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Wednesday, 30 October 1996
Page: 4792


Senator BROWN(4.47 p.m.) —The Australian Greens join earlier speakers in totally deploring the turn of events in this country since Pauline Hanson made her inaugural speech in the House of Representatives. It was a sheer coincidence that, at the very same time she was making that speech, I was making a speech in this house reflecting Greens policy for an egalitarian country where everybody, without fear or favour, felt proud to be able to demonstrate their own feelings, their own culture, their own creed and their own zest for life. It was a call to this country, this lucky nation of ours, to take a lead in a world where we are no longer apart, but part of a global village of six billion people. If we cannot do it in this country with the inherent advantages we have, then we cannot expect people elsewhere to do it.

I like to think that it was a good thing that that speech I gave got no coverage in the Australian press, but the next day headlines everywhere covered the racist epithets in particular from Pauline Hanson. What I was saying reflected more clearly and closely the real feeling of Australians, and what she was articulating was the absurd, abhorrent and anti-Australian viewpoint. However, things have proceeded in a downward spiral on the slippery slope towards a more divided Australia and, as a consequence of this debate on racism in this country, an Australia with its reputation impugned. There is little evidence to say that we are off that slippery slope.

To me, there is still a simple factor in this—the touch point to this unseemly debate that has taken up Australia—and that is Pauline Hanson herself: Pauline Hanson, the member of the House of Representatives, who knowingly took her first opportunity to exhibit this unseemly discourse on racism and bigotry which is now a matter for universal comment, not only in this country but increasingly elsewhere around the world, to our detriment.

While I support this motion wholeheartedly, I still believe it pulls the punch. It still fails to take the confrontation for those of us who feel appalled by Pauline Hanson's philosophy to that member of the House of Representatives. Moreover, it fails to come to grips with the reality that the Prime Minister (Mr Howard) himself has failed to take her head-on. He has gone out of his way to avoid naming her as the spark in this conflagration against our nation's interests. I do not believe it will be until he, as the leader of this nation, as head of government, joins all of us in condemning her that we will start to put things back to rights.

I think that the Prime Minister has made a mistake in believing that, by ignoring her, in some way or other she will go away. In fact, what has happened, sadly, is that her notoriety is inversely proportional to his recognition of her central role in what is happening. It is essential that he take her on as an individual who must take major responsibility for this awful debate that is taking place in this wonderful nation of ours. Therefore, I move an amendment to this motion in the following terms:

After paragraph (b), add:

(c)   Deplores the racist statements of the Member for Oxley (Ms Hanson) and calls on the Prime Minister (Mr Howard) to name her and condemn her bigotry.

I do so because I believe, otherwise, we too are pulling the punch and we are not going to the core of the problem. Until we do, we are not going to be able to face the problem, dampen it down and apply the medicine that is required. The newspaper comments which increasingly say that the Prime Minister has failed or has made a mistake in his decision not to take on Pauline Hanson are correct. I believe that this motion falls short in that it does not do so either. Pauline Hanson ought to be taken to account in this motion. The Prime Minister's failure to recognise her central role in this, and his repeated refusals to do so, even under fairly intense inducement from journalists in this country, has been a mistaken policy.

I do not believe it is going to give her greater kudos or add anything to her bailiwick. I think it is going to add a united front to the leadership against this insidious racism which has come into public discourse in Australia. It is important that we have the courage to inveigle the Prime Minister to change tack and let Pauline Hanson know that we hold her responsible—along with, of course, those who are speaking out in her support—for the hurt and the harm to so many individuals in our nation and to the nation as a whole as far as our international reputation is concerned.