The perils of Pauline

White QueenReview by Garth Jones


In his seventh Quarterly Essay, The White Queen – One Nation and the Politics of Race, journalist David Marr examines Pauline Hanson and One Nation’s re-emergence in our current global political context.

Collaborating with a team of statisticians, Marr analyses the resurgence of Hanson through the lens of Australian voters’ demographic makeup.

One Nation’s rise itself is investigated through an exploration of John Howard’s mid-late 1990s political opportunism, providing an illuminating timeline of Hanson’s hot button topics. Muslims, for one, have obviously replaced Asians as our nation’s greatest existential threat.

Marr discussed The White Queen at Carlton’s Church of All Nations in late March, noting that his work can be robbed of topicality by the rapid pace of modern political theatre. In June 2010, a soon to be ex-Prime Minister was in his sights. Political Animal, Marr’s piece on then opposition leader Tony Abbott, arrived in late 2012, just months before the ouster of Julia Gillard and the doomed return of Kevin Rudd.

Released on 27 March, The White Queen was published in the wake of the Western Australian state election. Then Liberal Premier Colin Barnett had engineered preference deals with One Nation, which backfired spectacularly and led to – for the Liberal Party – an ominous electoral wipeout.

In the current edition of The Monthly, journalists George Megalogenis and Richard Cooke also reflect on One Nation’s constituents steadily eroding the Liberal Party’s traditional voter base.

This explains the Turnbull Liberal Government’s further push to the populist right. The recent abolition of certain 457 visas subtly dog-whistle to Hanson’s base and are met with approval from Hanson herself. Bill Shorten’s Labor opposition – hardly immune to criticism – has also embraced Trumpian ‘nation first’ rhetoric in an effort to woo disaffected middle Australian voters.

As noted, the frenzied pace of modern political discourse renders any printed work fleetingly contemporaneous. Regardless, Marr’s newest Quarterly Essay provides us with a useful snapshot of the present condition of mainstream Australia, and is recommended for those critical insights alone.

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