By ALEC SMART
In what appears to be a prank at her expense, controversial Senator Pauline Hanson’s personal website, paulinehanson.com.au, is currently diverting visitors to the Refugee Council of Australia website.
Hanson’s webpage expired in early January, and quick-thinking cyber activists purchased the domain name. From yesterday evening, Hanson supporters found they were automatically redirected to the non-profit national umbrella organisation for refugees and asylum seekers, refugeecouncil.org.au.
The irony is Hanson has long been highly critical of Australia’s immigration policies, and multiculturalism in general, including issuing repeated calls for a significant reduction in the intake of foreigners.
This despite the fact Hanson, once known as Pauline Zagorski, was married to Polish immigrant Walter Zagorski between 1971 and 1977.
Zagorski, with whom she had two children, arrived in Australia as a boy with his mother after fleeing war-torn Europe when Poland was invaded by Germany, then Russia, during World War II. Both Walter Zagorski and his mother were refugees.
The Surry Hills-based Refugee Council denied any involvement in the webpage stunt, although on their Facebook page they confirmed they “appreciate the humour in it”.
In a statement, CEO Paul Power said, “We had no knowledge of, or involvement with, this change to that web domain. We assume it’s a prank. However, we welcome the off chance that Senator Hanson has changed her mind on refugee policy.”
In recent posts, the Refugee Council has condemned Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, the high rates of incarceration of Indigenous people, and the vulnerability of detention centres to Covid-19 outbreaks – issues on which Hanson is diametrically opposed.
Her story: Hanson’s hysterical history
Hanson’s first public revelations that she held ultra-conservative opinions on race relations and immigration came during the lead-up to the March 1996 Federal Election, when she was a Liberal Party candidate for the then-safe Labor seat of Oxley, centred on Ipswich, Queensland and western suburbs of Brisbane.
The Liberals, under former Prime Minister John Howard, removed their endorsement of Hanson after she made disparaging remarks concerning Aboriginal Australians and non-white immigrants; Howard himself declaring she would not be allowed to sit with the party if elected.
Hanson subsequently won the election with 54 per cent of the vote, a 19.3 per cent swing away from the incumbent Labor MP, largely due to preference votes gifted her by the Australian Democrats. She took her seat as an independent and the following year co-founded the One Nation Party, becoming its only MP at the time.
In her infamous maiden speech to Parliament on 10 September, 1996, Hanson stepped up her white Australia rhetoric by calling for the defunding of Indigenous institutions dedicated to providing welfare and community services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
She also warned Australia was in danger of being “swamped by Asians” and that they “have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate”, and called for a drastic reduction in immigration, especially from Asian nations.
Afterwards, Hanson was asked on Channel Nine’s current affairs TV news program, 60 Minutes, if she was xenophobic, to which she replied, “Please explain?” This became an often parodied catchphrase, and the title of a 2016 SBS-TV documentary on her divisive opinions.
Aboriginals = ‘cannibals’
Hanson also predicted in her 1997 book, Pauline Hanson – the Truth: on Asian immigration, the Aboriginal question, the gun debate and the future of Australia, that by 2050, Australia would be run by a lesbian half-cyborg of Chinese-Indian descent named ‘President Poona Li Hung’.
The poorly received book, drawing on Hanson’s public speeches and her analysis of Australian politics, also claimed Australian Aboriginals were “cannibals” who consumed their babies prior to European colonisation. Hanson alleged that they “killed and ate their own women and children, and occasionally their men. The older women were often killed for eating purposes like livestock.”
After a rollercoaster political career of popularity and dismal failure, including an August 2003 conviction for electoral fraud – later overturned – in which she spent eleven weeks in gaol, Hanson returned to the limelight, unrepentant in 2016.
In her first speech to the Australian Senate, Hanson announced, “I call for a halt to further immigration. If you are not prepared to become Australian and give this country this undivided loyalty, obey our laws and respect our country and way of life, then I suggest you go back to where you came from.”
Hanson, who has enjoyed a public platform long after other similarly divisive politicians have shuffled off into ignominy, recently declared she was being “stifled and de-platformed”, despite her regular pronouncements in mainstream and social media.
In the first weeks of January 2021 alone, Hanson attacked social media giants Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for ‘censoring’ US President Donald Trump’s incendiary accounts; proclaimed her support for National Party leader Michael McCormack when he dismissed Black Lives Matter concerns in favour of ‘All Lives Matter’; and played down the dangers of Covid-19, stating it was “a real scaremonger on the people” and “blown completely out of proportion”.
Pauline Hanson was contacted to comment for this article.