Courier Mail vs Queensland Times.
The reasoning behind Ipswich City Council’s decision to ban meetings of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party from its buildings is unclear. Originally we were told the council was concerned about the onerous cost of providing security against violence at One Nation rallies.
That argument has since shifted to one about council guidelines which apparently already ban the use of particular buildings for political purposes. Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley has been less equivocal, saying the Brisbane City Council also would ban Ms Hanson from its buildings because he believed Ms Hanson was “unwelcome in Brisbane.”
The violent protests which have become a regular sideshow at One Nation meetings are a grave concern. However, anyone who believes in democracy must be prepared to defend Ms Hanson’s right to free speech, regardless of what they think of her views. The cost of providing security at her speaking engagements is no reason for denying that right, nor is the fact that some politicians feel she is “unwelcome” on their turf.
The Ipswich Council decision, and CR Soorley’s support for it, demonstrate the continuing failure of Australia’s political leaders to deal intelligently with what is now being called “the Hanson phenomenon”.
Instead Ms Hanson has been attacked for "letting the genie out of the bottle”; that is voicing the ugly emotions of fear, anger and insecurity which more relaxed and comfortable Australians may have preferred to believe did not exist in our community. Ms Hanson has become a phenomenon precisely because they do exist. When she voices her fears about the direction in which Australia is headed, regardless of how ill-founded those fears are, she is speaking for many.
She has the absolute right to do so. Those who try to silence her risk demonstrating the very trend she claims is occurring: Australia is becoming a nation dominated by elites who do not care what the average citizen thinks.
To say Ms Hanson has the right to voice her opinions is not to say those opinions are right. What her popularity has demonstrated is that many Australians feel they have been excluded from discussion about the future of this nation. They do not understand how foreign investment and immigration can stimulate and generate economic growth and generate jobs; they feel insecure, rather than optimistic, about our proximity to and relations with the fastest-growing region on Earth: simply because that the region is Asian not Anglo-Saxon.
Continuing to exclude those Australians from public debate will not quell their fears. Indeed attempting to silence Ms Hanson or to outflank her party at the polls through political horse-trading, will only increase them. Australia’s political leaders must defend Pauline Hanson’s right to free speech; but now they also must counter her message of fear and suspicion with one of confidence and hope for the future of this country.
Already the letters of scorn have started pouring in after Ipswich City Council’s ban on the use of council buildings for One Nation Party use.It may not be a popular view and many be construed as preventing freedom of speech, but the move should be defended.
A council officer submitted a report to council’s Corporate Services Committee that suggested that if there was any bookings that staff felt may have cause for concern for their well being, council had the duty of care to staff to reject the booking.
Whilst the report cited One Nation incidents - past experience with breakages and the expense of extra security - it was not aimed at one party in particular. The submission was made to protect the commercial interests of Ipswich ratepayers and to protect council staff working in these buildings.
One Nation can seek out private facilities and those private facilities can assess the risks involved and make a decision - exactly as council has done.
It is unfortunate that the decision has been presented to the media as a ban on Pauline Hanson. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth as Ms Hanson’s electorate office is in the East St building now owned by council.