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Thursday, 10 March 2011

Racist shadow rises in Australian politics

The specter of racism has returned to Australian politics with former One Nation MP Pauline Hanson announcing her intention to run for the NSW upper house.

The former One Nation leader is attempting a political comeback, standing as an independent in the run up to the March 26 election.

The controversial Hanson launched her surprise bid for the NSW seat Tuesday night, with the nomination accepted by the NSW Electoral Commission.

Running as part of a group of 16 independents, the divisive Ms Hanson last stood for election to the NSW Parliament in 2003 where her anti-immigration rhetoric and arch-conservative policies angered ethnic communities and failed to gain traction.

Speaking to Xinhua from his office in NSW parliament, NSW Greens MP Ian Cohen said on Wednesday the former One Nation Party leader's return into the national eye was a serious step backwards in Australia's fight against racism.

"Pauline Hanson's election will be a huge threat to our multi- cultural community. It appears there will be a grand conservative coalition in the upper house of parliament which will change the political culture in NSW to a very worrying degree."

News of Hanson's candidacy casts a long conservative shadow over the nations most populous state where a labor government is almost certainly coming to the end of a 16 year run in office.

Fears are growing that a large Liberal-National party Coalition victory could deliver a working majority in the Legislative Council with the support of Christian and Shooters and Fishers party MPs.

Labor says a decision by the Greens not to preference Labor has increased the likelihood of a conservative controlled upper house.

Embattled NSW Premier Kristina Keneally was quick to condemn Hanson's candidacy.

"We absolutely condemn the sorts of racist and discriminatory policies which come from Ms Hanson and parties like One Nation," Keneally said.

The NSW Liberal Party has also said it would offer no preferences to Hanson.

But Hanson shot back on local radio: "I'm not racist."

"I have ... as an Australian ... a right to question immigration and multiculturalism, which I don't believe is helping our country. I don't think there's anything wrong with that," she added.

The right-wing One Nation Party's populist and xenophobic slogans include anti-immigration policies, anti-globalization, demands for renewed tariff protection and bitter attacks on the establishment, governments and politicians while seeking to appeal to "ordinary Australians".

Ian Cohen fears the tone of debate that Hanson's return will engender.

"It will have a massive impact on social issues in this country.. I'm extremely worried," he said.

People Daily