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Pauline Hanson

Pauline Hanson (b. 1954) is a controversial right wing Australian politician.

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 "will be 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 political correctness and free market economics.

The populism expressed in her maiden speech saw her popularity soar, and 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 saw political violence organised by extreme-left groups on a scale not seen in Australia since the 1930s. Meeting attendees were sometimes bashed, eggs were thrown and Pauline Hanson's personal safety compromised.

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.

At the next Federal election on November 10, 2001, she ran for a Queensland Senate seat but narrowly failed.

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. She lost narrowly to Shooter's Party candidate John Tingle. 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.

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." Her lawyer has announced he would lodge an appeal.

On 6 November 2003, the appeal court quashed and set aside the convictions of both Hanson and Etteridge [1]. The court's decision, which was unanimous between the three learned judges, was that:

The court also criticised the public comments made about the case by a number of prominent politicians, 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.