I don’t disagree that Pauline Hanson’s policies are hateful, simplistic and stupid. That has been clearly and repeatedly demonstrated so I won’t belabour the point. And while I agree that it is a shame her bilious half-truths are given a voice in our national parliament, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise. It is also not the disaster some commentators are describing, as, despite picking up several senate seats, the One Nation party could have considerably less power than is being made out.
Aside from the fact that channel 7 pretty much supported her election campaign by making her a paid commentator on Sunrise (why would anyone pay to hear what she has to say?), the surge in support for One Nation would still have been little surprise. We know there is a minority of Australians who are proudly bigoted (Reclaim Australia and the Australian Christian Lobby are a couple of obvious examples). How else would professional hate mongers such as Bernardi and Christenson get elected! We also know from events in England and America that disaffection with major parties is a very real phenomenon that is driving many voters towards the anti-establishment party that screams the loudest, not the one that makes the most sense.
And while it is a shame this has happened, all the hand-wringing about One Nation holding a possible balance of power is a bit overly dramatic. Shorten and Turnbull could make One Nation and the other cross-bench senators completely irrelevant if they chose. It would be good to see Turnbull emulate John Howard (wow- not a sentence I say often) and take a strong stand against One Nation, but I don’t think he is up to it. But even if he doesn’t, if Labor does as Shorten has pledged and negotiates fairly, and the Coalition is able to do the same (I realise I am talking about a number of unreasonable people being reasonable, but if we expect the worst from our politicians, we will probably get it), the two parties could work together to frame legislation they are both at least partially satisfied with and then could pass it through both houses without having to make complex special amendments for the crossbenchers. Obviously there will be some policy areas where a bipartisan approach will not be possible due to ideological differences, but the idea that the government will be paralysed by a recalcitrant senate and hostage to the demands of extremists like Hanson forgets that it doesn’t have to be. It just has to be willing to negotiate and Shorten has to stick to his word.
I have heard a few people say they would like to see Labor make it as difficult for the government to pass legislation as possible, a la Tony Abbott in 2010, and politically it would be tempting, but I can’t see how that is in the country’s best interest. And making decisions in the country’s best interest (not their own) is what they are elected to do. It is not an easy ask, but the government and opposition have it within their power to make the 45th Australian parliament functional and to address the challenges the country faces, but they will have to do it by finding some consensus and commonality and being able to give up certain demands.