The best way to win an argument is to calmly and politely present a rational view based on evidence and logic. The worst way to seek to win an argument, particularly a public one, is to be abusive. Being emotional and angry undermines one’s position and often creates sympathy for the opponent.
The free market for ideas is the most important marketplace we have. Its currency is first principles – including fairness, equality of opportunity and the rule of law. It is a place where facts reign. It is not a place where ideology and baseless bias ultimately succeed. That is why Senator-elect Pauline Hanson – whose party’s very name, One Nation, is an anti-immigration dog-whistle – can be so readily combated. Her policy platform, which includes zero net immigration, does not stand scrutiny.
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Hanson: ‘You’re a Muslim?’
QandA was in top form as Pauline Hanson and Sam Dastyari debated the cause of Islamic extremism, the show-stopping moment came when Ms Hanson discovered that Senator Dastyari is a Muslim. Courtesy: ABC News24
It is eminently understandable that an Indigenous leader, Murrandoo Yanner, yelled abuse at Ms Hanson when she arrived unannounced, with a film crew from a Nine Network TV program, 60 Minutes, at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair on Saturday. Ms Hanson and Nine would have known the move was provocative and disingenuous. After all, Ms Hanson has form; in her first tilt at federal politics more than 20 years ago, she was dumped by the Liberal Party for comments she made about Indigenous people.
Undeterred she stood and won as an independent. In her first speech, she said: “I am fed up to the back teeth with the inequalities that are being promoted by the government and paid for by the taxpayer under the assumption that Aboriginal people are the most disadvantaged people in Australia.”
She was demonstrably wrong then, and the situation pertains. There is widespread, bipartisan agreement that the gap between the outcomes in areas including health, education, employment, incarceration and life expectancy for Indigenous people and the rest of the population is one of the biggest blots on our nation, which is among the world’s wealthiest.
Another of Ms Hanson’s targets 20 years ago was Asian immigration, a line she continues to this day. In recent days, she made the self-evidently false claim that our suburbs are being “swamped by Asians”, a phrase she also used in her first speech in Parliament in 1996. To these targets she has added Muslims, and is making the unsustainable demand that there be a royal commission into Islam.
While Mr Yanner’s disdain for Ms Hanson is justified, his attack may well have been counter-productive, or at least far less effective than it would have been had he remained calm. Among the things he yelled at her was: “You picked on Aboriginal people, now you are kicking the Muslims around. You are just a racist redneck with your red hair. Go away, go back to Ipswich and your fish and chip shop.”
After Ms Hanson’s recent election, The Age editorialised in defence of her right to free speech. We repeat that position. We believe the more she espouses her views, the more she will be seen to lack substance and the decency and fibre desirable in lawmakers.
Ms Hanson will lead a handful of senators. Although One Nation had some support in a handful of electorates, it is basically a fringe group; it garnered one in 25 votes. This fact, combined with the party’s extremist policies should prevent Ms Hanson having undue influence. One Nation’s baseless anti-immigration bias is its greatest weakness.
Almost a third of our citizens were born outside Australia, and close to half of us have at least one parent born overseas. The cultural and economic strength this diversity has created is supported by the majority of our citizens. Ms Hanson’s offensive opinions can be readily and courteously rebutted.