Foreign Fiddling: If Dastyari Had To Go, Then So Should Hanson

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A Labor senator lost his job over his links to foreign political organisations. And yet Pauline Hanson and her party are being boosted by right-wing commentators despite her party’s attempts to fleece millions from foreign lobby groups. Lindsay Foyle weighs in.

Everybody is a prisoner of their own political beliefs. We all cheer when someone comes up with something we agree with and jeer when we come across something we disagree with. However, we do (or should), have a moral compass too, which points us in the right direction.

There were many displaying their moral indignation when former Labor senator Sam Dastyari was found to have what was described as murky links with Chinese businessman, Huang Xiangmo. He was a donor to the Labor Party and said to have links to China’s ruling communist regime.

At the time, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Sam Dastyari should consider resigning from the Senate amid reports the Labor senator warned Huang Xiangmo that his phone might be bugged. That was not even about the money, just about phone tapping. There must have been many times back then when Dastyari took a long look at his moral compass. Especially as there were many people demanding his political head.

They finally got it in December 2017. After weeks of controversy Dastyari quit the Senate.

Dastyari’s biggest crime, put simply, was to be caught talking to Huang Xiangmo who was seen to be someone associated with another country. Yes, it was China and yes, that country is run by communists. But the underlying problem is the belief that agents from a foreign country should never be seen attempting to involve themselves in our politics. Australia should apparently be left alone to stuff up its own politics.

Now take the case of James Ashby and Steve Dickson who, with the full knowledge of Pauline Hanson, sought tens of millions from the National Rifle Association and Koch Industries run by Charles G. and David H. Koch in the United States.

Former Labor Senator Sam Dastyari.

Both organisations are heavily involved in American politics, possibly more so than Huang Xiangmo is in Chinese politics. That is another debate which could go on for a long time as people consult their own moral and political compasses. But the principle is the same. They are all political players to some extent in other countries.

The activities of One Nation were exposed by a three-year undercover investigation, ‘How to Sell A Massacre’ made by Al-Jazeera. Journalists in disguise using hidden cameras seemed to be both players and reporters in uncovering possibly the biggest attempt in Australia’s political history to obtain foreign money to be use in a vote buying exercise to get the balance of power in the Australian Senate.

Arguing the rights and wrongs of the journalists’ actions could go on for a long time as people consult their own moral and political compasses. Regardless of the arguments, One Nation was a willing participant in the activities.

Fronting the media in Brisbane, Hanson ignored reality and put on what has been called “masterful performance in playing to her base, making herself the victim and keeping a firm distance from the actions of Mr Ashby and Mr Dickson”.

Hanson also blamed editing for the performance put on by Ashby and Dickson. She was not alone in messenger blaming. Alan Jones was quoted on the ABC as saying, “I think it’s a bit rough that we start accepting the edicts, dictates and judgements of Al Jazeera, this is an arm of the Qatari Government who believe in public floggings and genital mutilation of women and so on. I’d be a bit concerned about any credibility they might have.”

Radio shock jock, Alan Jones.

Peter Charley, the Australian journalist behind the documentary, when defending the project said, “James Ashby wanted to meet with the NRA and was not enticed to meet with them.”

It is hard to be a victim when you are a willing player in donation seeking. Writing for the ABC website, Laura Tingle, the 7.30 chief political correspondent, wrote that Hanson, “… told voters on Thursday this was all an elaborate sting by a foreign influence, the Qatari Government, while failing to see the irony that this sting exposed operatives of her own party working out whether they could exploit another foreign influence for the party’s gain.”

Yes, Al-Jazeera is owned by the Qatari Government, and yes, they are Muslims and yes, they are obviously from overseas. But there are a lot of media organisation operating in Australia being run by overseas companies. The Murdoch media group, News Corporation is American. So too it is Network Ten which is owned by CBS Studios International. Buzzfeed is owned by Americans too. The Guardian web site is owned by the British as is the Daily Mail Australia web site. All with their own political compass and all running stories on Australian politics.

Over two decades ago Paul Keating said, “The great tragedy of the shamelessly regressive politics of Pauline Hanson is not so much that it is rooted in ignorance, prejudice and fear, though it is: not so much that it projects the ugly face of racism, though it does; not so much that it is dangerously divisive and deeply hurtful to many of her fellow Australians, though it is; not even that it will cripple our efforts to enmesh ourselves in a region wherein lie jobs and prosperity of future generation of young Australians, though it will. The great tragedy is that it perpetrates a myth, a fantasy, a lie. The myth of the monoculture. The lie that we can retreat to it.”  

One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson.

There is no doubt Keating was right back then and still right now. However, his words had no effect on Hanson and she is probably politically stronger now than she was back in the 1990s. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of these matters it is unlikely any of it will bother Hanson or her supporters. Their moral compass points in a different direction than most people.  

While those who support Hanson might have rejoiced at the downfall of Dastyari, they will also rejoice at the outrage the “latte sipping inner-city elite” will express over One Nation seeking money from America.

They will not see that if Dastyari was in the wrong so too is Hanson. They will not see the duplicity of the situation. They will only see unwanted foreign involvement in the reporting of One Nation’s actions and ignore the attempted foreign money grab.

As with the Trump supporters in America their moral compass is out of action and the only thing that matters to them is the belief in the lies.

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Lindsay Foyle

Born in Sydney, Lindsay Foyle has been involved in the media since he left school near the end of 1960 and has been drawing cartoons professionally since 1975. He was deputy editor of The Bulletin in the 1980s and worked on The Australian from 1996 to 2009 as a journalist and cartoonist. He is currently working as a freelance cartoonist while writing books on Australian cartooning. He is a past president the Australian Cartoonists’ Association and has been active in the Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance for over four decades.

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