The latest chapter in the 20-year soap opera of One Nation’s disintegration played out in the media over the last 24 hours with NSW PHON senator Brian Burston being threatened with expulsion from the party as its eponymous founder called on him to resign.
The dysfunction in Pauline Hanson’s party appears to be at level where 2GB presenter Ben Fordham had a copy of the letter from the party’s leader calling on Burston to resign before the senator. The radio host had to read its contents to Burston live on air before the senator said his boss was having “a dummy spit”.
— BenFordham (@BenFordham) June 1, 2018
This scenario – and the accompanying histrionics of the falling out – comes just seven months after Fraser Anning, the Queensland senator meant to replace Malcolm Roberts (ousted by the High Court for being a dual national), parted ways with One Nation before he’d even been sworn in as a senator.
Burston knocked back leaving, telling 2GB Hanson should “cancel my membership”.
She’s yet to follow through demanding he give his seat back to One Nation. Anning is a reminder of how, even if he did out of party loyalty, that works out.
“I have been very loyal to her for 22 years,” Burston told 2GB.
So loyal he even launched legal action against the party in a fight over One Nation’s NSW upper house ticket 15 years ago.
One Nation’s endless pantomime – “Look out, he’s behind you!” – is part of the Hanson shtick.
(Let’s not forget last year’s burqa moment in the Senate).
After all, having spent more than two decades in and out of politics, Hanson still loves pretending to be a non-politician.
The latest falling out is the result of Hanson’s own vacillation over her support for Malcolm Turnbull’s company tax cuts.
She was in, but then, with by-elections looming, she was out, claiming the government had deceived her. Hanson had a deal with Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.
Until she said she didn’t.
People fooling the perennially guileless senator is another part of the Hanson mythology.
Burston’s downfall is the result of declaring he’d back the government’s company tax plan in defiance of his leader’s change of heart.
From there it escalated into stories of potential defections and Hanson’s teary melodramatics on Sky News on Thursday night.
And just when you think it couldn’t get any more intruder-in-the-Big-Brother-house, the rumour is that former 1990s Labor leader and self-proclaimed “outsider” Mark Latham is Hanson’s pick to replace Burston in the Senate.
Latham has said “four different parties” want him in the Senate, a claim that potentially rewrites the laws of physics.
Shaun Micallef couldn’t get away with this level of surrealism on Mad As Hell.
Burston claimed today that if expelled from the party it would make him the 24th out of 30 to part ways with One Nation at a state or federal level over the past two decades.
Excluding Roberts being ejected by the High Court, we calculate the figure at 17 – more than half the party.
She returned to federal politics in 2016 with four senators and now Pauline Hanson’s One Nation is now set to become a bloc of two – of the three PHON senators she was elected with (Burston, Roberts, Culleton) two are gone, with Burston set to follow – so at least she’s on the trend average.
When Hanson returned to federal politics in 2016, Business Insider wrote that the experience “will be both fraught and spectacular”.
As much as we’d like a pat on the back for the foresight, it was no more than stating the bleeding obvious.
* This is an opinion column.