Q&A: David Marr

Award-winning author David Marr was in conversation at a recent Eat, Drink and be Literary event on campus to discuss his new Quarterly Essay, The White Queen, One Nation and the Politics of Race.

In the essay, he looks at Australia’s politics of fear, resentment and race, and asks, who votes for One Nation, and why, and how should the major parties respond to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim voices?

He writes of One Nation leader Pauline Hanson: “This woman went to prison, danced the cha-cha on national television for a couple of years, and failed so often at the ballot box she became a running joke. But the truth is she never left us. She was always knocking on the door.”

Here is an edited transcript of the conversation:

[Hanson] is treated and she treats herself as though she is Australia’s Donald Trump. But she is not. Hanson is eight per cent [in national support] and to treat her as she treats herself as if she were another Trump, is ridiculous.

I opened the essay with that fabulous scene of her drinking champagne outside Parliament House the afternoon of Trump’s election. She is so excited, words are tumbling out of her and she cracks this bottle of bubbles.

She was for the most part carefully hiding the label from the cameras and the reason was because the brand was Black Pig.

You very powerfully argued that Hanson has shaped the agenda of Australian politics whether she was in it or out of it, since 1996.

The thing is with figures like Hanson that they are not very powerful unless their cause is taken up by a mainstream party – that’s when they become very influential – and John Howard shared many of her views on race.