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Tuesday, 2 June 1998
Page: 4490

Dr NELSON (10:45 PM) —I would like to make some comments about the contemporary phenomenon of One Nation. Grief is a necessarily painful emotion which, to varying degrees, we have all experienced at some time in our lives. When anger at the loss also competes for expression, confusion reigns and it makes those who suffer from it susceptible to false prophets. Nations, like people, grieve—as Australia did after the inexplicable, yet preventable, tragedy of Port Arthur. We faced our moment of truth with grim determination, both to understand and to pursue a course of action that would serve the nation's interest.

The member for Oxley (Ms Hanson) has become a lightning rod for grief and anger, the expression of which has legitimacy. Many Australians grieve changes that few want and even fewer understand. Others are angry that the Australia they once knew has changed, and they are lunging for someone that they feel is an everyday person who seems to offer an expectation that reality cruelly will never meet. There is also within each of us a constant tension in what we want for ourselves, a self-interested resentment of people and things that we do not understand and an anger at people perhaps that we do not want.

Every day in Australia we see further evidence of change, over which we appear to have little control. You have only to open a newspaper or turn on a radio or a television in any part of the country on any day of the week to read or hear about such things as BHP announcing the closure of its steelworks and collieries, Berlei closing to relocate in South-East Asia, APPM announcing the possible loss of 150 jobs and so on.

The member for Oxley is popular for many reasons, but one of them is that if many Australians held a mirror to themselves they would say, `She is like me: she looks like me, she thinks like me and she talks like me. She is saying things that I do not always agree with but with which I identify.'

The challenge for those of us who profess to lead and who have undertaken the responsibility to do so is not to personally repudiate the member for Oxley and her supporters. Most of the supporters, as I see it, of the One Nation Party are basically decent people: they are people who went to war, they did not buy something until they had saved up for it and they thought their rights were less important than their responsibilities. Unfortunately, however, there are a small number of people who pursue the interests of One Nation who, frankly, are evil.

What we need to do is to understand that the phenomenon of One Nation has evolved from a decade of us being patronised. We were told that we were racists if we questioned some of the policies of the previous government. Largely, we were ignored and our everyday concerns were trivialised and dismissed as being mundane.

Those Australians who, understandably, are looking for an understanding as to why we send money to the poorest people in the world, why we contribute to the United Nations, why we do anything at all for indigenous people despite impropriety and waste, and why we have an immigration program at all and for whose benefit it ought to be run—those people who perhaps feel attracted to the false prophesy that is being offered by One Nation—need to reflect, amongst other things, on the consequences of political instability. New Zealand did an enormous amount to get its economy back on track; now it has political instability. Tasmania is essentially ungovernable and has been close to recession or in recession for nearly two years. In other parts of the world where there is not political stability, unfortunately, not only do you see economic turmoil but you also see turmoil in society as well.

Grief can be a powerful force for change when it is harnessed to seemingly intractable problems. The important point that needs to be made, whether it is to us here or our colleagues in Queensland of whatever political party, is that when parliamentarians merely follow public opinion rather than recognising the need to lead it the whole nation is vulnerable. When we allow facts to bow to bias, and some of the nonsense paraded as facts by the member for Oxley and some of her supporters, then truth is vulnerable and evil in all of its guises finds an environment in which it may flourish, if not triumph.