“Hogwash”. “Rubbish.” That’s what Pauline Hanson thinks of accusations that she’s a white supremacist. It’s a label that’s stuck ever since her infamous “xenophobic” interview back in 1996, but never more firmly than this week.
On Monday, the Queensland One Nation Party Senator tabled a motion that declared “it’s OK to be white”; a phrase popularised by neo-Nazis.
In a sensational day in Parliament, the motion was only narrowly defeated after attracting support from Government Senators. But don’t worry, folks; they didn’t actually mean it. It was just… how did they put it? Oh yeah, an “administrative error”, one they quickly backed down from and apologised for following widespread backlash.
The Prime Minister described the vote as “regrettable”. The Government’s Senate Leader described it as “severely embarrassing”.
Well, this morning on Today, a particularly fired-up Pauline Hanson had a few choice words of her own.
“They’re absolute fools. They really are,” she told host Karl Stefanovic. “The way the Liberal Party and National Party have acted over this is ridiculous. They should have let it go. They should not have said anything about it, and there wouldn’t have been a problem with it.”
So how did the Australian Senate get so close to endorsing a white supremacist slogan?
Start from the beginning. What was the motion about? And why were they voting on it?
Motions are formal proposals by members of Senate that can range from endorsement of an issue of domestic or foreign policy, to the introduction of bills or referral of a matter to a special inquiry. Roughly 50 of these occur every sitting week.
In this case, Senator Hanson simply asked the Senate to "acknowledge: (a) the deplorable rise of anti-white racism and attacks on Western civilisation; and, (b) that it is okay to be white.”
The motion was defeated 31-28 on Monday, but only thanks to opposition from Labor, the Greens and crossbench senators Derryn Hinch, Tim Storer, Stirling Griff and Rex Patrick.
So Government Senators agreed with Pauline Hanson on this?
Well, not initially.
See, when notice is given of an upcoming motion, the Government asks the relevant ministerial office to advise on the issue. In this case, it was the office of Attorney-General Christian Porter.
When Senator Hanson's motion was first lodged back in September, the Attorney-General's staff advised that it should be supported. This, Porter claims, was a mistake and one that occurred without his knowledge.
"It was interpreted in my office as a motion opposing racism," he said in a statement this week. "The associations of the language were not picked up. Had it been raised directly with me those issues would have been identified."