"It was all designed to financially wreck the party
and break my spirit....They've destroyed my life,
my career, my future, my family."
AUSTRALIA'S PERSECUTED PAULINE
That Australia's leaders despised
the red-haired mother of four
was never a secret.
Pauline Hanson is Australia's version of an honest politician. For a couple of exciting years she was on the rise. It was conceivable that she could have achieved the highest office in the land - Prime Minister. Her popularity with the working and the middle classes was alarming to the establishment and they worked behind the scenes to destroy her political career. They succeeded.
In the following story I've underlined and bolded the honest statements about Pauline Hanson. The rest is fill and spin by the Ministry of Truth. But discerning readers should get the idea of what was done to her. There's more than one way to cut out your competition. Character assassination is the next best thing to physical death to these guys. ~ Jackie Jura
Extremist garners unlikely sympathy
Prison stint does wonders for Australian politician
Kelly McParland, National Post, Nov 22, 2003
Until the Queensland Court of Appeal came along, the book on Pauline Hanson was easy to write. Easily Australia's most reviled politician, Ms. Hanson was jailed in August for electoral fraud, apparently ending a career built on rage and battered by turmoil. But on Nov. 6 the appeal court threw out her conviction and she emerged reborn as a caring campaigner for judicial reform, proclaiming shock at what she had found inside the prison walls.
The transformation has left Australians wondering who to believe -- the suddenly sympathetic Ms. Hanson, or the forces that seemed so determined to crush her.
Ms. Hanson's time in the public eye has been relatively brief, but always entertaining. The former fish and chip shop owner from Brisbane won election to the federal parliament in 1996 as an independent, running on a platform of undiluted intolerance. She quickly formed her own party, Pauline Hanson's One Nation, which unexpectedly captured 11 seats in the state parliament in 1998, and attracted a million votes in a federal election the same year.
One Nation could serve as a case study for populist extremism. Bigoted, racist, paranoid, it couldn't decide who it liked least -- immigrants or aborigines. It didn't want to let any more of the first into the country and didn't want to spend any more money on the second.
Ms. Hanson presented herself as a woman of the people: straight-talking and straightforward, she was willing to say what many Australians thought, but were afraid to admit. The party crested quickly, then collapsed. Ms. Hanson lost her seat after just two years and in 2002 quit the party, which had long since imploded. Her demise was capped in August when she and party co-founder David Ettridge were convicted and sentenced to three years without parole.
That looked like the end, until the appeal court halted her death plunge and yanked her, bungee-like, back into the limelight. It found the earlier judgment so unsound it said a retrial was pointless and ordered her immediate release. At last report she was ensconced in a luxury hotel room provided by an admirer, granting expensive interviews while her Web site auctioned off a cute little blue baby's sweater she had knitted while behind bars.
The debacle has left egg on faces well beyond the Brisbane court. The Queensland government ordered an inquiry as Australians wondered just who had wanted so badly to get rid of Ms. Hanson, and how far they were willing to go.
That Australia's leaders despised the red-haired mother of four was never a secret. Prime Minister John Howard once said an anti-aborigine tirade she'd delivered "verges on the deranged," and accused her of "fanning racist sentiment." Tony Abbott, a relentless foe, wondered in 1998 "what kind of paranoid, halfway to Waco, Texas world -- what kind of weird existence -- do the leadership of One Nation actually have?" Mr. Abbott, now Health Minister, helped set up a $94,000 slush fund dedicated to destroying One Nation before the 1998 election. Despite his feelings, Mr. Howard co-opted much of One Nation's anti-immigrant platform, winning re-election in 2001 after sending naval vessels to halt a leaky boat filled with illegal migrants, who he vowed would never set foot on Australian soil. Most Australians shared his feelings. Though strikingly supportive of tough treatment for illegal migrants, they were repelled by the bigotry of One Nation and the crudeness of its leaders. Asked once whether she was xenophobic, a startled Ms. Hanson famously blurted back, "Please explain!"
But the Pauline Hanson who emerged from the Brisbane Women's Prison two weeks ago gives every sign of being a different person from the one who went in. Handcuffed, strip-searched, degraded and demeaned, Prisoner C70079 discovered a new sympathy for her fellow inmates. "I'm the first one to admit when I'm wrong," she said two days after her release. "I had this attitude, well, that's prison, the system's found them guilty, so they must be guilty. Hey, I've had the system fail me, right? I've been there."
The career aborigine-hater spent part of her time teaching an aboriginal inmate how to read. She also bumped into Valmae Beck, jailed for life for her part in the 1987 rape and murder of a 12-year-old schoolgirl, one of Queensland's most notorious crimes. "We had a laugh and just hit it off," Ms. Hanson acknowledged. She said she'd "push the button myself" to execute anyone who hurt her child, but also urged understanding for her newfound friend. This week, a second killer paid tribute to Ms. Hanson's new sense of compassion. Ann Louise Aboud, jailed for murdering her husband, praised her for helping prepare documents that won Aboud her release before a new trial. Now Australians are stuck with the question of what to make of it all. Is Ms. Hanson really reborn, or just a hardliner who's had a scare?
That she was harshly treated seems irrefutable.
The "fraud" charge was for passing off 500 personal supporters as paid-up party members, allowing her to receive A$500,000 in electoral funding. The appeal court found nothing wrong with this, noting all 500 paid membership fees and received a receipt and membership card. Even if she had been guilty, three years without parole in a jail filled with killers raises obvious questions about fairness.
"It definitely was a witch hunt," Ms. Hanson said after her release. "It was all designed to financially wreck the party and break my spirit."
Whether it succeeded is still up in the air. Ms. Hanson is already being pressured to re-enter politics. She's noncommittal, but says if she did run, she'd like it to be against Mr. Abbott. Discussing her future with an Australian interviewer, she sounded a bit like her old self.
"They've destroyed my life, they've destroyed my career, my future, you know, my family have been absolutely devastated, my children, what it's done to them. They will never know, and I'm just supposed to forget about this?"
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~