by Scott Balson
20th January 2000
I arrived at Oakey at about 6pm. It was the hottest January day on record in the state of Queensland. Even the flies were grounded.
There was great debate over whether Pauline Hanson and her entourage would come after her offices and those of Manly were raided by the Federal police following the deregistration of One Nation in Queensland.
Just before the meeting started at 7pm Ms Hanson and Senator Len Harris arrived with members of the state executive in tow.
Pauline Hanson had her own intentions over the manner in which the public meeting called by the President of the One Nation branch of Oakey, Paul Wright, should be handled. While about 130 people waited for the meeting to start Pauline Hanson, Len Harris and Alan Doak tried to get Paul Wright to change the meeting from a public meeting to a One Nation meeting - meaning that all City Country Alliance members including two MPs, Bill Feldman and Peter Prenzler, would have to leave.
This was a watershed time with some fifteen branches of One Nation represented in the room. The branches included: Roma, Stanthorpe, Goondiwindi, Chinchilla, Millmerran, Oakey, Toowoomba, Dalby and Wandoan.
Images below: Harris and Hanson discuss the format of the meeting with Wright; Wright faces Hanson and crew; Hanson looks upset as state Vice-President Alan Doak tries to argue a point; the ABC's Caroline Tucker takes notes as the discussions continue; stalemate... and the 7pm start drags on towards 7.30pm.
Images below: Bill Feldman MLA (City Country Alliance leader) and his wife, Ian Peterson and his wife and Peter Prenzler MLA and his wife wait for the meeting to start; a sample of the crowd in the room - representing 15 One Nation branches.
When Ms Hanson could not get Wright to change the format of his meeting from public to One Nation members only, she went to a back room with Len Harris and the state executive - a private discussion between the small group holding up the gathering in a room which was still very warm from the heat earlier in the day.
Paul Wright went to the microphone and announced that the meeting was a public meeting but Pauline Hanson wanted it to be One Nation members only. "I said to Pauline I would put it to the vote as to whether City Country Alliance members should leave."
"Pauline Hanson said to me that the members do not decide, I do."
This remark prompted Pauline Hanson to take over the microphone literally pushing the meeting's chairman out of the way and demanding that only One Nation members remain and that City Country Alliance members leave immediately.
To the cries of "Point of Order Mr Chairman," much of Pauline Hanson's comments were drowned out as a large number of people gathered become very annoyed at the way in which she tried to hijack the meeting.
When Ms Hanson could not get her way she appealed to single branches to "contact her office" so that she "could explain the situation to them on a one-to-one basis.
She said that the Oakey branch would have to apologise to the people gathered there for her leaving as she felt that she had been deceived.
She then left - refusing to answer questions or debate with the City Country Alliance. Len Harris who had come to the front table after she took over the microphone stood up and left with her.
Only her state executive left the room with her whilst everybody else remained in their seats. She had a brief discussion with David Cobourn and a member of Stanthorpe branch (which had earlier voted to remain with One Nation) and then left with Len Harris.
Images below: Pauline Hanson talks to a member of Stanthorpe branch after walking out of the meeting, while Len Harris looks on.
Back inside the room the meeting now continued without Pauline Hanson or Len Harris leaving the 130 members hearing only the views of the City Country Alliance. An elderly Pauline Hanson supporter tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Pauline really blew it by walking out."
Berwin Smith was the first person to speak - he talked about his voluntary resignation from One Nation last year after he became concerned about the administration of the party.
He told the meeting that his main aim in supporting Mrs Hill was to help her win Bundamba so that Peter Beattie would lose government.
David Couburn, an unsuccessful One Nation candidate in the 1998 State Election said that he wanted to respond to Pauline Hanson's comment about an apology from Oakey branch. As a member of Oakey he apologised to those in the room saying that as they left he had appealed to Pauline Hanson and Len Harris to return. He warned her that if she left she would lose the support of 12 to 15 branches.
He said that he had not renewed his membership of One Nation after he had heard that Scott Balson had been sacked from the party.
Bill Feldman, the Parliamentary leader of the City Country Alliance, then took the floor and spoke about issues and about the report in the Courier-Mail that day which had referred to a police investigation into his actions as a police officer back in 1987. He remarked that Caroline Tucker had said to him on ABC radio earlier that day "if there was anything that he wanted to now confess about regarding his time at Primary school..."
He spoke at length about the problems that the MPs faced when trying to get the One Nation constitution changed.
Theo and Paul Wright, conveners of the public meeting look on as Bill Feldman talks...
After Bill Feldman's address and response to a number of questions there was a tea break. Not one person had left the room since Pauline Hanson walked out several hours earlier.
After the tea break I addressed the meeting stating why I had joined the City Country Alliance.
I spoke about the money paid to Ettridge's Champions Magazine Pty Ltd by One Nation, the Atkinson findings on the party structure and a range of other issues that led to my resignation.
Ian Peterson then talked about the issues... they had not changed under the City Country Alliance. He spoke of his anger about the way in which David Oldfield's pig-headedness had resulted in 5 One Nation MPs leaving the party about a year before.
After more questions were directed at Peterson, Frank Francis acting President of the Toowoomba branch of One Nation said that he had moved a motion four weeks ago that "This meeting (as individual members and not representing their branches) endorse the action taken by Bill Feldman, the other parliamentarians, Heather Hill and Ian Petersen in moving to form a new state based party called One Nation Queensland."
He said the motion put to 40 members representing 11 branches was carried 39 to 1.
He then put a new motion to the floor that "This meeting (as individual members and not representing their branches) endorse the action taken by Bill Feldman, the other parliamentarians, Heather Hill and Ian Petersen in moving to form a new state based party called City Country Alliance."
Images below: the motion was passed with (left) 62 for the motion, (centre) 15 against and (right) 24 abstentions.
The meeting was wrapped up by Theo (below) at 11.30pm... it had been a long night.
Pauline Hanson and Len Harris should never have left the meeting. Members of 15 branches witnessed how she tried to hi-jack the public meeting and take over from the Chairman of the meeting, Paul Wright.
It was a sorry end to a political career which had once been a phenomenon.
Queensland Times article "Raids, Desertions, Wound One Nation" by Brett deBritz. 22nd January 2000:
Pauline Hanson's one Nation was teetering on the brink of collapse in Queensland yesterday, following police raids on party offices and further branch defections.
Former One Nation members said Ms Hanson's decision to storm out of a public meeting at Oakey, on the Darling Downs, was the final nail in the party's coffin.
Member for Lockyer Peter Prenzler, now a member of the City Country Alliance said Ms hanson had done herself a great disservice by refusing to stay and speak to the crowd.
Dr Prenzler dismissed Ms Hanson's claims that she had been "railroaded", because she was well aware CCA representatives would be at Thursday night's meeting.
After Ms Hanson and senator Len Harris left there was a 62-15 vote of support for the CCA over one Nation with 24 abstentions.
Dr Prenzler said "maybe one or two" Darling Downs branches would remain with one Nation, but the rest would join CCA.
He said he could not understand the logic behind the actions of Ms Hanson and her state executive.
"I don't know why they're doing it to themselves," he said. "They just want to seem to drive themselves into a grave."
Former One Nation webmaster Scott Balson said Ms Hanson and Senator Harris should never have walked out of the Oakey meeting.
"It was a sorry end to a political career which had once been a phenomenon," Mr Balson said on his personal website.
Mr Prenzler and CCA leader Bill Feldman rejected suggestions that Thursday's raid on One Nation's offices in Ipswich and Sydney were politically motivated.
Mr Feldman said the action was expected after the party's Queensland branch was deregistered following a Supreme Court decision.
Terry Sharples, who began the legal action, said the CCA was trying to gain political ground at Ms Hanson's expense.
Ms Hanson did not return calls yesterday, and no one answered the phone at One Nation's Ipswich office.