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Australian elections Sunday, 4 October, 1998, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
Pauline Hanson: Voice of nationalism
Despite optimistic poll forecasts, Pauline Hanson's One Nation party failed in its first national poll to spread its reach across Australia. Sydney Correspondent Red Harrison looks behind the controversy and publicity which surrounded her campaign:

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With little more than the courage to speak her mind, this extraordinary, red-haired, green-eyed, short-tempered, 44-year-old, twice divorced mother of four conjured up a new political party with a vision of fanciful policies and promises that could change the face of Australian politics.

To many people, that vision looked like a nightmare. A former fish-and-chip shop owner, Mrs Hanson was elected to Federal Parliament two years ago as an Independent and leapt into headlines with a sensational maiden speech.

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

No parliamentary introduction has so astounded Australians.

Newspapers, churchmen and politicians condemned her, but thousands applauded and close supporters swiftly grasped the potential for a new political force.

Pauline Hanson had clearly touched a chord of deep conservatism and her One Nation party was born.

Advocating meritocracy

Campaigning in the recent Queensland State elections, Mrs Hanson told voters that Asian immigrants were bringing disease and crime into Australia and that immigration should be halted until all Australians had a job (unemployment is more than 8%).

She trumpeted equality for everyone, particularly aborigines for which One Nation would slash spending on health, housing and education.

This was not racist, she said - why should anyone receive handouts of taxpayers' money based on race and not merit?

From a base of zero, Queenslanders rewarded her with nearly 25% of the vote and 11 seats in the new State parliament.

Pauline Hanson angers quickly when pressed for policy details. "I just want a fair go for all Australians," she says in a shrill, quavering voice.

She struggles with more complicated sentences and reads speeches awkwardly.

Fresh debate

It is also possible to identify voter dissatisfaction and disillusion with the major parties which have tended to avoid open debate on such awkward questions as multiculturalism, racism, white guilt over the treatment of aborigines.

Some commentators say One Nation is the best Australian political development in decades because it has shaken the apathy and complacency of mainstream politicians as well as voters.

No other candidate in the election inspired such loyalty and loathing, such passionate and violent disagreement.

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Aboriginal spokewoman Marcia Langton: Hanson accused Aborigines of eating babies
Links to more Australian elections stories are at the foot of the page.


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