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The Racial Hatred Act: Case study 3

 case study3pauline hanson's maiden speech


  • media response to Pauline Hanson's maiden speech to Parliament
  • excerpts from Pauline
    Hanson's maiden speech


Please note that none of the reports in the case studies have been the
subject of complaints or queries under the Racial Hatred Act.

Agnes Warren, presenter
of ABC Radio National's Media Report, devoted one of her programs shortly
after the maiden speech to posing the question: "is Pauline Hanson
'a simple fish-and-chip shop lady' or a savvy media performer?"

One of her interviewees was Professor Andrew Jakubowicz,
head of the Media and Racism Research Group at the University of Technology
Sydney, who said he believed the media played a role in creating Hanson's
public profile:

Andrew Jakubowicz: the media are really crucial for two reasons.
One is, that they play a really important agenda-setting role. I mean what
they select to run with, what they believe are news values, sets the tone
for a lot of the debate that follows. They're not, if you like, passive
recipients of what goes on, they're active participants in it.

The other (reason) is that the media have in a sense, in a variety of
ways, taken some sort of social responsibility for trying to get a sense
of what the diversity of views are...

...the whole point about neo-right populist strategies... like those
of Hanson, is that they do not stand up to sustained critical debate ...
they are confused, they are logically incoherent, they are a string of
prejudices linked together by a series of slogans. Now any intelligent
journalist... is able to unpack that and demonstrate the incompetence of
it. On the other hand, when you have talk show hosts who have no interest
in unpacking the idiocies that these people put forward, they provide a
free and open platform for the sloganeering to continue.

The Media Report concluded with Jakubowicz's comments on what he believed was the most interesting
and, at that time, largely unexplored angle in the Hanson story:

...Gerard Henderson made the point extremely well when he wrote recently
that the crucial news story about Pauline Hanson is not that some right-wing
ideologue from Queensland is making neo-facist, racist statements, but
that the Prime Minister is making no comment at all about them, and that
the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs is making no comment...
and that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is keeping his mouth shut
with a great smile on his face because Pauline Hanson is doing his dirty
work for him. That's really the news story and it's interesting to see
that the news media, for the most part, really haven't pursued that story...
I suppose the issue comes back to the point about public opinion and how
it's formed and how it changes. Public opinion emerges through an interaction
between public opinion leaders and the broad mass of the population in
various ways. If the space is left vacant to ideologues of the hard right,
then the whole sense of what the debate is about lurches in that direction.

Postscript: Almost
a month after Pauline Hanson's maiden speech, the Prime Minister responded
in Parliament to an Opposition question on her remarks and also addressed
the broader issue of racism in Australia.

Agnes Warren comments:


Pauline Hanson's disturbing maiden speech to Parliament, and her subsequent
appearances on talk-back radio programs and the Midday show convinced me
she was an important subject for The Media Report.

I called the independent MP to ask about her media appearances, she
answered the telephone and explained she would not talk to me because she
had banned the ABC. I subsequently discovered this was on the advice of
her adviser, a seasoned journalist. It was interesting to find that unlike
other independent MP's, Ms Hanson had not hired a researcher but had opted
for someone to help her manage the media. The ban on the ABC has put the
organisation in a difficult position - it is obliged to report what Ms
Hanson says but has no opportunity to question her in detail on her views.

These two issues had not been publicly discussed until The Media Report
raised them and explain much about the coverage Ms Hanson has attracted
in recent weeks. Ms Hanson is concentrating her energy on popular radio,
television and newspapers with markets she believes may be sympathetic
to her message. And when it comes to her message she is using the tried
and true technique of keeping it simple and repeating it at every opportunity.


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