Labor Government

05 May 2004 archivespeech
A speech about the Rann Government and it's likeness to Pauline Hanson.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Today I wish to draw some conclusions about the Rann government's likeness to Pauline Hanson. In her heyday, Hanson caused many Australians embarrassment with her provocative attacks on minorities with comments such as Australia was `in danger of being swamped by Asians', criticism of the `assumption that Aboriginals are the most disadvantaged in Australia', the Family Law Act and child support, the privatisation of Qantas, foreign aid, and her call for the reintroduction of national service. These were easy targets in 1996 following the politically correct Keating years, the recession we had to have, and the collapse of the State Bank which led to high unemployment and low levels of business confidence.

The rich vein of resentment was ready to be tapped; recipients of funding based on their ethnicity were easy scapegoats. Scapegoating is a regular feature of this government's public commentary. In the last two years, the arts community has been told to `stop whining' and `grow up'; electricity generators have been labelled `greedy blood¬suckers'; certain unions are `bully boys'; lawyers are `the gang of 14', `trendies' and `snobs' who `live in the leafy suburbs'; hoteliers are `pokie barons' from whom their poker machines will be `ripped out'; criminals are `low lifes'; and those who rent out homes are `wealthy property accumulating opportunists'—once again, all easy targets about whom an undercurrent of resentment or envy can be tapped. There are other similarities in media management. Hanson was chaperoned by John Pasquarelli, who carefully vetted her statements and her first explosive speech. Rann's statements are just as carefully scrutinised, but he needs no Svengali to advise him. He gets words from Bob Ellis and concepts from Tony Blair. In Hanson's maiden speech, she referred to `fat cats, bureaucrats and do-gooders'.

In opposition Rann regularly referred to fat cats. In government they are his reluctant fall guys when public debate goes sour and the government needs to respond. For example, last year the Essential Services Commissioner was warned that his job was on the line because of electricity prices. In March this year senior public servants were told the same in relation to homelessness. The Premier and Attorney-General have successfully underminded the office of the DPP while he was facing health problems, and that scalp they now have. The language of Hanson and the Rann government when applied to scapegoats is blunt, unpolished and uses the mental shorthand of stereotypes. It takes no responsibility for providing a complex explanation to complex solutions and is thus the antithesis of true leadership.

How can political figures from the opposite end of the spectrum have so much in common? Hanson was a fish and chip shop proprietor who was unashamed of her inability to grasp complexity. Mike Rann is a journalist with decades of experience in the political game. He claims Don Dunstan as his hero—the `maestro of the possible' he has called him—and based on this rhetoric this Premier should be interested in social reforms, bold visions and explaining complexity. But actual reforms can be painful, especially when they are not popular, so the Premier compensates for lack of action by talking tough and kicking easy targets. Hanson harnessed community disaffection with politicians. Rann seeks to harness disaffection with anyone to whom he can conveniently lay blame for South Australia's problems.