Qld elections: Perhaps we need feral PHON



When is a 'fail' a possible example of a longer-term win? When it's Pauline Hanson's One Nation's (PHON) apparent failure to secure all but one seat in the recent Queensland election.

Pauline HansonIt wasn't long after the booths closed before I started hearing the refrain that PHON was failing spectacularly at the election. Always interested in predictions about the demise of PHON, I paid more attention.

It appeared to be a re-run of the Western Australia election in March this year where the party received a low percentage of the votes (half of what was expected, given pre-polling) and no Lower House seats. In the Queensland election, PHON is on track to win just one seat when they had talked of winning potentially ten.

It's easy to ridicule Hanson and her party, and many have done and are continuing to do so. After all, they are our resident shambolic political show with a line of defecting MPs, racist stunts and statements, and staff arrests. It can be difficult to accept that such a group can hold a large influence over our voting events.

What is not so easy to dismiss is the fact that PHON candidates were steadily clocking 20-30 per cent support in their seats at the Queensland election. Antony Green's tweet outlined One Nation's overall vote, stating that in the seats they contested, they averaged 20.7 per cent of the vote. That's one in five, and up to one in three, people voting for a party that is proudly anti-Islam.

PHON has at least seven specific objectives addressing Islam in its National Constitution. While the party has dialled back its public attacks on Asian and Indigenous groups, the many references against 'international' influences and 'special benefits' shows that those founding ideals are still very much in the mix.

While their national support base is very uneven, with a heartland concentration in its founding state of Queensland, the party draws sufficient votes to still be considered a third party contender in elections, state-based and federal. Its reputation as a feral political party appears unchanged.


"As much as I wish, along with many others, that the PHON party would cease to exist as a political force, perhaps it is useful to have it serve as a signal of extremist politics."


Yet despite this and the repeated statements that PHON is becoming irrelevant, the party endures and appears to remain the go-to catch-all for disgruntled protest voters.

In February this year, Federal Industry Minister Arthur Sinodinos said the party was a lot more sophisticated compared with 20 years ago, when they first appeared, then went on to say how they would be treated as any other political party when it came to preference deals. For the Queensland election, Labour preferenced PHON last, and the LNP lost seats to Labor because PHON preferenced all sitting members last. Is this a naïve or principled stand on PHON's part? Is a principled stand naïve in politics?

As much as I wish, along with many others, that the PHON party would cease to exist as a political force, perhaps it is useful to have it serve as a signal of extremist politics. Sinodinos may think the party has become more sophisticated but having a formalised presence is a veneer that can hide only so much hate-speech, bigotry, and scaremongering.

The media is constantly criticised for giving PHON too much attention and promotion, but this coverage could remind us of what the party stands for, to its detriment.



Tseen KhooTseen Khoo is a lecturer at La Trobe University and founder/convenor of the Asian Australian Studies Research Network (AASRN), anetwork for academics, community researchers, and cultural workers who are interested in the area of Asian Australian Studies. She tweets as @tseenster.

Topic tags: Tseen Khoo, Pauline Hanson, One Nation


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Existing comments

Pauline is not the only one! Thank God I left.
ex-Queenslander | 28 November 2017

Other Australians sometimes refer to Queensland as the 'deep north'. Lots of venomous creatures live thereabouts. And lots of (perceived) true-blue Aussies. Pauline Hanson's party is not irrelevant, however much we may wish it so. I did catch some of Malcolm Roberts' steely blue-eyed interview on ABC's election night coverage and it did give a cold feeling. I agree with Tseen's article with the exception of the final paragraph. One Nation thrives on media coverage, even negative coverage. The protest vote is always potent. ps. I like ex-Queenslander's comment!
Pam | 29 November 2017

David Marr has an interesting review of the latest Scanlon Foundation's Social Cohesion report. You will find it here < www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/nov/29/australia-still-embraces-multiculturalism-but-fracture-lines-are-deepening?utm > The danger, as he sees it, is that someone a lot smarter than Hanson may move in to exploit and rev up those who currently vote for Hanson.
Ginger Meggs | 29 November 2017

As someone who lives in Queensland and did vote for one of the two major parties contesting the recent election there, may I say you need to be very careful making any generalisations about the people who voted for PHON because that would be gross oversimplification? I think Tseen has a pretty clear take on both Hanson and Roberts and we need not proceed further there. The party, to me, is more like the UKIP in the UK than the BNP. Ditto the majority of PHON voters. There is a difference between being extremely conservative and something else beyond that. My take is that most PHON voters in this election were protest voters, who, if they felt either of the two major parties were concerned about their plight, would have voted differently. The PHON phenomenon is more likely to lead to a rise of a Donald Trump style phenomenon rather than something like the BNP. I view the PHON phenomenon as being terribly sad but easily counterable if the major parties took a genuine interest in these people and their real problems. Perhaps the solution is better and more responsive politicians? Simple? Incredibly so.
Edward Fido | 29 November 2017

We do need a 'feral PHON' so no major Australian parliament in its right mind would enact proportional representation for its lower house. Of course, if that should somehow hamper the Greens dream to become players in the more significant chambers states and federal, well, that's just collateral damage.
Roy Chen Yee | 04 December 2017

I don't quite follow you Roy. Are you suggesting that proportional representation would necessarily lead to PHON MPs and is therefore undesirable? The are several parliamentary chambers around the country which have PR but no PHON members, e.g., Tasmania's LA, Victoria's LC, NSW's LC, ACT's Assembly.
Ginger Meggs | 05 December 2017

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