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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 September, 2004, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Profile: Pauline Hanson
Pauline Hanson
Hanson is seen as a right-wing maverick
Pauline Hanson has cut a controversial figure ever since she founded the anti-immigration One Nation Party.

Depending on your point of view, she could go down in history as either inspirational battler for the rights of the ordinary Australian, or a symbol of the worst in reactionary, white Australian conservatism.

At the height of her influence in the late 1990s, this red-haired, hard-edged, twice-divorced mother of four shook the political establishment, provoked outrage, and inspired a legion of satirists.

Already regarded as a loose cannon, in the 1996 federal elections she stood as an official Liberal candidate in the safe Labor seat of Oxley in Queensland.

Just over two weeks before the election date, the Liberal Party disowned her over comments on race and immigration.

Mrs Hanson contested the seat as an independent and sensationally won.

But that victory was a minor tremor compared to the earthquake triggered by her maiden speech to the Federal Parliament later that year.

Australia, she said, was in danger of being swamped by Asians.

She denounced the inequality of giving welfare money to Aborigines that was not available to other Australians.

Bureaucrats, fat cats, do-gooders, big business, foreign investors and the United Nations received a tongue-lashing, too.

Left-wing Labor and conservative Liberal politicians united in their condemnation, Church leaders and newspaper editorials criticised her - but Pauline Hanson apparently tapped a deep dissatisfaction in the country with the two main parties and the established order.

Asylum seekers in Australia
Her tough anti-immigration stance caused controversy

She appealed across party lines to working class white males, who saw in this former fish-and-chip-shop owner somebody who was like themselves.

Opponents picked apart naive policies on issues such as taxation, and the media delighted in "Hansonisms".

One famous televised exchange in October 1996 saw respected interviewer Tracey Curio ask Mrs Hanson whether she was xenophobic.

Her startled reply, "Please explain!" entered the national lexicon.

She was a nervous and inarticulate performer in front of the cameras.

Yet, while in favour, she was able to depict her detractors as intellectual snobs, a self-interested elite. The more she was ridiculed, the more her popularity grew.

With the launch of her One Nation Party in 1997, Pauline Hanson took her policies to voters across the country.

In Queensland's state elections the following year, the party won 11 out of 78 seats with 23% of the vote.

Decline

But in the 1998 federal elections, Pauline Hanson was rejected by voters and saw her national profile and popularity decline.

In the November election, Hanson and her party failed to win a single seat.

In the months beforehand, Prime Minister John Howard had moved his party sharply to the right, introducing a controversial but popular policy of turning away boatloads of asylum seekers before they could reach Australia's shores.

Mrs Hanson complained that she had lost because the Howard Government had stolen her policies.

But by then she had another battle to face - she was being investigated for fraud over allegedly obtaining illegal government funds to set up One Nation, tarnishing her image as an honest, hard-working woman of the people.

In January 2002, she announced her retirement from politics to concentrate on fighting the allegations.

In August 2003 she was found guilty of illegally using the names of 500 members of a support group to register One Nation as a political party, as well as fraudulently obtaining almost A$500,000 (US$325,000) in electoral funds.

She was jailed for three years, serving 11 weeks of that term before an appeal court quashed her conviction in November 2003 and ordered her released.

Analysts say One Nation is largely responsible for forcing the issue of race to the forefront of Australian politics, but it has so far failed to persuade Australians it is worthy of more than a protest vote against the established parties.

But Pauline Hanson still manages to excite deep passions among her supporters.




SEE ALSO:
Australia's Hanson free from jail
06 Nov 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Hanson jailed for electoral fraud
20 Aug 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Country Profile: Australia
16 May 02 |  Country profiles


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