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Wednesday, 30 October 1996
Page: 4790


Senator BOSWELL (Leader of the National Party of Australia in the Senate)(4.38 p.m.) —As the Leader of the National Party in the Senate, I wish to associate myself with this motion in the strongest possible terms. It is a sad day when the Australian parliament finds itself in the position of having to reaffirm fundamental beliefs about the society which we are all working towards no matter what our political perspectives are.

Last weekend, the Queensland National Party approved an ethnic affairs policy which has as its opening statement:

The strength of Australia is a result of its people from different backgrounds working as one Australian society with diverse cultures.

The National Party recognises the contribution migrants have made and that it will continue to form the basis for the development of our Australian society.

The policy continues:

The National Party will continue to work for greater tolerance, understanding and equality towards all Australians and their culture.

The National Party policy is inconsistent with the comments made by the independent member for Oxley, Ms Pauline Hanson. I do not believe I can beat around the bush with this. It has to be said and it has to be said straight out.

I have often gone on the record in this place to warn about the dangers of snake oil salespeople selling simplistic solutions to complex problems. Australia seems to throw up these glitches from time to time. First there was Eric Butler and then there was Jeremy Lee, Peter Sawyer and Graeme Campbell.

The appeal of political charlatans is not to be ignored. It is real. It will always be there in a dark corner of Australian psyche, but we are not the elders of the village of Hameln that let the Pied Piper come in and take away our children. The motion before us means that we can strengthen our opposition to intolerance, that we are on guard about the threats to it and that we regard non-discrimination as an essential part of our society to be defended at all costs.

Like others before her, Ms Hanson is an exploiter of fears and prejudices. She exploits unhappiness, frustration and cynicism. She capitalises all those who feel the trauma of rapid economic and social change. I have heard her been spoken of well by professionals and by academics. We are not just talking about those people actually referred to as rednecks.

The Hanson phenomena has been compared to many things, but to me it is a disturbing echo of the Lindy Chamberlain saga, where otherwise rational people, community leaders and so on fell in with this lynch mob mentality. This sort of hysteria takes on a life of its own and can turn the world upside down. Why should Lindy Chamberlain be deemed guilty while Pauline Hanson is treated like the virgin Joan of Arc?

Like the gun debate before it, the Hanson factor has the potential to accumulate a political head of steam. A recent Morgan poll published in the Bulletin this week showed that a Hanson-led party would win 18 per cent of the Senate vote if there were an election now. I would like to speculate on what that hypothetical situation would mean to the Senate. We all know that opinion polls are volatile and have limited application. I do not think for a moment that that would happen, but let us just assume that we have just had an election and the Hanson party has won 18 per cent of the vote and now has the balance of power in the Senate.

What signals would this send not only to Australians but to the rest of the world? How would the Senate operate as a result? The government would introduce legislation. What would be the price for winning Hanson party support to allow the legislation to pass? What deals would be offered? Would the Hanson party demand substantial and discriminatory cuts in immigration and foreign aid? Would compulsory national service be the price for letting government legislation through? Would Australian children once more be threatened with removal from their mothers if they did not win the Hanson tidy town competition?

If the government would not bargain or negotiate, what then? Political instability and further elections? Imagine the strains the Hanson party would put on the operation of the Senate. Would we have MPIs on Australia being swamped by Asians or references to committees about international financiers conspiring to run the world?

In order to mobilise the Hanson supporters, whose networks and organisations support will be used? Who will be called on to develop her anecdotes into policy documents? Already we have seen Ms Hanson collecting well-wishers like Bruce Whiteside and the One Australia Movement born out of the scattered CAP ranks. Did the 500 people who allegedly signed up to this fan club know that they were each paying $5 to a group associat ed with extreme right-wingers, some of whom even deny the Jewish holocaust?

Who will run the Hanson movement? Who will offer the networks, administration and advice? The same group who thought Graeme Campbell was their great white hope—only now they have an even whiter champion. Racial intolerance is incompatible with the kind of society we are and want to be, as the motion before us says today. We cannot have any reverence for our own lives without reverence for others. The respect is missing from Ms Hanson's demeanour.

Three years ago in the Australian a letter to the editor from a Chinese immigrant was published. It had the headline `You gave me so much—I'll repay the debt'. After working to support himself, this man became ill and had a lifesaving operation. These are his words:

The medical report show that I was given 8 litre blood while I had 14 hours' brain operation. So now Australian people's blood are flowing through my whole body. It is Australia saving my life.

While this country give me something, I must give something back. . . I do thank you, Australia, who give me the opportunity of regeneration. God bless Australia.

Surely this is the attitude we want to encourage, both here and abroad. The increasing international reports and today's Daily Telegraph Mirror headline about Asian soldiers being abused in this country are not.

As Australians we have a choice at this point. Are we the country of regeneration or degeneration? It may well end up as a choice between having Senator O'Chee in this chamber or a Pauline Hanson clone or worse, depending on who she aligns herself with. Anyone who heard Senator O'Chee's speech earlier today would realise the great contrast between an Australian who brings a legacy of tolerance, freedom and respect for all Australians and the narrow, bigoted and wilful ignorance of the likes of Ms Hanson. If Australians make the Morgan poll a reality at the next election, then they say to people like Bill O'Chee, `Your childhood fears of being vilified in the school playground were only a vision of what is to come.'