Article The Australian 13-8-97

Liberal elite plots to seal Hanson’s political coffin

By political editor Michael Gordon

A determined push is being mounted by influential Liberals across Australia to ensure the defeat of Pauline Hanson by placing her below Labor on Liberal how-to-vote cards at the next election.

Liberal federal president Toney Staley is leading the push, which has the support of senior figures across State branches, former prime minister Malcom Fraser, industry figures and senior members of federal Cabinet.

Among them is Alexander Downer, who recently warned that implementation of Ms Hanson’s views would be a suicide note for Australia”.

With Labor already committed to placing Ms Hanson and her One Nation party last on how-to-vote cards, a decision to do the same by the Liberal Party would almost certainly ensure defeat of Ms Hanson at the nest election in either the House of Representatives or the Senate.

Election analyst Malcom Mackeras says it would make an already difficult position for Ms Hanson “virtually impossible”.

The earliest opportunity for the party to state a position on preferences would be next month’s federal executive meeting in Canberra. Although preference decisions are the province of state divisions, those urging action say the damage Ms Hanson’s views on Asia and immigration have done. Australia and her intention to felid candidates across the country provide ample justification for action by the Federal executive.

Those Liberals mounting the push believe an emphatic decision on preferences would be far more potent signal to the region than the rest of the region than the recent setting up of a special policy unit to fight negative images of Australia in Asia.

Under a draft redistribution to create a new seat in Queensland, former Labor premier Wayne Goss is well-placed to win Ms Hanson’s seat of Oxley, making it likely that Ms Hanson will contest the adjoining new seat of Blair, where the Nationals are well-placed, or the senate.

The issue of preferences has been controversial since former Liberal federal director Andrew Robb said in a television interview in October last year that he assumed absolutely that the Liberal Party would place Ms Hanson behind the Labor Party in Liberal Preferences.

Mr Robb made the statement after ALP national secretary Gary Gray told the same interviewer, the Nine Network’s Laurie Oakes, he expected Labor to put the Liberals ahead of Ms Hanson.

Mr Robb’s successor, Lynton Crosby, has since assiduously avoided making any commitment on the preference question saying he has no intention of being drawn on approaches well out from an election and that the issue is ultimately one for the Queensland branch.

Mr Crosby yesterday played down the preference push. Mr Staley, Mr Fraser and Mr Downer were either unavailable or refused to comment.

But one Liberal source said there was increasing pressure within the party to remove Ms Hanson as a political presence. “There’s no doubt that any attempt to give sustenance to Pauline Hanson in terms of preferences would lead to a very serious situation in the party,” the source said.

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