Once again, Australia’s ethnic communities are mobilising against Pauline Hanson, 20 years after she first entered federal parliament. The newly elected Senator will be joined in the Upper House by other One Nation senators, giving her significant crossbench influence.
Kenrick Cheah, from the Chinese Australian Forum, says Pauline Hanson’s political comeback, as a newly-elected Senator, caught many in his community by surprise, and is a cause for concern.
“Very concerned, the fact that she was able to win a seat in the first place, is a shift back to what happened in the 90s. Back in the 90s, the Chinese Community bore the brunt of her attacks,” he said.
Pauline Hanson now sees a new threat. She’s calling for a Royal Commission into Islam, mosque surveillance and a ban on Muslim immigration.
Chinese Community leaders fear history is repeating itself in Australia, but now, they say the Muslim Community is the main target of what they call Ms Hanson’s racist policies.
“We feel we need to stand side by side with the Muslim Community in solidarity against racism, against discrimination,” said Mr Cheah.
“She’s attacking the Muslims today, she could be attacking the Indian community the next week. Any attack on any minority group is an attack on all minority groups, so we need to stand together and fight against her.”
Keysar Trad from the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) says Chinese Community support is welcome.
“Well, we’re very grateful that that Asian and Chinese community have come together to speak out against Pauline Hanson,” he said.
“I would love to see people from all backgrounds, especially Anglo-Australians to stand up, speak out and say Not in Our Name Pauline.”
And a new FactCheckOne Nation website has been set up by a team of Muslim and non-Muslim Australians, to address many of the claims made by Pauline Hanson and her party.
Indian Muslims are also mobilising against Pauline Hanson.
Abbas Raza Alvi is the president of the Indian Crescent Society, representing more than 5000 Indian Muslims in Australian. He says his community will work with other communities to jointly oppose Ms Hanson.
“When she is mentioning, Muslims are not welcome, Indians are not welcome, I think these are racist comments and should not be mentioned by any elected member of parliament,” he said.
“All ethnic communities, whatever the background, whether they’re from European background, Middle East, Chinese, Indians, they should all unite and reject the promotion of racism in Australia.”
And there’s another message for politicians – hands off the Racial Discrimination Act.
It’s feared there may now be renewed attempts to either water down or scrap the legislation, including section 18C, which makes it unlawful to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” on the basis of race, colour, or national or ethnic origin.
Ethnic community leaders say they’re prepared to send delegations to Canberra to ensure those protections aren’t wound back.
“We will definitely be opposing that, along with leaders from the Muslim community, other Chinese leaders, subcontinental leaders, Vietnamese leaders, Jewish leaders. We’ll all be banding together, like we did before, to make sure this doesn’t happen, to protect the interests of our communities,” said Kenrick Cheah.
Keysar Trad from AFIC says: “Much of the damage has been done. We just have to make sure that enough pressure is put on the coalition not to make any deals with Pauline Hanson.”
“Unfortunately having someone like her, means that politicians will pander to their dark side, in order to get some of their other laws put through. She will profit from that by making life difficult for minorities in Australia.”
Pauline Hanson’s views may be controversial and divisive, but she’s made it clear – she isn’t backing down.
“This a debate that we need to have, about Islam. And I think that we should have the debate. Let’s talk about it.
Let’s see the impact that it is having on our country.”
“Why have we got so many migrating to Australia? And they’re using our system here to breed more people in this country. We have problems now. We can deal with it now.”
One Nation denies its polices are racist.
Newly elected One Nation Senator Brian Burston, “We’re not racist at all. I’m pro-Australian. I think their argument is ill founded, that we’re racist. I’d be happy to sit down and discuss that issue with them.”
But Senator Burston also says Islam is “an infringement on our culture”.
“At the moment, they’re living in enclaves, if you like, Lakemba for example, full of Muslim Community, they haven’t assimilated. They are an infringement on our culture.”
The new NSW senator says there’s growing support for the party.
“We just secured about 800,000 votes in the lower house and upper house. And I think that’s an indication of the growing support for One Nation. I believe, because we have a four senator bloc in the Senate now, we have incumbency, and we have issues we can push forward, as senators.”
However, concerns are also being raised about the impact of Pauline Hanson’s political comeback on Australia’s international image, and tourism.
Chinese Australian Forum’s Kenrick Cheah said, “there’s plenty of concerns there, especially in the tourism market, Australia gets a lot of its tourism dollars from Chinese tourists, Asian tourists. So, any inflammatory words, by her, put a dent in our reputation overseas.”
Chinese visitors make up the biggest slice of Australia’s surging tourism market.
Margy Osmond from the Transport and Tourism Forum says it’s a very sensitive market.
“The potential to radically damage a market that is increasingly the most important slice of our inbound market, is significant,” she said.
“We don’t need to have mixed messages in the marketplace that in some ways suggest people won’t be welcome.”
Chinese Community leaders and others are hoping history doesn’t repeat in Australia.