If you watched Four Corners‘ incisive and entertaining investigation into the internal workings of Pauline Hanson’s political party last night, you might think One Nation’s popularity now faces a significant threat.
Journalist Caro Meldrum-Hanna uncovered a number of potential scandals surrounding the party, including the financial status of a plane used to fly Hanson around regional Australia, and the party’s apparent tendency to burn its supporters.
Meldrum-Hanna spoke to a number of former, disendorsed One Nation candidates, the party’s former national treasurer Ian Nelson, and elderly couple and unlikely former One Nation powerbrokers Ron McLean and Marye Louise Daniels.
What emerges is a picture of a party ruthlessly driven by Hanson’s political and personal goals — hardly the people-led grassroots movement Hanson wants to sell to the public.
What emerges is a picture of a political party operating like, well, a lot of political parties.
But the outlandish views of One Nation and its leader tend to overshadow the kind of scrutiny you might expect to apply to the inner workings of a relatively major party. Meldrum-Hanna focuses more on those details than the overtly racist and provocative policies of the party. (Although she still manages to give a bit of air time to Senator Malcolm Roberts, who amusingly claims the ABC is using Nazi-style mind-control.)
That leads her to the home of Ron McLean and Marye Louise Daniels — an extraordinarily eccentric duo who devoted much of their lives to supporting Hanson but found themselves persona non grata in recent years.
In January this year, Hanson allegedly told them both that they were no longer wanted — and told Ron that he was “too old” to be a candidate — leaving the pair totally devastated.
They’re wonderful characters if not wonderful people; at the end of the episode Marye stands underneath a plane leaving WA, bidding farewell to Hanson in a sing-song voice: “Goodbye thank goodness, you’re gone, goodbye thank goodness you’re gone, all together, bye!”
Although they’re representative of much of One Nation’s base, it becomes clear that Hanson came to consider them a liability as she has sought to cultivate an image of “sophistication“.
You’d expect One Nation might suffer a major hit from these kinds of scandals, but the party has a proven immunity to most internal disruptions. If the ongoing Rod Culleton story couldn’t do any damage to One Nation — and the party’s support didn’t drop at all during that period — then it’s difficult to believe much could.
And if you want proof as to why that might be the case, you only need to watch last night’s Four Corners again. One of Hanson’s supporters puts out a call to: “Get rid of the migrants, the boat people, and just have us.” When asked who those immigrants are, they respond, “ISIS. Pakistanians.”
It raises the question: are many One Nation supporters engaging with mainstream media or politics at all? Are they really even watching Four Corners? They’re unlikely to even find out about the episode through their social media networks — Hanson has ignored the program entirely.
Hers is a movement that’s now building support off the back of widespread distrust of long-standing institutions.
How much of a political impact will the program really have? Probably not a great deal. But it was damn good television.
Four Corners: Please Explain is available to watch on iview