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|I walked beside the evening sea
And dreamed a dream that could not be;
The waves that plunged along the shore
Said only: "Dreamer, dream no more!"
- - - -George William Curtis
For one very close to the on-line news behind the Hanson phenomenon it might come as a surprise to you that it was by sheer chance that I first heard of the upcoming launch of the new party, Pauline Hanson's One Nation, in early April 1997.
For over a year I had covered the highs and lows of Hanson's political career as the Independent member for Oxley on my daily on-line newspaper, the Australian National News of the Day. I was in constant contact with Pauline Hanson's Ipswich office yet it was just days before the launch that I was informed about this major event.
I was indeed fortunate, through the personal intervention of Pauline's private secretary, Barbara Hazelton, to get the last of 400 highly sought after tickets to the historic event.
The launch of One Nation on April 11th 1997 is now part of our extensive pictorial archives covering the ups and downs of One Nation's first year. Very few realised the significance of the presence of David Oldfield, who would soon after become Pauline Hanson's political adviser. Very few had ever met David Ettridge before, the man who had forged the One Nation dream with Pauline Hanson.
Pic Left: David Oldfield, Pauline Hanson and David Ettridge in June 1997)
The focus of Pauline's new political party was summed up in a few words in her speech that night:
"Australians can no longer afford the luxury of apathy.
"We must stand up.
"We must all pull together.
"We must win this battle, or lose the war."
Perhaps the most significant part of the evening to me was the events around Pauline Hanson's arrival. These are reflected by the words on the One Nation launch home page. Words which summarise this moment, "Ms Hanson was pelted by the protestors (about 200 in all) with placards and had to run, despite the presence of the police, from her car to the Hall".
The picture on the right was taken just seconds after this happened. Pauline was the focus of the protesters hatred. Her calm exterior hid the fear and very real danger she had experienced coming into the hall.... within seconds she had, by her own admission, gone from nearly walking away from politics altogether to realising that Australia and Australians needed her to make the stand where it counts... in Parliament. I had not been aware that evening that Pauline had had to face the protesters' abuse when she arrived - in fact I had presumed that she had entered quietly through a back door. It was only when I saw the television news days later that I saw what she had had to face to get in the hall that night. Protesters backed by shadowy figures associated directly with the Australian Labor Party.
Later, when I asked Pauline about that defining moment she said to me, "When I realised I had to run through the protesters I was ready to give it all away but I knew that I was not the only person who had had to face them. After running the gauntlet I came into the hall, it was a magical moment with everybody spontaneously standing and cheering me. My mood changed from one of near tears to determination. I knew that we had to go on together for Australia regardless."
|It's easy, perhaps to die for a dream
With banners unfurled - and be forgiving!
It's the hardest part to follow the gleam
When scorned by the world - and go on living!
- - - -Myra Brooks Welch
Over the next few months Pauline Hanson faced a rock and roll ride of contradictions. The highs of being recognised and congratulated by ordinary Australians in the street and at packed One Nation branch launches, the lows of being publicly vilified and reviled by an antagonistic media who blamed her for everything that went wrong, or could be painted as going wrong in Australia. Highs with the polls showing a massive 13% support for One Nation nationwide just weeks after the launch, lows with the evaporation of her private life because of the constant presence of Federal Police. Federal Police who were there to protect her following serious death threats being made against her. Highs of seeing her party blossom and grow, lows of knowing that the Australian Labor Party was the face behind the violent protests at her meetings a fact the media refused to report on. (Pic left arrests at Prosper Australia Rally in Brisbane October 1997).
As Pauline Hanson said at Newcastle in May 1997, "I cannot begin to describe the difficulties that have been associated with my being here tonight.
"Suffice to say, that protesters, the Newcastle Council, the (Australian) Labor Party, and I suspect various minority groups and multiculturalists have done their best to stop me from speaking to you here this evening.
"...Remember criticism is not racism.
"Patriotism is not racism."
In June the infamous Dandenong assault took place after Militant led a violent mob against a small group of One Nation guests.
Just over a year before this Pauline Hanson had been serving fish and chips out of her small shop in the Ipswich suburb of Silkstone. The shop represented a key part of the Hanson phenomenon. It was so small that if six people gathered to buy take away they would have to wait outside in the queue. This small business owner, this single mother, this Australian battler, in touch with other Australians had touched and changed the political landscape for ever.
(Pic right: the interior of Pauline Hanson's tiny fish and chip shop in Silkstone. Left: "Marsden's Seafoods" front window).
Here she stood in front of hundreds, sometimes thousands of cheering supporters. Not once, not twice, but every time she spoke. Supporters who had never met her, never heard her speak, never been involved in politics before. How could a single mother, accused by the mainstream media of being racist, accused by senior politicians in the major parties as being ignorant have this effect?
The media would have you believe that this is an example of Australia's fair democracy in action - those close to Pauline know that the truth is very different. Thankfully, more and more people are recognising this blight, as the letter below highlights:
Subject: Im Sorry Pauline
Date: Sun, 8 Mar 1998 09:11:37 +1000
I attended your meeting last Friday and with the hundreds of people there felt your courage and conviction and was (amazed) that you are not the two headed monster some of the media make you out to be. I would like to say sorry for the hurt inflicted on you by these media barrons and there cronies who sell there souls for a few dollars a week.
Pauline you have a ARMY of honest Australians that do not make a lot of noise but will be right behind you when election time arrives.
Hang in there,
However, the transformation of a fish and chip shop owner into a federal politician who inspired a nation is not so easily explained.
|All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by frost.
- - - -J. R. R. Tolkien "Lord of the Rings"
There was phenomenal growth in the party with over 200 branches springing up around Australia .All being administered by a small, three man office in Manly run by national director David Ettridge. A pincer movement of dissention appeared in One Nation ranks in July 1997. Some people dissaffected by previous political blows found solace and refuge by forming or joining One Nation branches. Many of their views were radical, non-conformist and blatantly against the character of One Nation's vision.
Like little boils they started to spring up around the country. This was a testing time for both David Ettridge and David Oldfield as the minor, scattered uprisings within the party were blown out of all proportion by the antagonistic Murdoch/Packer media and spurred on by smaller radical independent magazines like the Australia-Israeli Review which saw discrediting Pauline Hanson's One Nation as its primary objective. A One Nation branch "president" representing little more than two or three members in some remote areas could gain guaranteed national exposure on television and in the press by complaining about the "two Davids". The story would then be portrayed by the media as representing "massive unrest" throughout the party.
The media inspired cancer spread quickly with things coming to a head with the Australia-Israeli Review questioning David Ettridge's past financial dealings. Articles written by David Greason of the Australia-Isreali Review, did not reveal the fact that he had, not long before, published a paper at the University of Melbourne called "I was a teenage fascist".
In August 1997 the president of one of the major support areas of the party, Hervey Bay, Queenland, secretly joined a break away group headed by Brian MacDermott. MacDermott, a member of Graeme Campbell's Australia First Party, had infiltrated One Nation with one objective in mind - to try to disrupt One Nation and then win over the membership to Australia First.
In early October after a One Nation meeting in the heart of Brisbane the president of Hervey Bay, Malcolm Taylor, tried to register a new political party called One Nation Queensland without discussing the move with Pauline Hanson - but inviting her to be the new party's "patron".
I was fortunate enough to be invited to be present at a watershed meeting at Hervey Bay at which the two Davids and Pauline faced the large Hervey Bay membership and their dissenting president as a united front. A meeting at which Pauline Hanson said, "I will resign from politics if someone tries to run my party (without my blessing)." A statement prompted by claims at the meeting that the two Davids had taken over effective control of the direction of One Nation. (Pic right: Malcolm Taylor apologises to Pauline Hanson for going behind her back.)
The motion proposed by Keith Bever of Bundaberg branch at Hervey Bay that "Members move a motion of support for both the Davids and Pauline Hanson" was unanimously approved to cheers and clapping.
These were low times which the party weathered - and despite renewed claims by the media and One Nation detractors that the party was "finished" it continued to grow and expand.
Perhaps the greatest contradiction of the facts - against the media inspired fiction on Pauline Hanson can be seen in the events that took place during this critical time in the party's history. Let us remember that Pauline Hanson has not had the advantage of a political career or a university education, she has been brought up in the school of hard knocks. Pauline Hanson, the media and career politicians continually tell us, is not very bright, just a freak of the times we live in.
If we are to accept this simplistic argument, what then has attracted such a following, such a focus behind the "fish and chip" lady brought up on the wrong side of the tracks? In a word it is the "vision". The vision that Pauline Hanson had given people of an Australia for Australians not the blind subservience of senior politicians to the select few who are ripping the hearts and guts out of this fine country.
Here is what Margo Kingston, a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald said on the ABC at this time:
"Now when you have a man so powerful that he can buy Graeme Richardson to talk the Labor party around and Michael Kroger to talk the Liberal party around, and Howard and Costello and Alston jump to his every need no matter how irrational, no matter how transparently incoherent their arguments, we have a huge problem. And yes, personally I am very scared, personally, of Mr Packer taking over Fairfax."
At a book launch in November 1997 these words were to prove particularly pertinent when, despite a massive media turnout (including News Limited) the launch of Pauline Hanson's official biography by Helen Dodd, "Pauline the Hanson Phenomenon" was never given a single column centimeter of coverage by News Limited - the media giant which dominates Australian news.
(Pic left: The media scrum at the launch of Hanson's authorised biography, November 21st. 1998) To date, despite massive coverage by News Limited of the alternative-view by the discredited one-time Hanson adviser, John Pasquarelli, of the book "Pauline Hanson by the man who knows" the authorised biography by Dodd remains unreported in any News Limited newspaper around Australia and despite being the best kept secret in the Hanson phenomenon is selling extremely well through direct sales in One Nation branches.
|Know'st thou the land where the lemon-trees bloom,
Where the gold orange glows in the deep thicket's gloom,
Where a wind ever soft from the blue heaven blows,
And the groves are of laurel and myrtle and rose!
- - - -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe "Wilhelm Meister"
(Pic Left: First One Nation candidates, January 1998 - Left to Right (Queensland state election): Arthur Hickman, Heather Hill, Pauline Hanson, Dorothy Pratt, Ian Petersen)
In January 1998 the party widened its focus and established a formal Queensland Electoral Committee to oversee the entry of Pauline Hanson's One Nation into Queensland State politics.
With the federal election just months away candidates for senate and lower house seats have come forward. The Australian Electoral Commission changed the boundaries of Pauline Hanson's Oxley seat during 1997 prompting Pauline to announce her decision to stand for the new seat of Blair in late February 1998. Her decision not to contest a safer Senate seat prompted media comment that she would not be in politics after the next election.
By mid-March 1998 Pauline Hanson had another surprise to spring on the major political parties and the mainstream media when she revealed that over 40 out of a possible 85 Queensland state seats now had One Nation candidates.
At a special meeting in Beenleigh Pauline Hanson endorsed 12 new state candidates... an event which was totally overlooked, as usual by News Limited's fickle reporters.
(Pic left: Some of the state candidates being endorsed by Pauline Hanson at Beenleigh. Pic Right: Over 40 One Nation state candidates gather in Toowoomba on the 5th April 1998)
The polls tell us that Pauline Hanson's One Nation has national support of just 3 or 4% down from the 13% recorded in April 1997. The reality, as any One Nation member will tell you, is very different.
|And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like Arabs,
And silently steal away.
- - - -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Perfect weather, perfect hostess, perfect company, perfect country, perfect party.... a perfectly perfect time.
What more can one say?
"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to
By the close of nominations for the Queensland State Election on 25th May 1998 Pauline Hanson's One Nation lodged a remarkable 79 candidates out of 89 seats - the second largest after the Labor Party.
These were candidates that were to be referred to the media in the lead up to the election as a "dad's army" a "rag tag collection of hopefuls" and other disparaging comments.
A series of articles were run in The Courier Mail trying to dissuade the Liberals from casting preferences to One Nation ahead of the Labor party, their traditional enemies. The ruse nearly worked. However, the media-inspired ruse backfired focussing attention on One Nation - resulting in growing support for the party across the state.
Now as we approach the moment of truth in Queensland I openly hope that the bridge will be crossed where all Australians will be given the opportunity to live equally as one people, without the divisive, minority group inspired habitats lurking in the shadows of the major parties while the heart of Australia's democracy and freedom is openly compromised.
And what a day it was with Pauline Hanson's One Nation winning eleven seats...
In late July 1998 the new One Nation MPs gave their maiden speeches to the Queensland Parliament while controversy and protests raged both inside and out of the Parliamentary chamber.
Victoria is referred to by the state premier as the "state of excitement". One Nation members would disagree - they would see it as the "state of violence" - after Dandenong in 1997 and Hawthorn in 1998.
At the Hawthorn meeting held on July 19th, 1998 Pauline Hanson was forced to cancel her attendance after being warned by police that they could not ensure her safety.
At the time 1500 hooligans chanted outside while about 200 One Nation members who had braved the crowd, or arrived early, pondered their position. A position which was not made any easier when the police made this astounding statement to those gathered inside:
Victorian convener, Robyn Spencer, said following the meeting "The police tried to stop us having our meeting inside the hall.... They read us this statement 'On speaking to the organisers outside the hall they ... they... they're the thugs have given us an undertaking that if the meeting does not proceed they will let us take all your people out.' How dare the police negotiate with the multicultural thugs outside who were preventing freedom of speech, our police are negotiating with them rather than the citizens inside who have a right of association and a right of freedom of speech."
A view supported by one of the guests.
GWB did an expose on who was behind the protesters and the violence - and the same hooligans as Dandenong were exposed.
Meanwhile on August 4th, in Queensland, the Labor-dominated Ipswich City Council once again played its trump card in trying to lock out and shut up Pauline Hanson. Permission to use the Ipswich Civic Centre was denied resulting in the party holding a rally in Nicholas Street outside the Civic Hall - in a dangerous environment where protesters and One Nation guests were forced to mix.
Pauline Hanson gave an impassioned speech slamming the protesters, who stood just yards away, and singling out their abuse. She also had a special message for the Ipswich City Councilors who had prevented her the right of using a public facility which stood vacant yards away from the street-based rally.
"To achieve the impossible, one must think the absurd, to look where everyone else has looked, but to see what no one else has seen."
In the lead up to the Federal election in October 1998, the major parties, Labor and Liberal (Laboral) exchanged preferences - putting the new player, One Nation, last. Their move made a whole lot of sense as both parties represent big business while One Nation stands alone in supporting and conveying the wishes of the great majority of Australians.
The media-inspired "race-based debate" inspired the formation of the very un-Australian RaceWatch just weeks before Prime Minister John Howard called the election. The RaceWatch "kit" is a "big brother is watching you" project managed by the Jewish B'Nai B'rith Anti Defamation Commission and Community Aid Abroad. The politically correct minorities within Australia had stooped to new lows with children being encouraged to "out" their parents for comments which "RaceWatch" deemed to be racist with the dictionary definition being moulded to intimidate.
The irony and hypocrisy of those managing "RaceWatch" is lost on the media.
On Sunday 1st September John Howard called the Federal Election and, suddenly, the race debate disappeared as "tax" and the "GST" became the big issue.
|I walked beside the evening sea
And dreamed a dream that could not be;
The waves that plunged along the shore
Said only: "Dreamer, dream no more!"
- - - -George William Curtis
One Nation's election campaign was one tempered with mistakes, lack of resources, a biased media and blatant hostility from the political establishment. While the former did nothing for the cause during the campaign, the latter two elements fused to ensure that every mistake, becams a major opportunity to discredit Pauline Hanson's One Nation.
The official launch of the One Nation election campaign on the Tuesday preceding the election highlighted the farcicle situation that the party found itself embedded in. It was the day the media snapped. Instead of reporting the news, they became the news.
In the lead up to the election both major parties (Laboral factions) had confirmed that they would be putting One Nation last on their how-to-vote cards.
As the campaign got in full swing and preferences became an issue the Laboral factions started openly lobbying for One Nation preferences in one of the most hypocritical scenarios ever seen in modern politics.
Election day saw many of the One Nation dreams dissipate as the overbearing weight of being placed last on all the other "how-to-vote" cards affected the chances of all in the lower house - including Pauline Hanson. Mrs Hanson, despite gaining 37% of the primary vote compared to just 20% by the Liberal candidate, Cameron Thompson, was defeated by a 2% margin after preferences.
The dream had ended - but a new chapter in the will of the people to defeat big business and the Laboral factions was still to come. The main players might change but the vision for equality and change would remain.
Pauline Hanson would forever remain the spark that allowed Australians to questions what they had not dared to before, and for that we thank her and the enormous role that she played in this country's history.
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