Mistakes behind Pauline’s ‘demise’
PAULINE Hanson has been making waves since 1996 - but her endless stunts and outrageous controversies could finally be wearing thin.
At the peak of her popularity at the 1998 Queensland state election, her right-wing One Nation party secured 11 seats in the parliament, and 22.68 per cent of the primary vote.
But over the decades that initial success has dwindled, with both the party and its leader rocked by scandal after scandal.
And according to Aussie public relations expert Catriona Pollard, Ms Hanson's reputation can never recover.
In her maiden speech to the House of Representatives in 1996, Ms Hanson pulled her first stunt, claiming Australia was "in danger of being swamped by Asians" who "have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate".
Ms Pollard said that "emotive language" divided the country - and damaged her fledgling political career, along with Australia's relationship with China.
"During that time I think she did speak to a certain group in Australia but it was also the start of her polarisation of the community … and it was one of the issues that really started hurting her career," she said.
"It also meant that people started to actively dislike her."
Just six weeks later, a 60 Minutes reporter asked her if she was xenophobic - prompting Ms Hanson to utter the now-infamous phrase, "please explain", and cement herself as a figure of national ridicule.
Over the years, Ms Hanson has also been a regular fixture on Australian reality television, appearing on Dancing with the Stars, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and This is Your Life in 2004, and Celebrity Apprentice in 2011.
But Ms Pollard said it was rarely a good look for a politician to appear on those types of programs.
"It's a double-edged sword - you can come off as not looking credible or approachable," she said.
"Because of the format of those shows, it meant Pauline was opening herself up for judgment - whether she can dance or not is irrelevant to her as a politician … and it opens herself to questions around respect, credibility and reputation."
Then, in 2017, Ms Hanson pulled her most "outrageous" stunt yet - wearing a burqa during Senate question time as part of her push to ban the garment.
But it immediately sparked massive backlash, with even conservative politicians condemning the move.
Ms Pollard said Ms Hanson's tactic of resorting to stunts to gain attention echoed that of US President Donald Trump - and that ultimately, it hurt her personal brand.
"She's one of the few politicians in Australia that uses the tactic of stunts to get herself into the news cycle," she said.
"Wearing the burqa created conversations and made people question their opinions, but while it was good from a marketing perspective because it got her in the news cycle, it was actually negative for her career.
"It was such a dramatic and racist stunt it caused even people who were on the fence about her views to think she'd gone too far. It created short-term awareness but in the long term it absolutely impacted her reputation, and the vast majority of people's opinion of her."
Her failed attempt to pass a motion in parliament saying "it's OK to be white" in 2018 was another racial stunt that backfired and opened the outspoken Senator to ridicule.
Of course, Ms Hanson's stunts are just the tip of the iceberg - she's also been plagued by endless scandals, from being jailed in 2003 to the mass exodus of high-profile men from her party, including One Nation co-founder David Oldfield, Fraser Anning and Brian Burston.
But the biggest fiasco for Ms Hanson and her party came this year, when an Al Jazeera expose caught One Nation Senate candidate Steve Dickson at a sleazy US strip club.
It also uncovered Mr Dickson and One Nation political adviser James Ashby's attempts to seek millions in political donations from America's National Rifle Association (NRA) and to soften Australia's gun laws.
During the election campaign, Ms Hanson also came under fire after claiming a One Nation campaign truck had been "torched" by someone on "the left" - a claim police later rejected, finding the blaze was started by an abandoned cigarette.
According to Ms Pollard, Ms Hanson's stunts, the controversies and instability that has become her party's trademark and the alienation of both voters and financial donors will likely lead to the party's downfall.
"She's probably the most radical conservative Australia has and I think she's going to continue to do these stunts and attract these controversies because that is her nature - it's the way she runs her personal brand and her party and I just can't see that changing," she said.
"I think it could be the demise of her party because it's almost a one-platform party now, and people don't vote for one-platform parties.
"People expect politicians to be informed, to be educated and to think before they speak - she doesn't do those key things and she doesn't fit the mould … and the majority of people don't want to be aligned with such controversial views."