Yesterday, Australia’s highest profile former fish-and-chip shop owner descended upon Alice Springs to flog her new autobiography Untamed and Unashamed. This reporter sat spellbound, six seats from the front, listening to Pauline Hanson concede that she was “not a polished politician”.
Whether by chance or design, she had failed to acknowledge the Arrernte people as the traditional owners of the land before she began her spiel. Happily, the National Indigenous Times was able to correct this oversight later from the floor
“John Howard has picked up a lot of my issues and a lot of my policies” she told the attentive throng. She also told us that Australia was not only dictated to by the United Nations, but also under threat from a growing population of Muslims.
Then a woman donned a Ku Klux Klan mask and said some very unkind things about the former member for Oxley. Not to be outdone, the Hansonites at the front of the room turned around and said some even crueller things about the interloper. But she had a thick skin as well as a Ku Klux Klan mask and would not be deterred.
Amidst exchanges of sporadic fire from the protagonists, we heard a potted history of the Hanson years, complete with a prison story of Hanson assisting an indigenous inmate to gain housing assistance upon her release.
Early in question time, National Indigenous Times leapt to it’s feet to congratulate Hanson on her warmth, and then took the opportunity to seek some advice from a national icon on a local matter.
“Things in town have been a bit bumpy, lately” we began. “Wouldn’t it make sense” we ventured, “ for the Alice Springs town council to enlist the advice of organisations like Tangentyere Council and the Central Lands Council — with expertise in matters indigenous — to assist in addressing the drift of indigenous folk from remote communities into town?”
“I don’t understand your question” she replied. Recovering quickly from our disappointment at not being asked to ‘please explain’, we paraphrased what we thought was a fairly straightforward one for a veteran of the parliamentary bear-pit. But we struck out. “I can’t answer that question — you’d need to ask the locals” was the sum total of the stateswoman’s proffered wisdom.
Our brush with fame complete, we wandered disconsolately past the queue of book- buyers waiting for Her Signature, and headed out into the night.