For me, the best type of politician — or person full stop — is one whose eyes and actions communicate this: “Despite our differences, I am no better than you are.” Is Pauline Hanson that type of politician? I’m not sure — I haven’t met or even read her autobiography yet. But I did recently read The Pauline Hanson Story by John Pasquarelli (1998) — her early political advisor’s recount of her initial rise to political fame — so I feel I’ve gotten a solid dose of her side of the story.

Perhaps the two other crucial measuring sticks I swing at politicians are these: integrity and courage. Honesty might be the common thread. If a politician can weave honesty together with an agenda which isn’t overly defensive, they stand to gain my enduring admiration. While I perceive that Pauline’s politics do tend to emanate from a defensive stance, courageous honesty itself is still a rare trait and I certainly give her points on that ledger. I think it’s a big part of why she has made political history in Australia.

Consider the following statistics. This year in Australia’s federal election, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party secured the highest number of votes outside of the two major parties and the Greens: nearly 800,000 votes (about 2.6% of the national vote). To put that in perspective, the Greens got about 2.6 million votes, Nick Xenophon 700,000, Katter’s Australia Party 120,000 and Palmer United about 26,000[1]. Moreover, in 1998 when One Nation first appeared, it secured 9% of the national vote[2]. The fact is: she has won many Australians over; swathes of Australians are saying, “Pauline speaks for me.” The kicker for me, which Pasquarelli’s book just hammered home, is that she has reached this level while swimming upstream, with the Left, the Right and the media — at least on public record — largely against her in an unprecedented coalition of efforts.

The Pauline Hanson Story was the impetus for this blog, so I’d like to share a few quotes which I think are important in getting the full picture. My goal is to help folks to be able to make the most of Pauline’s presence in our political world — Pasquarelli certainly did this for me.

  • p.117 “She was possessed of an almost pig-headed courage that enabled her to confront situations others, better equipped, would not dare contemplate. It was this quality that, in the end, would never have allowed her to throw in the towel and resign.”
  • p.135 “The weeks after the maiden speech [customary for first-time parliamentarians] were frantic and full of drama. Overflowing mail bags at the Ipswich and parliamentary post offices, bundles and bundles of letters stacked in boxes stacked on top of other full boxes, miles of faxes, reams of telephone messages, enough flowers to start a florist shop, and people lined up in the office reception area like winners at a TAB window.”
  • p.143 “ ‘Pauline Hanson is the most heavily guarded politician in Australian history with the annual cost of protecting her running at more than twice her annual Parliamentary wages bill,’ we were told. … Pauline Hanson has received dozens of threatening letters from left-wing extremist groups opposed to her views, including organisations that have connections with overseas paramilitary groups. This has prompted ASIO to judge her the highest security risk of any Australian public figure, with her security arrangements exceeded only by those for visiting overseas leaders.’
  • p.146 “ Pauline Hanson, her family and her staff should be able to go about their business and work and live confidently in a safe environment, but that is not the case at present. It is a sad indictment of our society that a determined and stubborn woman of no particular brilliance can be considered by the ‘establishment’ as such a threat that they will stoop as low as they can to destroy her.”
  • p.153 “This was Pauline’s first opportunity to appear live on a high rating show with an Australia-wide audience… with Kerri-Anne Kennerley [on the Midday show]. Pauline’s appearance was a spectacular success with the obviously average Australian audience clapping and cheering her… The station ran a phone poll on Pauline’s maiden speech … The poll question was: ‘Are Pauline Hanson’s views racist?’ Thousands of calls poured in and the result was: ‘Yes’ 6% and ‘No’ 94 %.”
  • p.302-3 “Three weeks after the maiden speech [Alan] Jones said that, of the many thousands of calls to his talkback show, 98% of them were in basic support of Pauline. … The Melbourne Herald Sun conducted an interesting telephone poll in June 1997, posing the question, ‘Is Pauline Hanson a racist?’ The paper provided twenty-one Hanson quotes to help readers make up their minds. Eight thousand readers responded, an overwhelming 81% answering ‘no’. While the Herald Sun headlined the announcement of the poll, it did not headline the positive result for Pauline Hanson, burying it instead in an article proclaiming … that the Hanson ‘race debate’ could jeopardise the awarding of the 2006 Commonwealth Games to Melbourne.”
  • p.314 “The big Parties are obviously concerned about the chances of One Nation’s electoral success. The Labor Party … have pledged to put Hanson last on their how-to-vote cards and there has been tremendous pressure placed on John Howard by many of his own people … to take the Liberals down the same track.”

All in all, Pasquarelli — who himself was sacked and later won an unfair dismissal case against Pauline — strongly makes the point of how popular and supported Pauline Hanson’s views are. He brings to the fore the magnitude of the challenge one faces if you wish to present a different perspective to the mainstream in Australia. In doing so, he isn’t reticent in revealing Pauline’s gaping personal and character flaws, which evidently left him burnt, despite his loyal and self-sacrificial efforts for her cause. I for one don’t intend to allow Pauline’s personal failings stop me from understanding what she stands for and those who stand with her.

So, which way do I lean: is she good, bad or ugly? Right now I see a bit of each in her. A bit like myself, in truth; I’m no better than she is.

[1] Combining the Senate and Lower House tallies: