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She was a member of the Liberal Party of Australia, and from 1994 to 1996, was a local councillor in the City of Ipswich, Queensland. She was endorsed as the Liberal Party's candidate for the House of Representatives electorate of Oxley (based on Ipswich) for the March 1996 Federal election. After the 1993 Federal election, the electorate of Oxley was the safest one held by the Australian Labor Party in the entire State of Queensland. However, comments she made to The Queensland Times, a daily newspaper in Ipswich, advocating the abolition of special government assistance for Aboriginals above what was available for other Australians led to her disendorsement by the party during the campaign. With the Liberal Party's name still appearing on the ballot paper and nominations having been closed by the Australian Electoral Commission for the registration of candidates so no other Liberal Party candidate appeared on the ballot paper, Pauline Hanson won the election easily, with the largest swing away from the Labor Party in Australia.
In September 1996, Hanson made her maiden speech to the House of Representatives, which instantly made headlines and the television news bulletins right across Australia. She expressed her concern that Australia was "in danger of being swamped by Asians", suggested the withdrawal of Australia from the United Nations, advocated the return of high-tariff protectionism and generally decried many other aspects of what she labeled as 'political correctness' and free market economics.
As a result of her maiden speech, Hanson became a very controversial figure, with the Australian population divided on whether Hanson was honest and plainspoken (a view more likely to be held in regional areas), a dangerous racist, or a misinformed yokel. Hanson's critics derided what they saw as her inarticulate style; the very trait that her supporters took to be evidence of her credentials as a speaker 'for the people'. Her unaffected approach was parodied by satirists such as the TV show Full Frontal.
On the back of her relatively small but loyal supporter base, in April 1997 she founded Pauline Hanson's One Nation, in concert with her senior advisor David Oldfield and professional fundraiser David Ettridge . Many of her branch formation meetings and political rallies across Australia in the next two years would attract protests, occasionally spilling over to political violence between Hanson supporters and left wing protestors.
The peak of Hanson's success occurred in June 1998, when One Nation attracted nearly one-quarter of the vote in that month's State elections in Queensland, and One Nation won 11 out of 89 seats in that State's single-chamber Parliament.
Ever since then, Hanson's popularity has declined. During the campaign for the Federal election of October 3, 1998, she supported a number of policies which alienated much of her support base, such as the abolition of pensions for single mothers, the abolition of all taxes to be replaced with a 2% tax on all financial transactions, and the reduction of the universal coverage of Australia's Medicare system.
She lost her seat in Parliament after an electoral redistribution split Oxley before the 1998 election. She contested the neighbouring electorate of Blair and won the largest portion of votes - 36% of the total votes, about 15% more than her nearest rival. However, due to Australia's complicated system of preferential voting in which a candidate needs a majority of the votes to be elected, she lost to the Liberal Party candidate, Cameron Thompson. Nationally, One Nation gained 9% of the vote, but only one MP was elected - Len Harris as Senator for Queensland.
She has blamed her declining popularity on the fact that Prime Minister John Howard has "stolen her policies".
Other interrelated factors which have contributed to her downfall include her connection with a series of Machiavellian mentors (John Pasquarelli , David Ettridge and David Oldfield), all of whom she has fallen out with; disputes amongst her supporters, and a lawsuit over the organisational structure of One Nation.
In 2003 she left Queensland, moved to Sylvania Waters, Sydney in New South Wales and stood for the NSW Upper House in the March 22 state election. It appears as though Hanson made this move to prevent her former advisor and now arch-enemy David Oldfield's One Nation NSW party from gaining more seats in that State's Parliament. She lost narrowly to Shooter's Party candidate John Tingle .
Pauline Hanson has also signalled her intention to pursue a career in country and western music, and she has also been working as a promoter for Australian country musician Brian Letton .
On 20 August 2003, a jury convicted Hanson of electoral fraud and she was sentenced to three years imprisonment by the Supreme Court of Queensland for falsely claiming that 500 support group members were genuine paid up members of One Nation, in order to register it as a political party and apply for electoral funding from the state of Queensland. She was thereby found to have dishonestly obtained two cheques worth AUD$498,637 from Queensland's electoral commission as electoral funds. Justice Wolfe accepted that Hanson had paid back the funding but said electoral processes must not be perverted, and made a finding that Hanson had gained unfair electoral advantage by "misrepresenting" 500 voters. Hanson's initial reaction to the verdict was - "Rubbish, I'm not guilty. It's a joke."
- the (more than) 500 persons on the list in fact were members of the party;
- that even if they had not been, they were clearly at least members of a closely related party, which was sufficient under the Electoral Act 1992 to make the registration legal;
- the failure of the trial judge to refer to this point of law (regarding related parties) in summing up was by itself sufficient to quash the conviction;
- in light of these points there was no need to rule on the appellants many other points of appeal; and
- in view of setting aside this conviction, Hanson's conviction for property fraud (in receiving the cheques from the Electoral Commissioner after registration), being "subsidiary" to this conviction, was automatically overturned.
The court also criticised the public comments made about the case by a number of prominent politicians on both sides of the political spectrum, and also considered that had the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions been better resourced, "the present difficulty may well have been avoided" (in light of accompanying statements about the paucity of Crown evidence, presumably they mean the case would never have been prosecuted).
The justices did not comment on whether Hanson is entitled to be repaid the AUD$498,637 which she had repaid to the Electoral Commissioner.
Attempted return to politics
On September 15, 2004, Hanson announced that she would be standing as an independent candidate for the seat of Queensland in the Senate in the October 9 election. She declared, "I don't want all the hangers on. I don't want the advisers and everyone else. I want it to be this time Pauline Hanson."
She was ultimately unsuccessful, recieving only 30% of the required quota of primary votes, and didn't pick up enough additional support through preferences. She was however by far the best supported independent candidate in the election.
Appearance On 'Dancing With The Stars'
In late 2004 during her election campaign, Hanson competed in the Australian Reality TV show 'Dancing with the Stars' on the Seven Network. In the show a number of Australian celebrities compete against one another in ballroom dancing. Hanson made it to the final but lost to former Home and Away star Bec Cartwright. The publicity she gained was invaluable.
- An extract from Margo Kingston's 1999 book Off the Rails: The Pauline Hanson trip.:
- Pauline Hanson's official website for the 2004 election (includes the text of her maiden speech to Parliament)
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