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Controversial Aussie MP Pauline Hanson is back and running in election

Ms Hanson (above) told The Straits Times that she is "quietly confident" of returning to Parliament. She is contesting the election as leader of her One Nation party, which she co-founded two decades ago.
Ms Hanson (above) told The Straits Times that she is "quietly confident" of returning to Parliament. She is contesting the election as leader of her One Nation party, which she co-founded two decades ago.PHOTO: PAULINE HANSON'S ONE NATION

Controversial former MP's anti-immigration stance shifts from Asians to Muslims

One of Australia's most controversial politicians, Ms Pauline Hanson, is attempting a comeback at the July federal election, though this time the right-wing firebrand is concentrating her anti-immigration focus on Muslims rather than Asians.

The infamous former MP from the state of Queensland, who rose to fame with her attacks on multiculturalism, aboriginal welfare and Asian immigration, has long tried to make a return to Parliament since her controversial stint in Canberra from 1996 to 1998.

She is believed to have a strong chance of winning an Upper House seat in Queensland at the federal election on July 2.

This is because Australia is holding a double dissolution election in which all Upper House spots are up for grabs, meaning a lower amount of votes is required to win than standard elections, where only about half of Upper House MPs are elected.

In an interview with The Straits Times, Ms Hanson, 62, said she was "quietly confident" of returning to Parliament.

Asked about her notorious claim in Parliament in 1996 that Australia was "in danger of being swamped by Asians", she said she stood by her concerns and insisted she was "protecting me and my culture".

THE BUSINESS OF IMMIGRATION

We should stop bringing migrants into our country - it is only for big business to make more money.

MS PAULINE HANSON

"When I said that about being in danger of being swamped by Asians, I felt we needed to debate our immigration policy," she said.

"I am not anti-Asian but we are different cultures. I am sure Asians would agree that they wouldn't want their country becoming Westernised or Americanised."

In a sign of changes in Australia and abroad over the past 20 years, Ms Hanson said her concerns have largely shifted from Asians to Muslims. She is contesting the election as leader of Pauline Hanson's One Nation party, which she co-founded almost two decades ago.

Her party's website calls for an end to Muslim immigration and says that Islam is "proving to be seditious against every nation and government on earth".

She has called for a royal commission into Islam and a ban on women wearing the face-covering burqa or niqab in public. "I am anti Muslims coming into the country," she said. "Islam is incompatible with our culture and way of life."

Ms Hanson continues to generate media interest and her campaign launch last Friday night was greeted by protesters yelling "Pauline Hanson, go to hell - take One Nation there as well".

The Australian Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, has insisted that Ms Hanson is "not a welcome presence" in Australian politics.

The One Nation party plans to contest the Upper House in all states and territories but is believed to have its best chance of winning a seat in Ms Hanson's home state of Queensland. It also has candidates contesting some Lower House seats but is not expected to win any.

Election analyst Antony Green believes Ms Hanson has a "realistic chance" of winning an Upper House seat in the state of Queensland.

"If you get 3 to 4 per cent (of the votes), you've got a chance of getting elected," Mr Green told ABC News on May 24.

A return to politics would cap a controversial career for Ms Hanson.

Born and raised in Queensland, she famously owned a fish-and- chips shop in outer Brisbane before entering politics. She has four children from two marriages, which both ended.

Her win as a Lower House MP in a Brisbane seat in 1996 was followed by protests across the country as she rallied against globalisation, multiculturalism, aboriginal welfare and immigration.

Controversy followed her after she left Parliament in 1998.

She spent several months in jail in 2003 for electoral fraud but was later released after the convictions were quashed.

She has worked in real estate, released an autobiography, briefly moved to Britain, bought an interest in a pub and even appeared in the ballroom dancing reality television show Dancing With The Stars.

All the while, she has stuck to her opposition to foreign investment and privatisation of national assets. She supports zero net immigration, or limiting migrants to equal the number of Australians who migrate abroad.

"We should stop bringing migrants into our country - it is only for big business to make more money," she said.

"In a lot of Asian countries you can't buy their land. I don't believe they should buy up our land and buy up our farming sector."

Over the years, though, Australia has become far more immersed in the region, signing free-trade deals with Singapore, China, Japan and South Korea. The number of Australians of Asian background has soared - with the proportion of migrants born in Asian countries increasing from 24 per cent in 2001 to 33 per cent in 2011.

 Ms Hanson continues to warn against rising Asian migration.

"If I find 50 per cent or 80 per cent of immigrants are Asian, I would have grave concerns," she said. "You have to have a balance."

Ms Hanson insists she has interests beyond politics. "I love reading and gardening and knitting and travelling," she said.

But it seems clear even if her re-election bid fails, she won't fade from the political scene any time soon, given the strength of her views.

She said her party would still run in future state polls.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2016, with the headline 'Hanson is back and running in Aussie election'. Print Edition | Subscribe