In recent months, a series of scandals have hit Pauline Hanson’s right-wing One Nation party. In one instance, an audio recording from a meeting was leaked to the media where Hanson and her chief of staff James Ashby discussed the idea of committing fraud. They were looking at the possibility of making money out of their Queensland election campaign by doctoring up receipts for election expenses.
This was followed by another leaked audio recording that featured Hanson in discussion with former One Nation president Ian Nelson. They were discussing the donation of a light plane by property developer Bill McNee. This donation was not disclosed to the electoral commission as required by the law.
Within a few days yet another scandal surfaced regarding money solicited via One Nation’s website that was then transferred into Hanson’s personal bank account. It was found that Hanson received a $2500 donation but no campaign expenditure was declared.
Former One Nation staffers, have also come out saying that Hanson had “used” them and accusing her of running the party like “a dictatorship”. They have explained that she promotes a culture of intimidation and silences all dissent.
One example is Graham McDonald – the former treasurer of Hanson’s previous political vehicle, the United Australia Party. He was sacked for blowing the whistle after he alerted the authorities when Hanson withdrew more than $200,000 from the United Australia Party’s account.
Given much of this information has come from ‘rats in the ranks’ of One Nation, questions have been raised about instability in the party, and whether or not the organisation could collapse from within. There is no doubt that the lack of democracy in One Nation and the top-down way that Hanson operates, fuels discontent, but the constant state of crisis they face also stems from their contradictory politics.
There is a fundamental schism between the way that Hanson presents herself and the way that the party acts. She claims that One Nation is a party for ‘battlers’ and that she, unlike the major parties, represents the interests of ordinary people. Nothing is further from the truth.
Despite all the rhetoric, the record of Hanson shows very clearly that she is no friend of the ‘battler’. In fact, One Nation is the Turnbull government’s most reliable voting partner in the Senate, voting with the Coalition 85% of the time. One Nation senators have voted for anti-worker laws like the Australian Building and Construction Commission as well as welfare cuts and other austerity measures.
While some people, including candidates and staffers, are attracted to One Nation because of Hanson’s anti-establishment image, they can quickly become disillusioned once they realise that, in practice, Hanson is just another stooge for the status quo, albeit one that is more populist, cruder and more openly racist than your regular major party figures.
The leaked information also exposes the money trail behind One Nation. Ultimately, Hanson, just like the major parties, is financed by capitalist interests including big property developers. At the end of the day she will always serve the interests of her benefactors.
While the scandals have served to take the shine off One Nation in the eyes of many, given the hatred that exists for the major parties, and the lack of a left alternative, there is still a danger that the party can make gains, especially at the upcoming Queensland state election.
Just like with Trump, in frustration, people can sometimes excuse the rorts and scandals and use figures like Hanson to punish the major parties at the ballot box.
The higher than average unemployment rates, especially in regional Queensland, feeds distrust with Labor and the LNP with many looking to vote for a candidate they hope will stir things up.
To really stop One Nation, it is necessary to build a genuinely principled left-wing organisation. A real alternative to the major parties would need democratic structures and it would also refuse donations from business interests. With socialist policies that were not at odds with its support base a left alternative would not only be more stable than right-populist formations like one Nation, but it would be much better placed to actually win real gains for ordinary people.
By Tim Tran