1 September 2003

Guardian Unlimited | The martyrdom of unsaintly Pauline:
At first this sly submission to Hansonism was condemned by the Labor party, but when Howard's xenophobic campaign against refugees won him the 2001 election, even that opposition was silenced. Nowadays you will be lucky to find a mainstream politician who can talk about Hanson without either tacitly supporting, or silkily sliding around her despicable views.

Politicians are scared of being on the level about this because they do not want to be seen to disrespect the people who support her, a critical group of working-class and lower middle-class swing voters dubbed the 'battlers'. These battlers, viewed as decent, hard-working and traditional salt-of-the-earth Aussies, form the bedrock of John Howard's political support, and Labor is desperate to regain their trust.

Both of the main parties pay lip-service to these battlers by tolerating and stoking racism, terrified that they will appear to be ignoring battler concerns. Neither is prepared to give the same people the true mark of political respect, and listen to them on other issues affecting the country.

Crucially, the battlers' take on economic policy is ignored, as it has been for most of the past 20 years. In the headlong rush of successive Australian governments to embrace free-market reforms, the battlers have been the downsized, low-waged cannon fodder.

John Howard simply took the economic policies of former Labor prime minister Paul Keating and grafted them on to the social policies of Pauline Hanson; the former fuelled battlers' disillusionment, while the latter was seen as its balm.

Perhaps if Labor actually listened to the people on Struggle St, they might have the political authority to deal with Hanson.

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