Chapter 2 ...an idea takes form
I was in Adelaide at the time of the 1996 Federal Elections. All I recall about Hanson's success was that this unknown had created some sort of aberration and that Graeme Campbell had congratulated her. Apart from that the name Hanson meant little to me. It was to remain that way until news broke of her maiden speech nearly six months later.
Maiden speeches are forgettable things. They are usually delivered by apprehensive debutantes to the political bullring and have one thing in common; their delivery is accompanied by saying all the right things. But Hanson was different she had something to say ...and as nervous and apprehensive as she was she was damned if she was going to be silenced. Rising to speak to a near empty chamber at 5.20pm on the evening of September 10th 1996, the speech may have gone unnoticed had it not been for the ‘piranha’ press. Forewarned by John Pasquarelli, her original and subsequently shabbily treated adviser, they waited, the voracious feeders, for the entry of the lamb.
It was a speech that broke all the rules of the game. Custom was that you were supposed to smile, be sweet to your peers, pay due reverence to 'this place' and possibly touch on a couple of mundane subjects. Instead Hanson lobbed a hand-grenade into the near empty chamber ...she had dared to raise the issues that ordinary Australians had long since believed that politicians did not have the intestinal fortitude to deliver or tackle. She had breathed the words Aborigine and Asian ...and that was enough to send the politically correct left-wing marinated press into fever pitch.
If the nuances of what she said were lost on the stragglers in the chamber that evening ...they were sweet music to the battery of Canberra Press Gallery scribes. I can hear them now...the politically correct, 'We'll crucify this bitch!'
Within an hour of this speech the crucifixion of Pauline Hanson had begun. It had nothing however to do with the press, but everything to do with political chicanery and machinations.
Hanson had left the parliament with people who were at that time her closest friends. Minutes later two of them Morrie Marsden and John Pasquarelli had gone their separate ways leaving Hanson and Hazelton to carry on to where they had all decided to dine ... at the Le Grange Restaurant. This time the hand of fate or design was to deal in a ‘political carpetbagger’ in the making. For the moment however David Oldfield was the research officer for the Federal Liberal Party Member for Warringah, Tony Abbott. Aspiring Minister and Howard protégé, Abbott’s role I believe was not as incidental and innocent as the political pundits and media contingent might have you believe.
A couple of days later when the press decided that she was going to be destroyed on their self righteous sacrificial alters, I began to take an interest in Hanson. I sought out and managed to locate a copy of her maiden speech. When I read it I understood better than most what was in store for her. If this sounds a little presumptuous, then I can assure readers that it is not. John Pasquarelli says in his book and I quote:
“Bruce Whiteside received some media attention a number of years ago, when he held protest meetings on the Gold Coast about the increasing purchases of local real estate, particularly by the Japanese.”
Some ...media attention! This was a no more than a line of writers license, for John Pasquarelli had no idea what the hell he was talking about. Pasquarelli was alluding to my very public attack on the selling of Australian land to foreign interests. My premise was not against the Japanese or foreign investment as thrashed in the media but against selling our land, thereby giving legitimate stakes to those who might view Australia as a country to claim as their own. Heart of a Nation* the group I started foundered on apathy.
Like Hanson, I had written a letter to the local newspaper the Gold Coast BULLETIN, eight years earlier.
Gold Coast Bulletin 16 March 1988 Sunday Telegraph Aug 29, 1996
Like Hanson, it identified the concerns of ordinary people who yearned for a champion of their views, yet lacked the will to do anything about it themselves. Like Hanson it brought down the wrath of gutless and spineless politicians as well as real estate agents, big business and the hostile press. Unlike Hanson however I did not have the advantage of a national and political platform from which to telegraph my concerns.
Like Hanson I was an unknown ...even my neighbours in the street did not know me, yet when a direction came out of the business sector of Surfers Paradise ... then at the height of its massive influx of foreign money ... to pull the plug on the scheduled public meeting, like Hanson I refused. Threatened that the meeting would 'not fill the front row of the hall' and that I would be humiliated, I spoke to the largest political meeting, (Hanson not withstanding) ever held on the Gold Coast. Fifteen hundred people packed the Miami Great Hall that night May 24, 1988 ...and in the words of then cadet journalist Margo Kingston of the Sydney Morning Herald ...a massed movement was born. Before the night was out the hall had been to be cleared by the police because of a bomb alert.
The similarity shown here will help readers to understand why I went in to bat for Pauline Hanson. Looking back we were two of a kind. Perhaps neither of us had the political ‘dirt skills’ but had we worked as team devoid of sycophantic opportunists the result of our efforts might have been far reaching.
What lay ahead for Hanson was neither going to be pretty nor helpful. The people you fought for claimed you, but never put up their hands to help. You were on your own when the going got tough. I saw the lot. I remembered being persuaded by Channel Nine to appear on a Sixty Minutes program being taped in Cairns. The request was simple enough. I was to go head to head with EIE'S marketing guru Bungo Ishizaki. The prospect was daunting to say the least, but I was determined to front up. Channel Nine spent a $1000 to fly me there, yet when I arrived the format had been changed. I was to be relegated to the audience. I was having none of it and in front of a bemused foyer audience told Stuart Goodman and Richard Carlton that they could ‘go to hell’. I would not play their silly games. Nor did I. The charming Richard Carlton told me later in the evening that he would have cancelled my return fare to the Gold Coast. My response was possibly what Hanson's might have said.
"Go ahead, I'll walk all the way back to the Gold Coast and give you Mr Carlton all the publicity that you want."
Needless to say the fare was not cancelled. However, whilst the Gold Coast contingent of businessmen were flown back on the early flight, I was made to wait until late that evening. By then the press had been given the version of events by the businessmen of the Gold Coast who attended. 'Whiteside spits the dummy', screamed the headlines of the Gold Coast Bulletin...yet the article carried the line that I was unavailable for comment. The truth was that I contacted the journalist who wrote the story, before it went to press, but he was not interested. That’s how the Murdoch media worked.
The campaign lingered on for nearly seven years. In that time the Queensland Government put in place the Foreign Land Ownership Register, but nothing was ever done about preventing the sale of land to foreign ownership on a national basis. Due to our efforts here the Multi-Function-Polis met such strong opposition that the Goss Labor Government rejected the concept and it passed to Adelaide and the swamps of Gillman, where it was to die an agonising death.
But this is not a book about my campaign to prevent the sell off of our land. I mention this in passing merely to illustrate why I stood up and publicly supported Pauline Hanson. She would cop the same treatment that had been dished up to me. For that initial reason I decided to lend a hand.
After having read her speech my first reaction was one of disbelief. In Hanson I saw a woman who thought and acted along similar lines to myself. I was also angry. I saw with a degree of cynicism the gutlessness of Australian men in particular and apathetic Australians in general. In my own mind I saw the myth of the fearless bronze Aussie, besotted with his sport, yet too indifferent to get out there and battle for their country. Collectively and organised into an army they acquit themselves well, but initiating something themselves THAT was another matter. Leave it to a new Australians or a woman and they are happy to sit back, watch and criticise. Little wonder that I admired Hanson who had thrown the gauntlet down to a house full of political wimps.
Six days after having read her maiden speech, I sat down and wrote a speech in support of her. It was a spontaneous outpouring of what I felt about the step she had taken. The more I wrote the more determined I became to help support her. It is funny when I look back, but never at anytime did I envisage becoming involved with her. To me the matter was very simple. It needed someone to put their hand up and say ‘Look I support this woman and what she is saying’. It needed someone to plant the idea to form an army of support. When I had finished writing, I ran it passed my Australian wife Iris. Her immediate response was a question;
'What are you going to do with it?'
To that point I had no idea.
"Well what do you think?'
"I think it is brilliant, but you cannot sit on it. You'll have to take it into the public arena."
Iris was a sounding board for much of what I have written over the years. As a critic she could often deflate my sense of achievement at what I had written to a point where I would screw it up and forget it. Other times she would resurrect the tattered remains from the waste paper basket and edit it. This time she understood why I had written what I had. She saw parallels to the Foreign Ownership campaign.
The following day I spoke with the Gold Coast Bulletin, detailing what Iris had suggested. A fortnight after I had become interested in Hanson the headlines blared, 'Well known campaigner to set up fan club for Hanson.' When I read this like Queen Victoria ‘I was not amused’. This was not some damn fan club that wanted to idolise a hero. I was serious about support for Hanson and the paper trivialised this as some sort of hero-worship. Even before Hanson was up and running the Murdoch stable of which the Gold Coast Bulletin is part, was setting out to denigrate the growing impact of this woman. Never the less the article caused fifty odd people to ring me expressing mutual interest. How mutual and paper thin their commitment, was to be revealed a little time later.
Once the die had been cast I set about thinking about how we would go about this thing. I was now sixty-two and a pensioner. Whilst it is noble to fight worthy causes, to be patriotic and be at the forefront of a sometimes hostile beachhead, there are expenses in organising these things that need finance. The first of these was obtaining a suitable hall. Later there would come advertising, publicity and all the other costs like phone calls. Having been down that road some years before, I was not prepared, as keen as I was to underpin Hanson, to commit us to further financial drain. There had to be another way.
The meeting was originally set down for October 7th 1996, a Monday night. I struck on the idea of paying for the hall by contacting the original fifty people who had so enthusiastically rung me to encourage me to forge this army behind Hanson. I made in all thirty phone calls. Already as a result of that action my phone bill had increased by $7.50, but never-the-less I was buoyed by the verbal response. With one exception they all pledged $10 each to help defray the cost of the hall. I still have those names. Anticipating their commitment to assist I had taken out a mail-box at the Miami Post Office. The pledges were to be mailed to The PHSM, P O Box 600.
In truth at that point the ‘movement’ was no more than two people, but that would change as the idea took hold. In the days ahead I was busy organising for what I had hoped would be a big night. Each day I visited the mail-box full of expectation. There was no mail. My wife assured me that it would come, that people would honour their promise. The days went by, the pledges did not eventuate, until finally an old age pensioner forwarded a cheque. Her name is forever seared in my memory; Betty Findlay. She came from Labrador, yet like most of us struggled to make ends meet. This simple illustration says much about the endemic apathy that pervades our society. The ethos of a fair go is something of a myth. Hanson never got it, nor did I ...and least of all did I get it from her.
In disgust I pulled the pin on the meeting. I was sickened by the hypocrisy of it all those who rang me to encourage me and then immediately forgot about it. The ultimate irony here is that in time the greatest hypocrisy of all came eventually from the person to whom we were going through these agonies for …Pauline Hanson.
Towards the end of October, nearly three weeks after the cancelled meeting I had a surprise visitor, Paul Trewartha, (who was to become the vice President of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Supporters Inc). He had been visiting a very sick friend across the road and at the time I was working in the garden. It was a Saturday afternoon. This flash looking Toyota Land Cruiser pulled up and Paul Trewartha came over and asked,
'How you going Boss?, what happened to the meeting?'
Now Paul Trewartha was known to me. A few years previous we had worked together to try to involve Australians with the iniquitous Mabo decision. He held very similar views to myself about the High Court's handling of the Mabo case and we worked hard to stimulate discussion on what we believed was not only a political decision but probably philosophically religious as well. Personally I have never had any doubts that a predominately Roman Catholic educated High Court bench handed down a politically charged decision to a philosophically receptive Labor Party. It was a scurrilous piece of political bastardry, where a judicial viewpoint became a law. The Keating Government only gave the act a thin form of legitimacy. However the people are as usual apathetic and so their rights are eroded by stealth or as the Fabians prefer to call it gradualism.
Trewartha was involved with the National Party, so he had an idea of how the system worked. As far as I was concerned my political background, or more correctly my adolescent years, were entrenched in the old Labour Party ethos. I'm talking here about the New Zealand movement which was dominated by New South Welshmen, Victorians and Englishmen. The pick of them all was a native born New Zealander who ran foul of Victorian Michael Joseph Savage. Savage kept John A Lee out of the Cabinet simply because he saw him as a threat. Lee's greatest mistake was to call Savage 'that pathological bastard on the hill' a reference to Savage's deteriorating medical condition. The timing could not have been worse. Three days later Savage died and New Zealanders, my father among them, created a saint. Of more recent times I briefly represented the Confederate Action Party, not particularly because I agreed with their philosophy, much of which was over the top, but because I respected the man who created it, Perry Jewell. Jewell asked if I would help him on the Gold Coast ..and I did, but when their constitution, a very good one, was bypassed to corrupt the party, I publicly disowned them. In many ways the CAP was a support mechanism for the gun lobby. Guns and political fanatics are a volatile combination and I wanted no part of either. CAP like One Nation attracted its share of fanatics. I digress!
After having renewed our acquaintance Trewartha pressed me about why the meeting did not take place. I related the facts to him and added that if the 'bastards were so apathetic then they could go to hell.'
"How much do you need?"
"Two forty for the hall and a bit for advertising ...say three hundred dollars all up." was my response.
I was thinking in terms of actual money in hand, but when Trewartha said, "If I guarantee that amount, will you reconsider calling another meeting?' It was music to my ears. Whilst the idea of being guaranteed the shortfall if the meeting didn't cover costs was helpful, I insisted on him making that a donation. In any case the new movement was going to need funds. Paul agreed and as a result a handful of us gathered the following day Sunday (Oct 27th) at our home to finalise help with its staging, much of which was essentially done anyway.
It was already decided, because time was of the essence to call the meeting on the only date that the Albert Waterways Community Centre was available, namely October 28th. This did not suit me because it was my wife's birthday and we had made prior arrangements. Unfortunately the next availability placed it too close to Christmas, so in the interest of keeping the idea alive we sacrificed the evening.
It was just prior to this time and a week before Trewartha’s entry that I received a phone call that did more to elevate what was to follow than anything else. So often when embryonic organisations start up those who are at its inception who do all the hard toil and endless hours are forgotten. The PHSM and the bastard child it bore as a result of being seized, ONE NATION was such a movement. John Clodd, was not known to me when he rang one night and said,
"Look you poor bugger, it seems to me that everybody is prepared to sit back and let you do the lot. How do you feel about me whipping up some tee shirts for the night of the meeting".
I was elated, even a little sceptical when he offered the use of his copying facilities as well so that we could produce fliers.
I went down the following day and met him. John was not a well man; the result of the horrors of fighting a dirty war that was started by the Americans and embroiled compliant Australian government troops in Vietnam. John could not have done what he suggested without the help of his family. I was impressed by the loyalty and common bond that saw them work as a willing team. I can remember saying to them that if the PHSM took off as I hoped there would be plenty of work later to reward them for their contribution at a time when we needed it most.
A day out from the meeting October 27, we gathered at our home as I have mentioned. We had worked loosely as a team; Clodd, Iris and myself, underpinned by Trewartha's offer of financial support, but it was becoming obvious that public interest was growing. We needed to delegate duties but had no people to do it. In all, six people turned up and from them an interim committee was chosen. As it happened all were co-opted. I was nominated as Chairman, Paul Trewartha as Vice Chairman; my wife reluctantly accepted the Secretary's job, with Lindon Litchfield fronting as Treasurer. Yvonne Garner and John Clodd, were committeemen.
By this time a thousand membership tickets had been printed, fliers organised and twenty-five tee shirts made available. I had been busy with radio, press and television interviews. We were all set to go. I had never met Pauline Hanson, spoken with her nor had been contacted by her. No politician in the history of this nation had seen a spontaneous movement rise in support of their views ...many would have given their right arm for what was about to take place. Had we known what was taking place on another front, we could have stopped right there and then. Had we done that, One Nation would never have got off the ground. The bastard child would have been strangled at birth and its ‘politically raped’ mother spared an agonising death.
Sunday Age 27 April 1997
"It was in a modest Miami Beach blond brick house that the roots of Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party were sown."