25 June 2017
Queensland has always been the strongest state for Pauline Hanson. Ever since she was elected to Federal Parliament more than twenty years ago, winning a seat in Queensland, support for her has been stronger there than in any other state. Although she lost her seat less than three years after winning it, and then tried numerous times to win seats in elections, she eventually made it back in 2016.
Public support for her early in her parliamentary career prompted her to start her own political party, which won a number of seats in a state election in Queensland not long after. And it was there that her party won a Senate seat at a Federal election in 1998.
Outside Queensland, support for Hanson and her party has probably been strongest in Western Australia. It was there in early 2001 that Hanson’s party won a few seats in a state election, after polling strongly there at the 1998 Federal election, and where the party won a Senate seat in 2016. Although the party also won a seat in a state election in New South Wales in 1999, as well as a Senate seat there in 2016, it’s fair to consider WA the second-strongest state for the party.
Earlier this year, at a state election in WA, Hanson’s party ended up winning three seats in the Upper House there. Although failing to win a seat in the Lower House, where governments are formed, the party still had clout with those Upper House seats, because the Upper House had crossbenchers holding the balance of power.
The Labor Party won that election in WA easily – at least in the Lower House – but didn’t win enough seats to obtain a majority in the Upper House. This meant that Labor would need the support of crossbenchers to get legislation through the Upper House.
The very presence of people from Hanson’s party – often referred to as Hansonites – in any parliamentary chamber has long been offensive to Labor, which has always denied the legitimacy of Hanson’s presence in politics. Having derided Hanson as ill-informed and racist, in relation to immigration and indigenous affairs, Labor has done whatever it could to keep her and her party at bay.
Now, with Hansonites in the Upper House of State Parliament in Western Australia, Labor can only pray that it’ll have enough support from other crossbenchers to avoid needing the votes of the Hansonites. And that mightn’t be easy.
Labor holds fourteen of thirty-six seats in the Upper House, meaning the need for five crossbench votes to get legislation through there.
Already, you’d expect Labor to have the support of the Greens, who increased their overall numbers at the election from two Upper House seats to four, because they’ve traditionally supported Labor on most issues. The Greens actually gained three seats, but one MP, Lynn LacLaren, lost her seat. However, even with the support of the Greens, Labor would still be one vote short.
Labor would therefore be trying to court the votes of other crossbenchers. But in seeking to avoid the support of the Hansonites, the options are limited.
Western allies, if you’ll pardon the pun in relation to Australia’s westernmost state, might well emerge in this situation. Labor and the Greens mightn’t agree on everything, but in trying to avoid the Hansonites, Labor might end up forming strange alliances from time to time, because the other crossbenchers seem at odds with the Greens on many issues.
One of the other Upper House crossbenchers is Rick Mazza. He won a seat for the Shooters and Fishers in 2013, and he made it back this year. Now fighting for farmers as well as shooters and fishers, all of whom you wouldn’t consider environmentally friendly in the eyes of the Greens and environmental activists, might it seem unlikely for Mazza to vote with Labor and the Greens?
Another of the crossbenchers is Aaron Stonehouse, who won a seat for the Liberal Democrats this year. The Liberal Democrats fight for smaller governments and bureaucracies, and less regulation and laws, as well as for people to marry same-sex partnerse and own guns and take drugs currently deemed illegal. Although Labor and the Greens seem to share this liberal approach on same-sex marriage and drugs, they’re not as likely to support reduced regulation or laws, because they don’t trust people or businesses to act ethically or avoid exploiting others for their own gains. Would Labor and the Greens tolerate the Liberal Democrats as such?
As for the Liberals and the Nationals, who traditionally govern together, they’re free to cross the floor and vote against their colleagues if they see fit. What’s the chance that any of them would cross the floor to support Labor on any issue?
Labor has always sought to avoid needing the support of Hanson and her party, and nothing looks like changing now. The preference for avoiding the Hansonites might lead Labor into doing deals which might seem different from normal.