Just as there are no permanent allies in politics, there are few if any permanent enmities, just permanent interests. The recent reconciliation between Tony Abbott and Pauline Hanson is a neat illustration of this. A decade or so ago, Abbott was the driving force behind the prosecution that saw Hanson imprisoned (wrongly, as I wrote at the time) for breaches of electoral laws. Now he is courting her support, coyly mentioning how useful it might be to a future government with an unspecified new leader.
What’s of more interest is Abbott’s observation that half a million people voted for Hanson and that “she would be a strong voice for their concerns”. (Turnbull has said something similar, though not quite as strong). The implication, presumably, is that those concerns are legitimate, and that Hanson herself is therefore an appropriate person to make deals with. Of course, we don’t know what motivates any particular voter, but Hanson has stood for racism and bigotry throughout her political career. Anyone who voted for her can be assumed, at the minimum, not to be concerned about opposing racism.
Equally relevantly, how does this square with the government’s attitude to minor parties in general, not to mention the Greens? The Greens got twice as many votes as Hanson, and I’ve never heard anyone from the LNP suggest that those voters should be treated with respect. Similarly with the other minor parties. The whole idea of the double dissolution was to clear out the minor party senators elected in 2013. That didn’t work, and the share of the minor parties rose even further. Far from celebrating this exercise of our democratic right to choose, the LNP and its cheer squad viewed this outcome as a disaster.
The only way to understand this is in terms of an emerging coalition between the LNP and One Nation, within which the Abbott-Hanson faction will drive most decisions, while Turnbull remains as a helpless puppet, holding on only because a government with a one-vote majority can’t afford to change leaders.