Fraser Anning is a symptom of the sickness overrunning Australian politics
Advertisement

Fraser Anning is a symptom of the sickness overrunning Australian politics

Fraser Anning, who won his seat in the federal Senate on the back of 19 votes, represents no one I know.

But his racist, bigoted and hateful comments say as much about our political process as they do about him.

Specifically, it raises three questions:

1. How can a person win a seat in Parliament, and the fat pay packet that goes with it, with 19 votes?

Advertisement

That is undemocratic, perverse and allows non-representative untruths to become part of our national discourse. It gives the likes of Fraser Anning a platform, and sucks the life out of the work being done to create a more tolerant society.

2. Why can someone be subject to the law by saying outrageous, hateful and provocative allegations outside Parliament (as they should be), but those inside are protected, no matter what?

Perhaps it had justification in history, but there are now so many other avenues to bring attention to wrongdoing that we should overhaul parliamentary privilege that allows untested slander to make headlines, without any recourse.

It would also stop the particularly nasty innuendo that is now part of parliamentary debate, ensure politicians stuck to the truth (well, closer to the truth) and ensure those outside had an equal response.

Just who does Senator Fraser Anning represent?

Just who does Senator Fraser Anning represent?Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

3. When are we going to stop this ludicrous loophole where an MP or senator can be elected as a member of one party, and then swap immediately to another?

Fraser Anning was elected as a One Nation senator late last year. He quit immediately and sat as an independent, before changing his mind again and joining Katter’s Australian Party.

Loading

Swapping parties after voters deliver their verdict should make a politician’s election void. More people vote for a party than a person; and this is akin to changing the judges’ decision, without any right of appeal.

These three issues - about the number of votes needed for election, how outrageous accusations delivered under parliamentary privilege are handled, and politicians swapping parties as it suit them - are only some of the changes needed to our political system.

The quality of our politicians begs a much longer column.

They are all highlighted by Fraser Anning’s comments, which were so disgraceful they had Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten and Pauline Hanson all in agreement.

Fraser Anning (left) and Bob Katter (right).

Fraser Anning (left) and Bob Katter (right).Credit:Marc McCormack/AAP

But so much damage has already been done in a maiden speech that should never have been written or delivered.

The support given to the new senator’s comments by KAP leader Bob Katter defies logic, and ensures this issue becomes a divisive and difficult debate in the weeks ahead.

That’s probably manna from heaven for a politician whose name no one knew last week, and his leader whose comments on Wednesday must bring into question his suitability to head a party.

It will also direct attention to the Queensland KAP, run by Katter son Robbie Katter, who couldn’t be contacted in the wake of Tuesday night’s episode.

Loading

He must repudiate both his federal colleague and his father, and failure to do so should ensure he faces bipartisan heat in the state Parliament.

But the divisiveness we all need to fight is the one that risks growing on our streets and in our neighbourhoods.

It’s our responsibility, as voters, to show that a politician elected with 19 votes represents none of us, and his poor judgment and appalling comments have no place in our homes, our streets or our parliaments.

Madonna King is a leading journalist and commentator who writes for the Brisbane Times. She was an award-winning mornings presenter on 612 ABC Brisbane and is a five-times author.