Working my way across the ballot, who should I find next but One Nation, possibly Australia’s most infamous political party of all time. I’m amused to note that the Rabid Right seems to be lined up at the extreme left of the ticket, while the Loony Left seems to be more concentrated at the right hand end, but I digress.
And now I shall digress some more to express my deep disappointment that One Nation finally got a proper web designer, because their old site was *adorable* in an early-1990s, bright red text on a yellowish background sort of way. I suppose I shall just have to find some other way to entertain myself.
One Nation informs me that it is “The Voice of the People”. I find this very promising, because I am a person and I also have a voice, so clearly we shall get along well!
Alas, One Nation has not blessed us with a Group Voting Ticket, so once again, we have to guess what they think of everyone else from what the other parties think of them.
Rise Up Australia and Katter’s Australia Party have put them at 9-10, before any of the larger parties. The Liberals, Greens, Democrats and the ALP are all competing for how low down in the 90s they can put them – finally, something that all the major parties agree on! So have the Socialists and the Pirates, but we all could have guessed that anyway. Family First has put One Nation at 25-26, which sounds low, but is again before any major or semi-major party (I define semi-major as any party which has ever managed to gain a seat in the Senate). The Bank Reform Party and Australian Voice have done similarly. (I’m now wondering how far down the ticket one could actually go before meeting a major party, if one was so inclined? Quite a way, I should think…)
Back to that disappointingly professional website, which tells us that we are one nation of people with pride, hope and peace. This is at least more grammatical than Rise Up Australia’s effort, so we are off to a flying start. I got really excited when I saw there was a video of Pauline Hanson, but it turned out that it wasn’t one of her performances on Dancing with the Stars, ending my hope for an All-Politics edition of Australia’s Got Talent. Seriously, wouldn’t this election be more fun if every political party had to write, choreograph and perform a song and dance number? This could actually be more illuminating than the political ads, and it would definitely be better television. And less depressing.
Next time anyone does a policy announcement, especially if they have various members of their cabinet nodding wisely in the background, close your eyes and visualise them singing it, with the rest of the party doing boy band dance moves behind them. Trust me, the policy will sound much better.
Incidentally, Pauline’s photo has the slogan ‘The red-head you *can* trust!’ next to it, which I feel is a little bit less than charming. Though I can also see how it was irresistible.
But I digress. Get to the point, Catherine! Let’s have a look at some of One Nation’s policies.
I think it’s fair to say that Australia First, in it’s current incarnation, is very much about protecting ‘real Australia’ from scary others. (It’s interesting to note that all the mildly witty ways I can find to phrase that sentiment turn out to be just a little bit racist, and that should tell you something…) They have policies in twenty different areas so far (and I’m sorry, but all you are going to get is a snapshot of where they stand today – I won’t have time to return), but of the twenty, three concern immigrants, illegal immigrants and multiculturalism, and two more concern fraud and identity proof when it comes to taxpayer-funded services and voting. Even before reading the policies, there is a definite whiff of ‘we don’t want *those* people to illegitimately take what is ours.
A further set of policies concern helping Australian industry and there is one on ‘Assisting Australians to buy Aussie Made’. I am not in any way suggesting that this last is a bad thing – in fact, it’s something I try to do myself, but there is a definite sense of battening down the hatches, guarding the fences, and looking after one’s own. This is fine as far as it goes, but in my view, Australia First goes too far. Then again, I tend to identify as one of Them, not one of Us, so that might be the problem!
Let’s start with the <strike>xenophobia</strike> policies about immigration, refugees (who are *not* illegal, thank you), and multiculturalism. In fact, let’s start with a screen cap from the page on immigration, because I did a double-take when I saw this.
As it happens, ‘Go Back’ is just the back button that appears on all the policy pages, but for a party whose founder is probably most famous for telling immigrants to “Go back to where you came from,” it is perhaps an ill-thought-out choice. Or maybe it’s a strangely subtle one….
One Nation wants zero net immigration, because apparently Australia’s infrastructure etc cannot cope with more people. They acknowledge that “immigration throughout the last century has been of great benefit to Australia”, but that “inappropriately high levels of immigration can be detrimental to employment, to national infrastructure, services and environment”. They also feel that as citizenship is a valued privilege and “would support a 5 year wait for new migrants to become Australian citizens”, subject to passing a number of hurdles including speaking English and swearing allegiance to the constitution. This in itself is not overly onerous – in fact, it is already the case. Only the wait is longer – I have friends who have been waiting for their permanent residency to come through for at least seven years now.
They have a bit in common with Rise Up Australia, too. I could imagine this paragraph coming from RUA’s page:
One Nation believes that immigration should be open for debate and a population policy in place. Australians have the right to a cohesive society and deny immigration to anyone who does not abide by our law, culture, democracy, flag or Christian way of life. Australians have been tolerant and welcome new migrants coming to find a new homeland. We don’t want or need migrants bringing their problems, laws, culture and opposing religious beliefs on us.
Oh, One Nation. You were doing such a good job of sounding reasonable and not actively mean…
One Nation also wants us to know that multiculturalism has failed everywhere and “is negative and divisive”. I utterly reject this. I think multiculturalism is our greatest wealth as a nation. They want to “abolish multiculturalism and the Racial Discrimination Act and promote assimilation, nationalism, loyalty and pride in being an Australian”. To my mind, they are missing the point of being Australian. But it’s OK, because they aren’t racist. We can tell this because they say so quite specifically! It’s all about safety.
Given all of this, do we really expect anything pleasing to come out of their policy on refugees, or “Illegal Immigrants”, as they prefer to erroneously and maliciously call them? Of course we don’t, and we are duly informed that “Charity begins at home”.
Apparently, this is what is currently happening in Australia with regard to refugees:
What we have here is someone coming into your home telling you they like your house better than theirs and they are going to live with you. You have to feed, cloth, care, and educate them while looking after their needs. Your children now have to share a room and you have to make the dollars stretch further to provide for them. They don’t have to work you are providing for them. If you don’t give them what they want they will complain and you will be forced to answer why you are so inhumane not to have them live in your home, that you worked hard for.
I don’t even know where to start with this. For one thing, it’s completely untrue. For another, it demonstrates a total lack of compassion or empathy. For a third thing, God gave us commas, and indeed grammar, for a reason.
Look, I’m not going to quote further from that page, because it’s scare-mongering, xenophobic and downright cruel and it does not deserve further commentary. Besides, I still have 17 more policies to review, and my blood pressure has suffered enough!
One Nation is also against immigration because it takes away jobs from Real Australians (TM). One of their more positive policies in this regard is a scheme whereby the government would sponsor apprenticeships, to create employment, help our youth get jobs and “stop the import of skilled migrants taking jobs that belong to Australians.” (Sigh. You just had to ruin it, didn’t you?)
In fact, they are very big on apprenticeships and blue-collar jobs generally, and I actually quite like their policies here. Astonishing! They are surprisingly pro-union and they want Australian assets to stay in Australian hands, which is again, something I agree with. They want to protect our primary industry and our car industry, and are definitely calling out the rural vote in a big way. And they want to label products to make it easier to see what was made in Australia. This, I think, is an excellent idea.
In other surprisingly friendly policies, One Nation wants to increase the Aged Pension and Austudy, removing parental income tests for the latter. My inner socialist is not convinced by this, but my inner person who knows that not all families are supportive of letting their kids go to Uni thinks it’s actually a pretty good idea.
Let’s see what One Nation thinks about the environment… and frankly, it’s a slightly weird mix on a logical level, though it makes sense if you are trying to appeal to the farmers’ vote. They are very worried about salinity and want to ban GMOs and encourage farm forestry. They are in favour of conservation ‘instead of preservation’. I have no idea what that is supposed to mean. They want water to have its own portfolio and are absolutely against privatising it:
Obviously when scarce, water must be shared. But this can be done without making it more expensive or taking away rights that have existed for hundreds of years. There must obviously be limits to vast irrigation schemes that monopolise water to the extent that smaller users are deprived. Riparian issues have an ancient history, and have never before involved the claim that the State owns all water.
I’m going to be honest and admit that I’m not too sure what that’s about.
They don’t seem very convinced about climate change – they want more research on this, and don’t trust greenie policies not to cripple business. Also, of course, being anti-free-trade, they are really, really anti-paying for foreign climate action. I didn’t think we were, but there you have it. They also want to get rid of wind turbines.
Here’s the conclusion to their policy. Spot the line that doesn’t match the others.
Instead of so-called “Alternative Energies” that are really Alternatives to Energy, we will focus on dependability, reliability and price through environmentally responsible, low cost energies. Low cost enables efficiency and productivity that generate wealth to protect the environment.
Our primary producers produce plant by-products currently wasted. Where conditions and economics allow, let’s enable them to make biofuels.
Australians are at our best in war, sporting conquests and recovering from Natural disasters. Mateship shines. The greater the challenge the better Australians perform.
One Nation is very big on ID for everyone, with fingerprints, to prevent people from stealing services. Pauline Hanson tells us that this is not an invasion of privacy, and that “I have no problem providing my fingerprint. Anyone who does, then has the right to forgo being fingerprinted and pay full price for all taxpayer funded services.”
Here’s a little more on why this is necessary.
It was brought to my attention that a visitor from another country borrowed his relations Medicare card, went to the doctor and was then admitted to hospital. Due to his illness he died. The owner of the card had to admit to authorities what he had done. He was not fined but had to pay for the hospital costs. This is not a rare case where people not entitled to benefits, use other Australian’s cards and identity to access medical care.
How terrible that we allowed someone to receive medical care which his family later paid for.
Alright, let’s attempt to be fair here, because I do get that fraud is a bad thing – though I doubt it occurs on quite such a regular basis as One Nation would like us to believe. But this person died. So odds are, he really *needed* to be admitted to hospital. He was, very probably desperate. Did he have other options? Should he have had medical insurance? Perhaps so. But I’d rather live in a world where we pay a little more tax and risk the possibility that some tiny percentage of it might go to improving the circumstances of someone who doesn’t deserve it or who I personally dislike than pay less tax and see people who do need help suffer because they can no longer fit through the loop-holes.
Actually, that’s probably not pertinent to the story above, but I’m going to let it stand, because the exclusivity promoted by One Nation is exactly the opposite of what I think we should stand for.
One Nation is also worried about voter fraud, which they believe is rampant. Apparently
A Liberal party member told me years ago, when counting the votes, if they came across a blank vote they would have a piece of lead under their fingernail and mark the ballot paper to make a formal vote for their candidate. Another reason why scrutineers; especially for minor parties and independents need to be present at vote counting.
Now this is interesting. For one thing, they can only possibly be talking about above the line Senate votes – in no other case would a single mark lead to a formal vote. I accept, though that this would be a bad thing. But I’ve scrutineered in several elections. Members of *all* parties watch the counting like a hawk, and fight for anything that looks remotely formal for their candidate to be counted. There would not, I think, be many major booths without at least one Liberal and one Labor scrutineer hanging around, watching, and in marginal seats, there would be more. So it would be quite difficult for someone counting the votes to change them without being noticed. The scrutineers, of course, are very strictly forbidden from touching or even coming near the votes, so we aren’t in a position to change things either. I am not saying that it is impossible for any vote to be changed, but the suggestion that this sort of thing happens routinely is, I think, a bit of a porky pie.
Hanson also feels aggrieved because in a particular election “A scrutineer observed a bundle of 2,000 informal votes marked for me and not counted, because people voted beside my name and didn’t mark all the required squares. In that election, I was denied having my name above the line because I was not a registered political party, which further confused people. The major political parties wish to keep it this way because it favours them.”
Well, yes. They are informal. That means they *cannot* be counted, because if you don’t have enough votes for a quota there is nowhere to send your vote once it has been exhausted. This is not a conspiracy. The part about not being able to have your name above the line if you are an independent is absolutely unfair, but conflating the two issues does not help.
(Also, you’d think, given all this, that now that One Nation is a registered party they might have managed to create a Senate Ticket, but apparently not…)
And then we get to the people who are apparently voting early and often. One Nation thinks that there are hordes of them. I’m less sure of this, because they do actually compare electoral rolls and numbers in the end, and if the numbers were vastly different, it would become noticeable. Unfortunately, voter ID is not going to capture these people because we are allowed to vote at any booth in Australia, and booths cannot all automatically cross-compare who has voted. Actually, making that aspect of voting electronic might actually be a good thing, but nobody seems to be suggesting that.
Instead, they want voter ID so that people can’t pretend to be someone else. I have mixed feelings about this, to be honest. I don’t think it would necessarily help that much (because one could still shop around and go to multiple booths), and it does tend to disenfranchise younger and more marginalised people who might not have photographic ID.
OK, I’ve run out of steam here. I think I’ve given you a reasonable picture of One Nation, but I’m going to end on one policy that caught my attention. You see, Pauline Hanson is also in favour of legalising voluntary euthanasia, and she has written a remarkably thoughtful and personal explanation about her reasons for this.
Don’t get me wrong – I find the vision of One Nation repugnant and saddening, but it has to be acknowledged that One Nation has a very human aspect to it. The stories and the logic have a personal touch to them that is actually fairly infuriating a lot of the time, but on some level I do find it heartening to be reminded that for all our fundamental disagreements, we share a common humanity.
(But I’m still not going to vote for them.)