February 24th 2001


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Articles from this issue:

THE ECONOMY: Manufacturing key to economic health

EDITORIAL: A time bomb under the Howard Government

CANBERRA OBSERVED: WA result shows Coalition's dilemma

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: ALP rides One Nation to victory

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Behind the push to become part of Asia

AGRICULTURE: ABARE report underestimates dairy backlash

Straws in the Wind

THE MEDIA

LETTERS

Indonesian wrath causes exodus of Papuans

CORPORATIONS: Does shareholder value makes everything acceptable?

COMMENT: Media's North Korea blindspot

FAMILY: Marriage is good for you

AS THE WORLD TURNS

FILM: "Hannibal" raises issue of film violence

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Straws in the Wind


by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, February 24, 2001
The "Forgotten People" are back

Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt has drawn our attention to the reactions of the anti-Hanson camp when, quite recently, Pauline returned to the political stage. We could have been watching one of those early Frankenstein or Fu Manchu movies; hadn't she been killed, annihilated, deaded? Didn't we all see her disappear in a burning lake of politicians' bilge and journos' bile? Could anyone survive that? And didn't we see a great bale of politically correct garbage put together by diverse "experts", hurtling down towards her from a tall building - the High Moral Ground - as the serial instalment ended? For it is a serial - the lady has nine lives.

Why were our fixers and phrasemongers surprised? Because they think their word is law. Not dust. Whereas, as Bolt pointed out, a million people voted for her candidates federally, in the face of the most sustained campaign of calumny, moral blackmail and dirty tricks, that we have seen since the 1916-17 Conscription referenda.

In Victoria, S11-types had to be produced to smash her meetings and intimidate her supporters while the police were obliged to stand by. Every attempt to set up branches was prevented by thugs. All very reminiscent of Germany in the run-up to 1933. Of course, when S11 tried the same tack against the World Economic Forum, the Establishment called them "fascists". Might we expect similar groups to appear again, to deny free speech and the right of assembly if her movement fires?

The fact is, the conditions that produced Pauline Hanson and a far larger number of tacit supporters than those who vote for her, still exist. The two major parties have failed the voters, each in its own separate way, and a large number of Australians feel cut out of the action, denied a voice, and are entirely opposed to the fragmentation of the polity into "a bunch of tribes, sexual identity groups, modish activists, influence buyers and me-firsts, all pulling the national rug out from under the racist, sexist, brain-dead, land thieves formally known as Australians".

I couldn't resist quoting Bolt's purple prose here, for it encapsulates the inchoate feelings of many. This is the real gap between the Haves and Have-nots in Australia - those who control or have hijacked the national agenda and those who have been denied their proper place, voice and respect.

Patronage

When people voted Howard in, they expected him to favour the big end of town, as Conservatives do. But Labor had done this too - and this was against its principles and propaganda - so Howard was ahead on points. But Howard's voters did expect him to deal with the plethora of patronage systems and minority influence groups who were eating up the social product and filling the air with their self-serving lamentations and put-downs of average Australians.

I'm afraid Howard has made little headway in demolishing or even substantially controlling such sheltered workshops and existential crises centres, and has left intact virtually all the inquisitorial - interventionist - tribunals set up by Hawke and Keating to crush critics, and silence or victimise non-conformists. They are lying low at the moment, but a change of government will see them re-emerge, claws out. The reappearance of race vilification on the menu is a warning sign. Howard has given in to his own Beautiful People, many of whom work in these caring and interfering industries, and hope to position their children and their friends therein.

Hansonism is a protest against the dominance of this great wedge of superfluous people - all drones and no workers. Hansonites no longer feel inferior to the mountebanks or hazed by their jejune opinionating. Certainly not that of the political class, who are emerging as more and more mediocre, greedy and totally baffled by the social and economic challenges we have been facing. Many of these worthies couldn't hold down a job in a fish-and-chip shop: too arduous, too demanding. It's politics, or the Public Service, or nothing.

The prognosis for the Hansonites is quite unclear at this point. They have competitors who hate their guts - e.g. Australians Against Further Immigration - and a multitude of independents. This is in addition to their traditional opponents. They may have the same organisational problems and fissiparous tendencies as before. A few brown paper bags can work marvels for disunity. They are, of course, infiltrated by spies and agents provocateurs. They cannot hope for a fair hearing, the rule of law or truthful reportage. So the story may end, like the Bride of Frankenstein.

Booster?

Unfortunately, the Hansonite electoral reappearance may act as a booster for Steve Bracks' otherwise implausible race vilification legislation. I don't see much support for more laws restricting freedom of speech, nor am I even sure that Bracks gave his Caucus much time to talk about it or think about it.

With such unpromising origins, and the still ambiguous not to say chaotic, nature of the proposed legislation, it would normally fail. But were Pauline's people able to give the big boys a run for their money, then a linkage process - McCarthyite in intent - may start forming between the "need" to crush Hanson and a desire to restrict freedom of speech still further. (For we already have many laws to chastise racist conduct, utterances, etc.)

But were such connections to be made by the political agenda setters who sit in the background, then we could be in for an obnoxious period - politically and morally.




























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