For the media officer of a former MP in a marginal seat, George Christensen has some terrible political judgement. Posting a photo of yourself holding up a gun a few days after the murder of 17 people in a mass shooting at a Florida school made headlines around the world? Seriously?
Not to mention doing it when your own leader and government face an almost certain political firing squad.
Why does Christensen do it? Basically, because he believes he is in a unique position as his seat of Dawson is unique. Just as its biggest city of Mackay has its own unique climate (I should know, having lived and worked there for 14 months), similarly, its political climate must be different to the rest of Queensland. Mackay and its surrounds were home to the Bowen Basin, a massive reservoir of coal and other minerals. The place has spent over a decade saturated with CUBs (“cashed-up bogans”). As a “poverty” lawyer, I was substantially poorer than just about anyone who worked at the mines. But now the mining is drying up and Christensen and every other Queensland politician is under pressure to deliver jobs through the Adani project.
In many ways, Dawson is unique for producing … er … interesting MPs. His predecessor, the ALP’s James Bidgood, is famous for taking photos of a man dousing himself with petrol and threatening to set himself on fire on the Parliament House lawn. He then offered to sell the photo to The Daily Telegraph for $1000. Later at a Parliament House function, Bidgood predicted the end of the world. He later had to apologise in Parliament.
Christensen also believes Dawson is unique in that it is on the cusp of voting him out for a candidate of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. He therefore follows the Coalition practice of trying to defeat Pauline Hanson by sounding like her. And, boy, does he do a good job at it.
In 2015, Christensen spoke at a far-right Reclaim Australia rally in Mackay. He has been part of the massive push against halal certification, despite objections from people in his own electorate who work in his industry. He has claimed halal certifiers are likely donating money to terrorists. His website “War On Radical Islam” has been “coming soon” for some two years now. He has called for banning the burqa, though that didn’t stop him from having a major weight loss procedure in Muslim-majority Malaysia.
Christensen has openly supported the death penalty for terrorists, has likened Greenpeace and other green groups to terrorists. I’m not sure if the latest post on his Facebook page shows his preferred method of execution of green terrorists — transportation to a shooting range in Mackay with the federal MP as executioner.
There was a time when George Christensen could flex some political muscle in the Coalition. He was needed after the Coalition scraped in at the 2016 federal election. Christensen became National Party Chief Whip in August 2016 but resigned after criticism of his attendance at a far-right fundraising dinner. He is now sitting on the backbench, his leader and party in serious trouble.
The Coalition may be in trouble but it will be in even bigger trouble should Christensen stay. The Shooters Fishers etc Party in NSW, which is determined to steal seats in the upcoming NSW election, will be pleased to hear Christensen being quoted in his local News Corp Daily Mercury that the “pendulum has swung too far” when it comes to gun control. No doubt the NSW Nats will be furious. Christensen’s views on gun regulation may also assist his ALP opponent who volunteers at a domestic violence shelter.
Malcolm Turnbull may be reluctant to suggest that his National Party colleagues cut Christensen loose. But is Turnbull’s mere reprimanding of this serial offender enough? Perhaps getting rid of Christensen could be a start.
But when it comes to Christensen’s political career, who in the National Party has the authority to pull the trigger?