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David Marr: The White Queen

April 19, 2017 - 11:25 -- Admin

I have just read David Marr’s essay The White Queen: One Nation and the Politics of Race (Quarterly Essay #65) on Pauline Hanson and her party, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. The confluence in name between Pauline Hanson and her party is exact and intentional. As Hanson said on national TV The Party is me [1]. And she is correct. The One Nation phenonemon is entirely a product of Hanson’s passion, personality, raw determination and resilience. Without Hanson One Nation cannot exist.

I will use this post to comment on Marr’s excellent essay, which Marr conceived in order to put a floor of fact under Hanson’s people and her political people [2]. Like all observers of Australian politics, Marr wants to understand the One Nation phenonemon, how it is that a race-based political party can thrive and become so influential within Australia. For those who abhor the phenonemon of race-based politics this understanding is a foundational, crucial first step towards neutralising One Nation.

A significant portion of Marr’s essay is strict quantitative research in which a profile of the typical One Nation voter is resolved from longitudinal survey-based research. This section while relatively dry reading is absolutely essential to underatnding Hanson’s people.

Marr finds that the typical One Nation voter is Australian-born, male (56% v 44% female), identifies as working class , secular (not religious), lives on urban fringes of cities and large towns (but also in small rural communities), likely to have a trades education (i.e. is less educated than the general public), are pessimistic about their own economic prospects and those of Australia generally, heavily distrust government and politicians, are inclined to a law and order viewpoint in solving societal issues, thinksthere is too much welfare, detests immigration and multiculturalism but does not personally live among migrants or know migrants or those on welfare and, strikingly, perceives a nexus between immigrants and crime.

Infantile

This post will develop over the next few weeks as I add to it, but I just want to start with one comment for now. Hanson’s people are, at an emotional level, infantile. 

Marr, summarizing Rebecca Huntley, who has conducted voter focus groups for many years says Hanson’s people yearn for the past [3]. Many Australians aged 40 or older may express an opinion that the Australia of their youth was a better place, but if pressed, most voters will say, no, they do not want to return to the Australia of the 1950’s with its monoculture, remoteness from the world and limited work opportunities for women. But Hanson voters do really want to return Australia to the 1950’s. Hanson’s voters want to return Australia to the young adulthood of their fathers, when they were children, when everything was certain, secure, predictable and they felt physically and emotionally safe.

Marr identifies the Hansonites as being from National Party heartland

Consequently, even though Marr does not say this, I do: Hanson’s people are infantile.

This is an important finding for engaging with One Nation. It means that you are dealing with children. How do you win an argument with 55 year old children ? You can’t. You just need to give them a few lollies and their favourite blanket and hopefully that will quiet them down.

John Howard knew this. When engaging with One Nation he didn’t try and argue with them. He tried to mollify them. Specifically, he addressed their insecurities. He said, speaking of his GST reforms, that he would  give them something better than what they had i.e. economic security.

Keating terrified Hanson’s people. Open borders, open tariffs, familiar industries closing down, unfamiliar new industries to be encourages, the welcome of Asia. Every Hansonite in the country, beginning with Hanson herself, filled their nappies in horror.

The Hansonite infantilism drives their insecurity. Hence their attraction to law and order solutions such as Capital Punishment and to gun ownership, by which they hope to protect themselves and their property from both ravishing migrant hordes and theiving, dishonest government.

Hansonites are impervious to argument. They need calming down.

So the first thing you need to do for them, like Howard, is say ‘Yes, yes I hear you’. And then listen. Offer them a rosy picture of the future. I would even give them a few lollies like, I dunno, rural subsidy for road-building or construction of humungous Anzac Day memorials if it was thought this would help social cohesion and defuse their anger to some degree.

But ultimately if the giant 55 year old toddler baby Hansonites refuse to stop tantruming, they should be ignored. Their core constituency is low in number. You can’t let the country be governed by children.

And this is the problem that Marr identifies throughout his essay. The major parties are too accommodating to Hansonites. John Howard was in fact a Hansonite himself. Both Liberal and Labor have adopted Hanson’s policies in regard to Asylum-Seekers.

The country needs a government that will treat Hansonites as children. But not dismissively as Keating did, but inclusively, with succumbing to the attraction of populism.

[1] Marr, QE #65, p.72 from Sunday Mail 10 January 2015.

[2] QE #65, p.96

[3] QE #65, p.59