An ominous disquiet ripples across Australia. Anger, fear and frustration bubble away, with the occasional fiery flare on social media manufacturing outrage and another short-lived hashtag. Voter discontent, fury and helplessness simmer. Class and generational warfare grow stronger with hastily implemented Government policy unfairly clawing back billions from pensioners, families, the disabled and unemployed.
Punctuating the flickering angst, the media flings sensationalist stories of impending terrorist-inflicted carnage, interjected by the latest celebrity scandal, and allegations of refugees stealing jobs while bludging on welfare.
The major parties bicker and tie themselves in knots over the practical application of ideologically-generated cruelty. And while they seek to defend systematic and institutionally-supported expense rorting, Pauline Hanson continues to rise, a glowing phoenix emerging from of a puddle of stinking, rancid faeces.
What is happening to Australia?
Social media is awash with petitions and memes declaring her to be the new saviour. According to the constant click-bait, Hanson is Brexit, Trump and the She-God-Almighty, destined to haul the wriggling, squirming nation back to greatness.
How has Australia come to this?
What grievous sin did ordinary people commit to have this woman and her motley crew of conspiracy theorists and right-wing nutjobs forced upon them?
It is clear Hanson’s popularity is growing. A recent poll in Queensland put her support at ten percent, almost double that at the 2016 Federal election. Apparently forty-five percent of respondents in a survey felt Hanson and One Nation addressed Queenslanders’ concerns better compared to other parties, with the results promoted as being support for Hanson as Prime Minister.
According to Queensland MP, Steve Dickson, a former LNP member who has now defected to Hanson’s One Nation Party, “the two major parties were out of touch with the electorate”, and “have lost their way.”
This is no surprise. According to Australian National University research, trust in Australia’s Government and faith in democracy reached an all-time low in 2016.
This was before the explosion of the latest politician expense scandal, and the unconscionable Centrelink debt debacle where welfare recipients are being intimidated into paying money back to Centrelink that they do not owe.
In the past decade, both the Coalition and Labor Party have fought to out-do the other on matters of public interest. They stand side by side in trashing basic human rights with national security and border control. Much of the rhetoric coming from the Abbott and now Turnbull Government is very similar to Hanson’s policies, despite Turnbull and his Minister’s seeking to distance themselves from the controversial Senator.
With trust in the major parties disintegrating rapidly, the Government’s anti-refugee, anti-immigration, anti-climate science policy adds believability to Hanson’s platform and reinforces the views of an alarmingly growing number of voters that Hanson is a credible option as the leader of Australia.
It would be suicide for Turnbull or Shorten to declare that refugees offer no threat to Australians’ way of life. It would be suicide for either major party to back away from the essential, yet suffocating so-called national security laws, such as the unnecessary and unfair visa cancellations and deportations which have mainly seen New Zealanders sent back across the water, or mandatory data retention, which is already suffering extraordinary scope-creep with a plan to use the data in civil cases.
On the back of such brainfarts as permanent visa bans for asylum seekers, shameful, paternalistic policies such as the cashless welfare card, and the ongoing torture of vulnerable people in island concentration camps, Hanson’s latest proposal to fingerprint every Australian and issue identity cards to cut down on welfare fraud, could almost be a current Liberal National Party policy.
The political climate is perfect for the rise of Saint Pauline.
Disillusioned, angry and frustrated with the system that doesn’t appear to work for them, thousands of Australians need and want change.
Hanson promotes herself as offering that change.
And thanks to the current batch of conservative politicians, her views are no longer seen as extreme. With policy differences so subtle the average voter cannot see the difference, she attracts people alienated by a Government so wrapped up in its own murky stench it cannot relate to the average worker.
Yet Hanson is no friend of the Aussie battler. She is not the answer. She may shake things up, cause a stir and rattle the establishment. But she will not make life better for Australians desperate for a share of economy, for a chance at success and a slice of the proverbial pie.
However the major parties have provided Pauline Hanson with the perfect environment to thrive.
With each new scandal, every new cut-throat act of this Government, disenchanted Australians are lining up to give the middle finger to the system.
And Hanson, like a phoenix will rise, to be the living embodiment of that finger.