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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

thoughts on Pauline Hanson « Previous | |Next »
August 21, 2003

I have to admit that I thought that Pauline Hanson was harshly dealt with by the law. Her populist policies, which were a response to the negatives of neo-liberalism of the ALP, were pretty much incorporated by the Howard Government and are a key to his electoral success. Hanson ends up in jail for electoral fraud whilst those in the ALP who commit electoral fraud are on track for have stellar careers as machine organizers. Double standards are operating here. But they always do with the political establishment.

My judgement is that a populist Hanson was more than a shooting political comet who put in a good populist performance. She had an enormous impact on Australian political life. In John Pasquarelli's words this impact:

" because, when Labor people abandoned Keating to vote for her and subsequently became disenchanted with the shambles that One Nation became, they didn't go back home, but went off and voted for John Howard."

We are living with that consequences of that shift today. My assessment of the significance of populism as a political philosophy can be found here and here.

Here are some quite different thoughts from public opinion's guest blogger Rose Farrow.

Following our chat about Pauline Hanson today, I unravelled a few of my thoughts on the question of whether the sentence was just, and how much I should compensate for my disgust of her message. Obviously, a bit, because she is pretty foul. And she had a big impact in giving the racist shadow of our very white, western culture a voice. We can argue about whether she just burst a boil or fed a cancer, but she wasn't really on trial for that, anyway. She was on trial for fraud. So.

When a decision is made to imprison a person for a crime, the judge and ultimately the community must decide whether it was 'fair' of not. When coming to a decision on fairness, we often do a measure based on similar cases where the punishment seems more lenient, or contrasting cases when the punishment was lighter for a 'worse' offence.

Other things to consider are the position of the perpetrator, in terms of their knowledge of the law and their obligations, their power within the situation relative to others, their power in society and the responsibility that that power brings with it. For example, is a policeman stealing worse than a a priest abusing an orphan worsethan a stranger abusing a child.... is robbing from a pensioner worse than robbing from a wealthy person... And then there is the issue of harm to be considered. Is the crime victimless? Who are the victims? How much harm? Is white collar crime ever as harmful as violent crime?

In the Hanson case, there seems to be a case to say that worse crimes have attracted lighter sentences. This 'relative' argument can go either way. Should the fact that unfairly light sentences for worse crimes have been given by other judges on other days for other crimes, be used to meter out an overly light sentence in any given instance?

With regard to the position of the perpetrator, Hanson is a lawmaker, a position she sought willingly and deliberately. She felt she was up to the demands of the job, whether you or I think she was or not. She took its privileges and sought to use it to persuade people to her philosophy and goals. In partnership with others, she became part of a company which she paraded as a political party, structured expressly to be able to ditch the political vehicle at any given time of her/their chosing. The company even went so far as to get undated 'resignations' from people who thought they were joining her political
party, in case they ever strayed from the company's agenda. The fact that this structure ultimately had unintended consequences does not necessarily mitigate the conscious act itself.

Hanson sought power through the political process, yet sought to avoid the political limitations, that is the need to bring people along with you in sufficient numbers to be relevant. She is probably walking on thin ice, too, if she seeks to avoid the responsibility being a lawmaker brings, ie., to set the example by obeying the law. It really is her responsibility to at least attempt to ensure that her partners and supporters do not step over the legal line.

With regard to the issue of harm, we need to look at the reason why the law is there in the first place. We have strict laws about how political parties are structured and how they must represent themselves, and where the money goes, and who is in charge of what, and how they conduct themselves because this accountability goes to the heart of the democratic process. If we don't monitor and enforce this, why should anyone, powerful of not, co-operate with the system, obey the laws, etc. So when Hanson subverts the intent, letter and spirit of the law, the law has little choice but to be enforced----even if we can all find instances when this has not occurred----especially if it is in the public glare.

And Hanson certainly welcomed the glare! And she also advocated a strong law and order policy, particularly with regard to the least powerful in our society---- Aborigines and migrants. The words hoisted on her own petard spring to mind.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:17 PM | | Comments (1)


Our thoughts are that the government is trying to set an example with Pauline Hanson, three years is a bit much just forgery. It will be hard on her kids for them not having a mother around for three years, also what she did was wrong and she will pay for what she has done like everyone else!