Right-wing Australian party hurt by senator's defection

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson (above) was an autocratic leader who ousted anyone who disagreed with her decisions, Senator Brian Burston claimed, adding that the party should be renamed "Gone Nation".
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson (above) was an autocratic leader who ousted anyone who disagreed with her decisions, Senator Brian Burston claimed, adding that the party should be renamed "Gone Nation".PHOTO: REUTERS

He calls leader Pauline Hanson autocratic, in move robbing party of the power to block legislation

SYDNEY • A defection from Australia's most prominent right-wing political party, Ms Pauline Hanson's One Nation, yesterday robbed it of its ability to block legislation by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, raising the prospect he can introduce tax cuts.

Mr Brian Burston, who will now sit in the Upper House Senate as an independent, resigned from One Nation over infighting - the latest blow to the party that re-emerged as a force in Australian politics in 2016, reported Reuters.

Mr Burston said in a statement that he was leaving the party "with a heavy heart", reported ABC News.

"It has become clear to me that my relationship with Senator Hanson is irrevocable," the statement said.

"The best way forward for me to represent the best interests of the constituents of NSW (New South Wales) with honour and integrity is for me to resign."

In a dig at Ms Hanson, he said that the party should be renamed as "Gone Nation", painting her as an autocratic leader who ousted whoever disagreed with her decisions.

STRAINED TIES

It has become clear to me that my relationship with Senator Hanson is irrevocable.

MR BRIAN BURSTON, on One Nation leader Pauline Hanson.

Mr Turnbull had often needed the support of One Nation to get legislation passed, although the third-largest party in the Senate had recently blocked plans for corporate tax cuts, and threatened to block income tax cuts.

"Turnbull will now not run into a situation where Hanson rejects the government legislation," said Dr Nick Economou, senior lecturer in politics at Monash University in Melbourne.

Mr Burston has said he would support both tax cuts, although a vote is still likely to be very tight, with widespread opposition from left-leaning lawmakers, reported Reuters.

Mr Turnbull, speaking after Mr Burston's resignation, said the government would seek closer ties with independents in Parliament.

"Treating people with respect, seeking to persuade them, listen to their point of view, reach a compromise where necessary, that's all about getting things done," Mr Turnbull told reporters in Tasmania.

Ms Hanson made an unlikely but successful first run for Parliament while managing a fish and chip shop in 1996.

After using her maiden speech to warn the country would be "swamped by Asians", she co-founded the One Nation party.

It enjoyed early electoral success, before imploding over infighting.

Ms Hanson re-entered the federal Parliament in 2016 on a platform of restricting Islamic migrants and foreign acquisitions of Australian assets, after a near two-decade absence.

But her party has now lost two senators to resignations, while a third was forced out of Parliament because he was a citizen of Britain at the time of his nomination, which is not allowed.

Mr Turnbull's government responded to the challenge posed by Ms Hanson with an "Australia first" drive, launched last year and echoing United States President Donald Trump's campaign slogan, tightening immigration and citizenship rules and drawing some voters away from her.

Ms Hanson has accused Mr Burston of "stabbing her in the back" over the tax cuts, and alleged that he planned to join other political parties, reported ABC News.

She has called on him to resign from Parliament, but Mr Burston has resisted the demand.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2018, with the headline 'Right-wing Australian party hurt by senator's defection'. Print Edition | Subscribe