Feature by: Scott Balson, Global Web Builders
Links with the full story and the images of the meetings at Gympie and Hervey Bay are recorded at the bottom of this background introduction.
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It was a great privilege to be given the unrestricted opportunity to cover what was known to be a day of reckoning for Pauline Hanson's fledgling political party One Nation - just 28 weeks old.
Never before had a political party facing such a crisis from within given such access to the media to the unfolding drama that they knew would take place during the day. In itself this access made a lie of the tainted perspective of the mainstream media that Pauline Hanson's One Nation was some sort of secretive, divisive party populated by racists whose whole aim was to destroy the very fabric of Australia.
There were enormous political risks, not just by my being there but by the executive of the party confronting the problem head on at two meetings in northern Queensland - the heart of Pauline Hanson's One Nation's popular support in that state and the source of much of the dissension against the two Davids who advised Pauline Hanson. The risk is clearly demonstrated in some of the images in which the trauma, the tension and the emotions of some of the key players can be clearly seen.
The meetings at Gympie and Hervey Bay were held on Sunday 2nd November 1997 and followed an extraordinary set of developments that happened after a very few key members you could count on one hand within Queensland branches were disillusioned by the state AGM held directly following the Prosper Australia Rally in Brisbane on 4th October 1997. They believed that the Manly office was "dictatorial".
Following the Prosper Australia Rally a few members of a party with views similar to One Nation called Australia First decided to strike and create turmoil within the incredible growth of Pauline Hanson's party. Australia First had battled to establish any branches in Queensland and with Pauline Hanson's One Nation establishing over 200 branches in just 28 weeks these members saw a Queensland take over of her party as a primary objective. Australia First's leader was a former Australian Labor Party federal member, Graeme Campbell, whose Kalgoorlie seat in Western Australia was claimed to be the largest and most sparsely populated seat in the entire western world. Campbell was thrown out of the Labor Party because of his outspoken views but succeeded in retaining his seat of Kalgoorlie in the 1996 Federal Elections.
It has got to be understood that at no stage did anyone from Pauline Hanson's One Nation suggest that Graeme Campbell himself was involved in this conspiracy but the issue will obviously have to be addressed from within the Australia First party if trust is going to be built between these like-thinking parties.
Members of Australia First had joined One Nation and had even sought to establish One Nation branches from which they could feed the growth of Campbell's party. This is not supposition, this is not a conspiracy theory, this is fact. This at a stage in Australian politics when the professional Coalition/Labor politicians nursed their own careers and abused their democratic role of meeting the wishes and demands of the general Australian population in favour of seeking the favour of the minority groups (such as gay and lesbians) whose votes could gain them the power that they sought.
In Brisbane a man by the name of Brian McDermott set up a "white ant" operation aimed at destabilising One Nation. He invited Australia First members to his meetings at the time he was supposed to be establishing a branch of One Nation at Beaudesert, south of Brisbane. McDermott knew who the disaffected members of One Nation were following the Prosper Australia rally and invited them to a meeting at which the "loyalty and intentions" of Pauline Hanson's key advisers, national director David Ettridge, and political adviser David Oldfield were questioned.
Soon after the group, presided over by McDermott, held a second subversive meeting but this time they "locked out" One Nation members who were loyal to Pauline Hanson and Pauline's political adviser, David Oldfield, who had come to see what was going on. It was only after lengthy discussion by the dissident One Nation members and remaining loyal One Nation supporters who demanded his right to access that Oldfield was eventually allowed into the meeting! Amongst those attending the meeting was Hervey Bay One Nation branch president Malcolm Taylor.
A tape recording was secretly made at the meeting by a loyal Pauline Hanson One Nation member. The resulting signed affidavit attached to the transcript reveals quite clearly the motives of the Australia First members attending this second meeting.
The Hervey Bay branch members of Pauline Hanson's One Nation under their President, a real dynamo, Malcolm Taylor, moved a motion of no confidence in the two Davids following the McDermott meetings. Malcolm Taylor took things one stage further by registering a new political party in Queensland called "One Nation, Queensland" in his name.
The rumour mongering took on a life of its own. In late October I received several email from concerned and loyal One Nation supporters questioning the influence that the two David's had over Pauline Hanson and their "hidden agenda" for being involved in the party.
It looked to all intents and purposes that Australia First could just walk in and take over during the ensuing confusion that had been so carefully sown by their members.
The events of Sunday 2nd November turned the clock back, and as you will see from the transcripts of key parts of the two meetings linked below, offered a new opportunity for Pauline Hanson's One Nation to embrace Australia and play its rightful role in getting the management of our country back into the hands of our people, all our people.
What had started as a day of uncertainty for Pauline Hanson and her team ended in a day of triumph. The meetings had been tense at time and questions of loyalty had been raised. At the end of the day the healing process of having the concerns openly aired and discussed was successful and the members I spoke to expressed admiration for the team in taking the time out of their hectic schedule to meet with them on their ground. What was described by the media as a "split" in the One Nation party was in fact a passing event being orchestrated by a group that you could count on one hand.
Pauline Hanson's team are a close knit group who work well and very openly together. I was able to experience this high level of understanding and communication first hand after the Hervey Bay meeting and, believe me, Pauline is always in control.
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