and dealing drugs. She went on to call to halt further Muslim immigration and to ban the burqa. Then later in her speech, she called for an end to immigration altogether.
Her presentation began with a reference to her maiden speech in the House of Representatives in 1996. At that time, she took aim at Asian Australians, warning of an “Asian invasion” and – not dissimilar to her recent speech – claiming the nation was being “swamped” by them.
Although, last week she didn’t address the reason why “Asians” are no longer the threat they had once seemed to her.
One Nation in the Senate
What’s disturbing about the current state of affairs in Australian politics is that Hanson and her One Nation party now hold a great deal of power in federal parliament.
In July’s federal election, four One Nation candidates were voted into the Senate. Along with Hanson, Malcolm Roberts is representing Queensland, Brian Burston was elected for NSW and Rod Culleton represents Western Australia.
And although they don’t hold the balance of power, they nevertheless possess a lot of sway.
The Coalition has the majority in the House of Representatives, so they should have no trouble in passing legislation.
But in the Senate, if they’re opposed by Labor and the Greens, they’ll have to turn to the eleven independent and minor party Senators to back them.
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party holds most of these eleven seats. And after last week’s bigoted address, there’s no telling what sort of concessions Malcom Turnbull will have to make when garnering Pauline’s support.
The poll that almost puts Hanson in the majority
But while many of us were turning our heads away in shame over Hanson’s speech, it came to light on Wednesday that a new poll has shown 49 percent of Australians actually support a ban on Muslim immigration.
The Essential Research poll found that 60 percent of Coalition supporters feel this way, 40 percent of those who support Labor do, and 34 percent of Australians who vote for the Greens do as well.
Out of those who support the ban, 41 percent said they do so because Muslims “do not integrate into Australian society.”
There were also a number of direct questions in the poll about Hanson and her views. One of those questions found that 62 percent of respondents said that while they didn’t necessarily agree with everything Pauline has to say, they believe the senator “is speaking for a lot of ordinary Australians.”
The poll seems to indicate there are a lot of racists in our backyard. But it’s important to note that the survey was only based on one thousand respondents and the backlash around the country towards Pauline’s parliamentary speech has been substantial.
Backlash against Hanson’s speech
On Tuesday this week, a motion was unanimously passed by the NSW Legislative Council condemning Hanson’s speech. The upper house said her remarks had caused “deep hurt” within the community and undermined Australia’s multicultural society.
The motion was put forth by NSW Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi, who is the first Muslim woman to be elected to any Australian parliament.
“We will not sit back and accept racism, Islamophobia and the marginalisation of members of our multicultural community,” Faruqi said in a press statement. “We need to call it out whether it happens in the streets or in federal parliament.”
Father Rod Bower, from the Gosford Anglican Church, declared that Hanson represents “radicalised Christianity” at an Islamic Council of Victoria breakfast on Monday morning.
The outspoken priest said Hanson was willing to harm Muslim children for her own political purposes, refuting her claim that she’s expressing what most Australians are thinking.
And in a speech delivered at the Australian National University on Wednesday, Australia’s race discrimination commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane said he rejected claims bigotry is rife in the country.
Dr Soutphommasane pointed out that 95 percent of Australians didn’t vote for One Nation in the federal election. In his opinion, the vast majority of the population are comfortable with multiculturalism.
The commissioner also warned against Australian’s becoming complacent about intolerance, with the belief that “copping racism is just part of some initiation rite for any immigrant group.”
During the rest of her speech, Hanson condemned unemployed youth, single mother welfare recipients and subsided healthcare, which is the usual rhetoric for a creature of her makeup.
Australia embraces multiculturalism
While it may be convenient for the right wing to have Ms Hanson around, so that their policies seem less extreme – as happened during the Howard government – the nation is stuck with the senator for another eight years.
But it’s worth remembering that over recent decades, Australians have rejected the idea of integration on the whole and stuck by the concept of cultural diversity, despite Pauline Hanson having been around since the mid-90s.
Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.