Pauline Hanson’s One Nation senate team continues its Ship of Theseus journey, having replaced so much damaged hull planking and worm-rotten wood as to be practically unrecognisable.
New South Wales Senator Brian Burston now appears to be the next in line to shuffle off the coil, after Hanson tearfully accused him of stabbing her in the back — first by voting in favor of tax cuts she had recently supported, and then trying unsuccessfully to defect to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party. Burston for his part has, understandably, denied this (for what it’s worth, no one would want it getting around that the Shooters and Fishers aren’t returning your calls).
Burston is the last of the original lineup of (non-Hanson) One Nation senators elected a mere two years ago to still occupy the senate chamber. Let’s look back at those we’ve lost in the last 23 months.
Western Australia’s self-styled “Senator in Exile”, Rod Culleton was one of the earliest victims of the great Section 44 purge. And, unlike the amateurs that followed, Culleton breached it good and proper, not only violating sub section (iii) by being declared bankrupt in December 2016, but also breaching (ii) on account of having been convicted of larceny — a charge that carries a sentence of more than a year.
His solvency and criminal past were moot as far as his status with One Nation was concerned; five days before he was declared bankrupt, he resigned from PHON citing “un-Australian behaviour towards [himself] and [his] team”. Hanson retorted that he was a “pain in the backside” and she was “glad to see the back of him”.
In the months since, he’s done little to dissuade us of Hanson’s view, returning to politics periodically as a kind of sitcom crank, peddling the old conspiracy theory that all courts in Australia are invalid and — because he had another criminal larceny charge hanging over his head when he was elected — shouting at judges.
Free speech advocate and bug-eyed conspiracy theorist Malcolm Roberts is particularly keen on empirical evidence. Truly, like Socrates, he asks questions to get the truth.
Before politics he demanded evidence of then-prime minister Julia Gillard that proved “the Commonwealth of Australia CIK# 000805157 is not a corporation registered on the United States of America securities exchange”. During his time in the Senate, he frequently demanded evidence that proved climate change wasn’t a conspiracy made up by wealthy banking families (incidentally, all of which are Jewish). Obviously, when it was provided, time and again, he knew it had just been manipulated.
So the irony wasn’t lost on the Crikey bunker that, when Section 44 came for Roberts, he just chose to believe he wasn’t a dual citizen. That convinced Hanson (and Sky’s Paul Murray) but not High Court Justice Patrick Keane, and he was ruled ineligible in September 2017, breaking the hearts of all 77 people who voted for him.
Burston is very much the George Harrison of batch. While Culleton and Roberts are special and distinct flavours of public and loud controversy, Burston trades more on the common YouTube comment-level positions: immigration brings crime, “aggressive multiculturalism” dishonours our flag, and marriage equality shouldn’t be allowed. Mostly though, Burston has kept a low profile.
But the first signs that praps all was not well between him and Hanson came early last month, when Ten Daily‘s Josh Butler picked up that all One Nation references were being erased from his social media profiles. He was then ditched as party whip — a role he’d held since 2016. And while he’s not officially been dumped from the party, it’s hard to see him making his way back.