On the same day that One Nation has made headlines for appearing to seek millions in funding from the NRA, the government has missed every opportunity to once and for all confirm it will preference the far-right party last in the upcoming federal election.
This government has done many things over the last few years – repeatedly booting leaders being the most memorable– but confirming it will put a party that regularly and routinely flaunts xenophobia and Islamophobia last on its how-to-vote cards is not one of those things.
On Tuesday, an Al Jazeera operation revealed footage of Pauline Hanson’s chief of staff, James Ashby and One Nation Queensland leader Steve Dickson seeking donations from America’s National Rifle Association.
In other footage, Dickson can be seen in a training session with the NRA’s media rep as he’s taught how to deal with opposition to weakening Australia’s gun laws.
Oh, and there’s also that whole bit where the former Liberal National Party MP appears to claim Australia’s Muslim population is breaking into people’s houses with baseball bats and killing them.
“If it gets out, it’ll fucking rock the boat,” Ashby can be heard saying at one point. “This shit goes through my head every single minute of my day.”
Well, buddy, have I got some news for you.
One Nation’s position on the Coalition’s voter cards has been causing drama for the Prime Minister for weeks.
In the aftermath of the Christchurch terror attacks, former One Nation senator Fraser Anning published perhaps some of the most cooked and racist content you’ll see this year from an elected official, and One Nation leader Pauline Hanson refused to censure her former bandmate for his comments.
The heat turned up on the PM after the Labor Party made their position definitive: Hanson and her band of merry men will be last on their cards. The prime minister was caught out on ABC TV accusing the Labor Party of doing a preference deal with Hanson’s party – an accusation that was quickly fact checked and corrected.
And so for the days and weeks that followed Scott Morrison has had to finish every press conference by dodging the simple, easy question: would the party place One Nation last on how-to-vote cards?
He’s tried a few things to avoid answering this question outright, saying the party wouldn’t be doing preference deals with One Nation, but has always stopped short of answering with a “yes” or “no”.
All the while the Coalition‘s human services minister Michael Keenan is appearing on Sky News saying the Greens are “significantly more dangerous to Australia” compared to One Nation. That’s true – if you consider things like calling for the forced DNA testing of Aboriginal Australians on par with the Greens wanting drug use to be treated as a health issue.
And look, there’s certainly many valid things to criticise the Greens for. But dude – come on.
Last week the Liberal Party’s vice president – and current worst ever guest on Q&A – Teena McQueen appeared on Sky News After Dark to say the reality was that “in a lot of seats we have to do some sort of deal with One Nation.”
A number of politicians and public figures, including Bill Shorten, Penny Wong, Murray Watt, Sarah Hanson-Young, former Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane, and Mehreen Faruqi, are all calling on the Coalition to place One Nation last.
It’s not just opposition, either – Liberal Party notables like Julie Bishop and Kelly O’Dwyer have also backed a bottom-place spot for One Nation. Of course, both Bishop and O’Dwyer plan to be out of politics by the end of the next election.
To that end, here’s what Scott Morrison had to say (or tweet) about the latest One Nation scandal on Tuesday morning:
Reports that senior One Nation officials courted foreign political donations from the US gun lobby to influence our elections & undermine our gun laws that keep us safe are deeply concerning.
Australia’s gun laws are world’s best thanks to John Howard & we will not be changing them. Thankfully our Gov has also made laws to criminalise taking foreign political donations so foreign lobbyists cannot seek to influence our politics. It took a Coalition Gov to do both.
Later in the day, a press conference that was meant to be about new energy policies and the dangers of social media quickly derailed into Preference Chat.
“I’m not interested in getting One Nation’s preferences,” said Morrison, shortly after he told a journalist he had already answered the question of whether he would place Pauline & Co. last.
I’m interested in getting the primary vote. I separate One Nation voters from the One Nation party. I know that people who have voted for One Nation in the past have done so because of frustrations on a whole range of issues… The answer is not One Nation.
“Voting One Nation won’t give you a stronger economy, it won’t give you a stronger budget, it won’t keep you job, it won’t get you a pay rise, it won’t manage population growth,” Scott went on to say.
“They’re not a party of Government.”
Morrison continued to chastise One Nation for seeking to trade John Howard‘s internationally-lauded gun laws for money from a foreign buyer, and said the question of where One Nation will be preferenced can only be answered once all candidates come forward.
“My position hasn’t changed,” he said. “I’m not after people’s preferences, I’m after their primaries.”
In short: One Nation is bad – very bad, even – but I won’t answer the one question you actually want me to.
So what’s a ScoMo to do? If these things don’t budge him, what will? He can’t just keep walking away every time people ask him about it.
This isn’t an issue he can hand-wave away until the stroke of midnight. There’s a time limit on this and it runs as long as his election campaign. So he can continue to set it aside and continue to face the same questions, or he can give us a concrete answer – now.