By Mike Welsh
If MediaWatch anchor Paul Barry is right I just may have played a small part in the rise of Pauline Hanson. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
From early 1997, whenever Pauline Hanson stepped off an aircraft in Canberra three AFP officers shadowed her 24/7 until she left the nation’s capital. Back at her home base in Queensland a caravan was set up nearby to house protective security officers to take care of things while she was away.
So elevated was the threat to Oxley’s Independent member’s safety the AFP claimed she had the highest rating of any politician, higher even than the Prime Minister of the day, John Howard, who had decreed the only way to deal with Hansonism was to ignore the founder. But Pauline Hanson is back and this time she’s running the show. There’s something about Pauline.
I first met Pauline Hanson in 1997 while working as a journalist at Port Macquarie on the NSW Mid North Coast. The local branch of her burgeoning political party One Nation invited her to speak.
Hanson had already proven a security nightmare for organisers at such rallies around Australia, but this was a hard-core ‘Pauline’ crowd. A good percentage of the retirement village’s population jammed into the Town Hall to hear what the woman who ‘spoke their language’ had to say.
I’d barely stepped into the foyer before being targeted by locals who believed the media had given the country’s most famous fish n chip shop owner a tough time and felt the need to ‘jostle’ our small and startled media pack. Ordinarily my beat didn’t involve pensioner pushing and shoving but on this day it surprisingly morphed into something potentially more dangerous.
While law and order in the normally peaceful and civilised tourist/retirement town was quickly unravelling at the front of the building, Ms Hanson was having problems getting past a small mob of protestors which had invaded the stage door. Meanwhile back in the foyer, things got a bit ‘too close for comfort’ and police gathered up the media party and Ms Hanson and shoved us all through a back door to the safety of back stage thus avoiding being crushed by two opposing angry mobs.
Back then Pauline boldly but clumsily proclaimed all manner of things which “had to change in this country”….a song which rang sweet in the ears of a solid section of the community and hit a chord with a another section of the electorate not ready yet to show their “true colours”. While Pauline barked messages which John Howard would later refine into attractive policy and dog whistle his way to an election victory or two, the country became divided over the Red Head from Queensland.
I like Pauline Hanson but apart from being born in the same year as she, we have nothing in common and I don’t share her views. I’ve had her as a guest on my radio shows at least a dozen times on three radio stations and even had her in studio to co-host my 2CC Drive Show in Canberra in early 2012 when she canvassed her small range of issues in her unique style. During that week we dined one evening at one of Civic’s finest eateries where we talked mostly about scone recipes and Tasmanian Real Estate.
News of her “shockjock” debut on 2CC garnered an estimated $200,000 worth of free publicity nationally. Exposure almost useless in Canberra but again proof there was certainly still something about Pauline. The last time I spoke to her was in November 2014 after she had taken back the brand One Nation and was in charge. There was still something about Pauline.
Paul Barry blames the media for the rise and rise of Pauline Hanson, but as the author of The Rise and Rise of Kerry Packer and The Rise and Fall of Alan Bond, the MediaWatch anchor should know better than most that there is something about Pauline. Not John Howard, Tony Abbott, relentless death threats nor a prison term could knock her out of the game. Pauline Hanson cannot and apparently will not, be ignored. In the mid 90s her aim was indigenous Australians, now she has Muslims in her sights and has mainstream media staples like morning TV star Sonya Kruger inadvertently endorsing her extreme views.
Strap yourself in ‘straya…….