As Senator Pauline Hanson gets off the plane from India her party has increased its share of the polls in Queensland to 18% with three weeks to go.
Hanson was greeted like a minor rock star at Brisbane Airport on arrival by a small crowd of supporters. She got rolling immediately by announcing that the One Nation focus for the upcoming state poll on Nov 25th will be power prices.
This surprised some commentators such as Max Koslowski at the Huffington Post, but really shouldn’t have. If there’s a populist cause right now in any state of Australia it’s the cost of electricity. The privatisation championed by the right has failed to provide the consumer benefits promised and Green policies from the left have helped jack up prices to all-time highs. If there’s a wedge issue for an outsider to capitalise on this is it.
And what did the leftists expect? A campaign on immigration during an election for a parliament with no power to change anything to do with immigration? People in Queensland who are concerned enough with immigration to have it change their vote are already voting orange in any case.
Hanson will start her campaign in Brisbane, before heading north in her amusingly named “Battler Bus” along the coast stopping everywhere she can. The fiery redhead will reach Townsville by the end of the week, before going on to far north Queensland on the weekend. She’s not even running for a seat and the major parties are terrified.
And maybe they should be. Queensland elections are notoriously hard to predict but both sides of the red-blue divide up north are frantically leaking to any journalist who will listen, to talk up the possibility of a hung parliament with Pauline reigning supreme as Queen of Queensland.
And this is where caution is required. The Western Australian State election had One Nation scoring well in the polling before collapsing due mostly to a disastrous preference deal with the Liberals. Hanson has not made the same mistake this time and has ruled out any deals with major parties. At the same time One Nation has sewn up a clever deal with the Katter Australia Party, potentially helping them in the far north where the eccentric Katter clan still holds significant sway.
But while all this palaver might bring a smile to your dial, restraint is still required. Particularly for those of us on the dissident right of politics who have waited so long for a party to perform on the sane side of politics the role that the Greens fulfil on the left, dragging the major parties back to reality by threatening the only thing they care about, their precious votes.
The LNP and ALP clearly have a strategy to beat One Nation. By treating Hanson’s hold of the balance of power in the unicameral Queensland government as an inevitability they are hoping to help get their base onside. Polling shows a large percentage of rusted on red-blue supporters are frightened of the idea of Hanson holding too much power and the majors clearly hope to exploit this fear to keep their voters on the reservation.
Despite this both the LNP and the ALP seem to be flailing around more than usual in the first week of the campaign.
The premier Annastacia Palasczcuk probably cost her party tens of thousands of votes in the centre and north of the state with her confusing sabotage of the multi-Billion dollar Adani coal mine project. Previously long-shot One Nation and LNP candidates outside the South East will be licking their lips as a result. Some have suggested she is trying to ward off a threat by the Greens in inner-city Brisbane [including to the seat of deputy premier Jackie Trad]; time will tell if it was worth it.
Meanwhile the LNP has decided the best way to appeal to One Nation voters is to promise to lock up “youths” in North Queensland as well as other aspects of a law and order crackdown including a curfew and a brand new police helicopter. You don’t have to be a leftist university professor to read between the lines here. The condescending nature of the appeal is obvious: “Hey stupid northern redneck racists! If we lock up more black criminals will you vote for us again?”
Both parties have tried to compete with One Nation on the vital issue of power prices. Nicholls has made an announcement of a plan to cut annual household power bills by an average of $160 a year for the next two years by splitting the two state-owned power generators into separate entities. Palasczcuk has announced she will somehow cut power prices by refusing to build another coal fired power station despite a leaked secret government report recommending one.
Most commentators agree that Nichols has had the best of the running so far, mainly because unlike Palasczcuk he hasn’t managed to shoot himself repeatedly in the foot while being chased by GetUp!-funded protesters. But this election is volatile and almost anything could happen.
People on the Australian right know what is at stake here. A poor showing by Hanson kills the momentum for change heading into the next federal poll. Even without One Nation running in his home state Cory Bernardi will be fighting an uphill battle to make any impact in South Australia’s election next year.
And we need that voice. The Greens have dragged both the Libs and the ALP to the left on social issues for over two decades now. The result has been a disastrous lurch towards the abyss for the society patriotic Australians know and love and the nation our ancestors made for us with their sweat and blood.
The pendulum must find a way back, and currently the best bet for that pathway is Hanson. The Libs will never change unless they are forced and the story of the last few years is an illustration of why that force will no longer be able to be exerted from within. Without pressure on their right flank the future of Liberal Party politics in Australia looks like Christopher Pyne.
And that is an outcome that truly must be avoided at all costs.