Preferencing One Nation a vote for division

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra, April 30.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra, April 30.

Pauline Hanson's billboards menacingly blare, "We have the guts to say what you are thinking". Those of us who are from migrant, First Nations and communities of colour know what this means. It's a violent statement designed to reward those who harbour resentment and fear, while further isolating people like us. It's a classic divide and conquer tactic.

It was Pauline Hanson who attempted to introduce a white supremacist "it's okay to be white" motion in Parliament in an attempt to chip away at the basic standards expected of our elected representatives. The slogan was developed by far-right groups taking inspiration from David Lane, a notorious American neo-Nazi.

One Nation's targeted and inflammatory attacks against migrants, Muslims and First Nations communities have also emboldened similar sentiments amongst the public. With the Federation of Community Legal Centres reporting a 50% rise of racist attacks in Victoria alone, and similar incidents being reported across Australia.

When Nationals leader Michael McCormack exclaimed that he was serving regional interests by preferencing One Nation, he was assuming that regional Australia does not include people who are consistently harmed by One Nation's steady rise. With a stronger push for migrant communities to settle in regional centres, it's more important than ever that people have positive political representation.

When One Nation first appeared in the early 1990s, their rise was thwarted by several parties across the political spectrum deciding to put One Nation last on their how-to-vote cards. This included, after some hesitation, the Liberals under John Howard, and the Nationals under Tim Fischer and Ron Boswell. They eventually realised that the only way to deal with One Nation was to confront them, and ensure none of their votes helped get them elected.

The Nationals preferencing One Nation risks legitimising them as a real alternative, and inadvertently drives votes towards them.

After a week of public pressure Scott Morrison announced that the Liberals would place One Nation behind Labor on Liberal how-to-vote cards, noting that he couldn't risk undermining Australia's gun laws and drawing a line between his party and One Nation.

The Nationals were at a crossroads. And instead of showing leadership by rebuking One Nation in the strongest way, they instead chose to legitimise hate and division.

Roj Amedi is a Senior Campaigner with Colour Code, a movement for racial justice.