Pauline Hanson: Martyr in the making?
The jailing of right-wing Australian politician Pauline Hanson for electoral fraud is said to have strengthened her popularity among Queensland voters.
A poll of 300 people by Queensland newspaper the Sunday Mail showed 21% would vote for her anti-immigration One Nation party, almost as high as her 23% peak in popularity in 1998.
Senior members of the state's Labour Party is worried that the public backlash from Hanson's three-year prison sentence could cost them the state government.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard added his concerns about the severity of the jail-term after a Brisbane jury found Hanson and her One Nation party co-founder David Ettridge guilty of illegally registering their party in Queensland.
The pair faced charges 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.
The Sunday Mail poll found that more than 82% thought the jail sentence was too long and 65% said 49-year-old Hanson should not have been jailed at all.
Queensland's Labour Party Premier, Peter Beattie, told Australian television Channel 10 on Sunday his office had been flooded with e-mails, faxes, calls and letters criticising the sentence.
"There's no doubt that this will martyr Pauline Hanson," he said.
"It will put my government at risk. It will also have ramifications for the conservative side of politics."
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
Hanson, a former chip shop owner, shot to national and international attention in the late 1990s with her extreme views on immigration, Australia's indigenous people and asylum seekers.
Hanson's official website has compared her jail term to that of Nelson Mandela in apartheid-era South Africa, and a "fighting fund" has been launched to seek donations to help finance an appeal.
Her lawyers lodged a 12-point appeal with the Brisbane Supreme Court of Appeal, citing "interference by political identities of power".
Mr Howard dismissed claims from Mrs Hanson's supporters that she was victimised by mainstream political parties, who object to her extreme right-wing policies.