This is an attepmt to explain how head office intervention has reduced One Nation Victoria from about 30 branches to about 3 branches all in this year.
This is an attempt to explain how head office intervention has reduced One Nation Victoria from about 30 branches to about 3 branches all in this year.

The One Nation story in Victoria starts with very little happening. Early organisers didn’t do much at all. In July 1998, Rodney and Robyn Spencer, joined One Nation and brought in their small party, Australians Against Further Immigration (AAFI). They saw Pauline and drew up an agreement where they bought a franchise to manage One Nation for the state of Victoria.

AAFI Victoria was amalgamated in with One Nation Victoria. The Spencers were both good organisers and had political and media experience.Robyn was a good and seasoned television debater, and already had a political media profile.

Victoria was never easy for One Nation, nobody in the media would give it a fair go and busloads of thugs were laid on by opponents to disrupt every meeting. Security problems dictated a hidden Melbourne state office. Finally, a secret deal was brokered that the media wouldn’t disclose the location of the secret office in return for media access to Victorian One Nation spokespeople. This office was actually located in a supporter’s house, in a quiet leafy suburban street. Robyn Spencer, with a small staff of friends and helpers worked incredibly long hours. The office was opened in July and already the next federal elections were due soon. Needless to say, there were incredible frustrations and problems involved with One Nation’s head office in Manly when it came to getting any help or advice.

Robyn Spencer hasn’t talked about these, I hope that one day she will. The hunt for candidates for the election now to be on October 3 1998 was complicated by the need for secrecy and many good potential candidates being frightened off by the violence. It was quite difficult to find printers brave enough to do our leaflets and fliers. One highlight was David Etteridge demanding that every One Nation candidate pay head office in Manly the sum of $250, for the honor and glory of being a One Nation candidate. He was actually talked out of this, it being pointed out that many Victorian candidates were out of work, on pensions or on the dole, and were having enough problems in raising their electoral deposit moneys.

The lousy electoral material produced by Manly, along with the pathetically bad photos of Pauline have been spoken of before. The flyer “Who controls Australia?” said to be their best effort was hopeless. They badly needed the services of an advertising agency, along with a competent speech writer, to write inspirational speeches for Pauline.

The adopting of 2 per cent easytax, and at a mere 10 days before polling day on October 3, was an incredible error that cost One Nation much credibility and support. Almost every Victorian One Nation candidate said so after the election. It seems that easytax is still today One Nation policy. It has never been abandoned. One Nation web guru Scott Balson is the only person who seems to like it.

Margo Kingston, in her book “Off The Rails” said easytax was a disastrous mistake. The Spencers argued strongly against easytax without success, and one of Robyn’s finest moments was when on a live radio interview about One Nation tax policy, she effortlessly kept talking as she realised that Manly had told the radio station about the change to easytax, but hadn’t told her.

By this stage, the election was near and most branches were broke and very tired. Head office demanded that double sided A4 how to vote cards, in large numbers, be printed by every branch. This aroused considerable complaints, they would be expensive and thick paper was needed to stop ink showing through. Surely smaller and cheaper one sided cards would suffice. Head office insisted, saying that printing bills would be paid immediately by them. These outstanding bills weren’t paid for months, the printers got tired of waiting and the credit rating of many One Nation people and branches suffered. Those branches who got over 4 per cent of the vote were relying on early reimbusement of the government “money for votes” from the Manly head office. This was promised on a daily basis but hadn’t arrived by Christmas and didn’t finally arrive for many months.

It was about at January 1999 that severe general disenchantment set in. People started leaving and branches started being closed. This despite a Victorian state election being in the offing. My own branch, despite being well set up with a good membership, and having an unusually good communication arrangement with Manly, decided to wind up and close. They had a good local candidate who had got over 4% of the vote.

The final nail in the coffin was the state One Nation meeting at the very remote town of Lake Eppalock, in a far corner of Victoria. Astute readers may know what is coming next. It was on 30 May. Head Office had decided to sack Robyn Spencer and replace her with two people with whom they felt more comfortable. Pauline and Etteridge both attended, and of course the remote location kept numbers down.

Robyn Spencer won the vote on the floor, whereupon Pauline presented her 299 proxies against Robyn Spencer. Bill Croft replaced Robyn Spencer and the Melbourne office had to be shut down. No press releases were issued about the meeting, and as far as I know, it was never reported. So much for our investigative political journalists!

They would have relished the chance to put the boot into One Nation. Eventually, the story was leaked to ABC radio, to put it on the public record. At this point I resigned as did many others. It had been intimated that proxies wouldn’t be used, so no attempt was made by Robyn Spencer to gather her own proxies. Also, it seems that One Nation rules prevent a fair proxy fight from ever taking place.

The words “traitors to our cause” were said to have been applied to the Spencers. The self destructive nature of Manly head office is beyond logical explanation. I do hope that a new Pauline-free and Two-Davids-free party can be set up. It should follow One Nation policies, but have genuine democracy and full accountability.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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