Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party was caught soliciting donations from the National Rifle Association (NRA) last month. An Al Jazeera investigation into the United States gun lobby uncovered the dealings and exposed the right-wing populist party in a two-part documentary.
In recent days footage released from the investigation has also shown Queensland One Nation leader and Senate candidate Steve Dickson groping dancers in a strip club and making sexist comments about women. He has been forced to resign as a candidate in disgrace.
One Nation officials were also found asking the multinational corporation Koch Industries for millions of dollars. This exposed the false image of One Nation as an anti-establishment party. Just like all other capitalist parties they are beholden to big business interests.
Al Jazeera’s investigation was extremely sophisticated. The operation took three years and included the setting up of a fake organisation called Gun Rights Australia.
Rodger Muller posed as president of the organisation and introduced himself to One Nation as an activist with powerful connections in the United States. One Nation’s general secretary James Ashby, along with Steve Dickson, went to the United States to meet with various gun lobby figures.
Ashby was caught on film talking about how One Nation could take control of the Australian Parliament if the party had $20 million, while Dickson joked that he could live in a mansion like a drug lord with all that money!
The idea was that in return for millions of dollars, One Nation would work to weaken Australia’s gun laws and therefore open up markets for US gun manufacturers. While proposing this behind closed doors, in public One Nation hypocritically say they are opposed to Australian parties taking foreign donations.
NRA officials told One Nation that they regularly manufactured stories about people in the US needing guns to protect themselves. Steve Dickson suggested that they could push the idea that people in Australia needed guns to fend off “violent African gangs”.
The Al Jazeera documentary was released just 10 days after the Christchurch massacre, and there is very little mainstream support for the weakening of gun laws. Making matters worse for Hanson, she was filmed suggesting that the 1996 massacre in Port Arthur was a conspiracy. No doubt all this is embarrassing for One Nation, but it has also impacted the major parties.
Against the backdrop of the election, One Nation preferences are important, especially in Queensland where the Liberal National Party are struggling to hold onto their seats. Both the Coalition and Labor have now been forced to distance themselves from any preference deals with One Nation.
One Nation is not new to these types of scandals. In Queensland, they were found to be doctoring receipts for election expenses and they have previously been caught accepting donations from the property developer Bill McNee.
Donations solicited via One Nation’s website have also been found to have been transferred to Pauline Hanson’s personal bank account.
With the help of the mainstream media, Hanson has used racism and bigotry to divert people’s attention from the real sources of the problems we face.
One Nation has been able to flourish because of the lack of solutions to people’s problems from the major parties. People are searching for an alternative to the pro-big business politics of the Liberals and Labor, and One Nation has been able to masquerade as an alternative.
While some people will be put off by the latest scandal, another layer, particularly in regional areas, will inevitably stick with the party in the absence of anything else.
While One Nation pretends to stand up for ordinary Australians, their politics are only useful to big business. Their racism is a way to let the establishment off the hook by blaming minorities for people’s problems.
There is no doubt that people in regional areas need an alternative to the major parties. However, it’s no use replacing the corrupt major parties with a smaller corrupt party with very similar policies.
We need a party that breaks with the corporate domination of politics, first and foremost by refusing to take donations from big business. We also need a party that tackles the real issues that regional Australia faces.
There is more than enough money for jobs and services to be brought to the bush, but it is hoarded by big business as profits. Socialists fight for the major sectors of the economy to be brought into public hands so that a plan can be made to provide for all working people.
By Triet Tran