THE FRONT DORE: The tragic comedy of Mehreen Faruqi and Pauline Hanson . . . no offence of course!

Headshot of Christopher Dore
Christopher Dore
The West Australian
7 Min Read
Mehreen Faruqi, the Lady of Lahore, and Pauline Hanson, the Incel of Ipswich, are not polite people.
Mehreen Faruqi, the Lady of Lahore, and Pauline Hanson, the Incel of Ipswich, are not polite people. Credit: The Nightly

#@&! OFF BACK TO THE SENATE. NO OFFENCE

You could not find two more offensive politicians in Federal politics. No offence. But Mehreen Faruqi, the Lady of Lahore, and Pauline Hanson, the Incel of Ipswich, are not polite people. They are not pleasant people. They are frequently insulting. They are rude, they can be disrespectful, proudly so, and they certainly have no qualms about hurting the feelings of those they disagree with, and depending on how you view the world, each of them disagrees with a lot of people.

So it is exquisitely ironic, isn’t it, that these two are locked in a high-stakes legal battle over their constitutional right to offend each other. While it is absurd, it is also a credulity test of the notorious section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, freedom of speech versus the right to be upset.

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It’s worth contemplating that in order to send this pair to Canberra to yell at each other in the Senate and insult each other on X, working Australians will forgo at least $2 million for each of them to serve this current term, and millions more over the course of their sponging, soporific careers in politics.

Think of this: when Faruqi, the deputy Greens leader, was elected to the Senate, more than 90 per cent of people in NSW voted against her. Less than one full human being in every 10 wanted Mehreen Faruqi to represent them. Evidently that fraction of a human did not include a head.

Undergraduate, undeniably divisive, Faruqi is “deeply connected to the nation I now call home” yet also insists it is illegitimate and we’re all living on stolen land. Faruqi is wealthy, paid millions by taxpayers, owns four properties, yet she rails against the rich. “Labor should be fighting for all of us, not just their rich corporate mates.” She abuses those who do not share her political views as “heartless cowards”. She celebrates Australia’s multicultural success story and stands up for migrants yet insults Jews. All pristine hypocrisy echoed gleefully from one of two plush offices you pay for, where she enjoys all the trappings of Green power: the platform, the cars, the phones, the status, the staff, the allowances, the free tickets to the World Cup, to Splendour in the Grass, the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge membership, the Virgin club.

It’s the audacity for me.

Faruqi has done so well since fleeing Pakistan’s military dictatorship as a 19-year-old engineering student, first in her profession and then in State and Federal politics, that she has received the highest civilian honour from her country of birth, where she still owns property. Last year the President of Pakistan, Arif Alvi, conferred the Tamgha-i-Quaid-i-Azam, the “Medal of the Great Leader”, to Faruqi for her “services in Pakistan”.

It’s a great personal story of inspiration and an equally sad political tale of indignation.

Faruqi plays politics hard. She uses highly emotional language designed to evoke a reaction: fear, outrage, anger, hatred. Hatred. We are in the throes of multiple devastating crises, and anyone who doesn’t vote Green is to blame, (Climate! Housing! Education!). Big business is “obscene”, Labor is “gutless” and “deceitful”. Oh and Israel, where to begin. She aims for the heart in politics and blows off metaphoric heads.

WHEN QUEEN CLASHES WITH KWEEN

And so when the Queen of Australia died, Faruqi marked the sad occasion for many, the death of our head of state, in the most disrespectful, insulting, rude, hurtful, impolite, should we say, offensive way she could muster in a tweet.

“I cannot mourn the leader of a racist empire built on stolen lives, land and wealth of colonised people.”

Just leave it for another day Kween!

Then, surprise, Faruqi complained when her incendiary, and at the very least insensitive, taxpayer-funded contribution to public discourse prompted an unpleasant reaction. Some people called her racist. Hello Sam Kerr!

Which leads us to her bete noire, Pauline Hanson. The Queensland Senator who likewise does not succumb to niceties. “Your attitude appalls and disgusts me,” she began in response, “when you immigrated to Australia you took every advantage of this country. You took citizenship, bought multiple homes, and a job in a Parliament. It’s clear you’re not happy, so pack your bags and piss off back to Pakistan.”

Through much of her time in public life, Hanson has been ostracised by polite society. She takes no prisoners, and once — wrongfully — for three months, became one.

Pauline Hanson announces Ben Dawkins as One Nation candidate at Parliament House
Pauline Hanson is often clumsy, confusing and confused. But she’s still here, almost 30 years on. Credit: Halim Mellick/The West Australian

Hanson wore a black burqa into the Senate one time to argue that Muslim dress should be banned. Hanson’s cantankerous language landed her in strife from the day she was elected. She’s routinely labelled racist for expressing views on Indigenous issues, Asian migration and crime. It’s often not very pretty. Before we had even heard of Donald Trump she was outrageously jailed for election fraud. Like Faruqi, she’s passionate. Hanson is not eloquent. Often clumsy, confusing, and confused. Like Faruqi, only a small percentage of Australians agree with her. On some things she’s smack in the middle of mainstream opinion. On other stuff, not so much.

But here she is. Almost 30 years after first gracing the marble steps of Parliament. Still here. Same old schtick.

Hanson goes where others won’t, can’t, wouldn’t and shouldn’t. And she is judged accordingly. In the same way Faruqi is. Unfortunately, our electoral system means, despite not having many fans, they share a stage in the Senate. And if anyone were to stumble in to watch their stand-up routine, you would be kicked out for booing.

IT’S SURELY ALL AN ACT

Which brings us to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Faruqi and her lawyer from Crikey Michael Bradley on one side and Hanson, with her lawyer Sue Chrysanthou, SC, on the other.

Faruqi tells the Federal Court she is offended, insulted, humiliated and intimidated by Hanson and that people of colour, migrants, Muslims, those wearing religious garb and anyone who has ever been told to “go back to where you came from” would feel the same way.

Under s18C it is unlawful to do or say something reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimate a person of a certain race, colour or national or ethnic origin.

Thousands attended a pro-Palestine rally at Forrest Place today by Friends of Palestine. Pictured - Green's Mehreen Faruqi
Faruqi is wealthy, paid millions by taxpayers, owns four properties, yet she rails against the rich. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

Faruqi wants her Senate mate to be found by the Federal Court to have acted in an unlawfully offensive manner. She wants a judge to force her to take the tweet down, post a better tweet, pay $150,000 to charity and take anti-racism training.

Hanson thinks Faruqi’s demands are offensive.

If Faruqi were to win, there would be a breakout of the unthinkable, and the long-held fears of 18C fully realised: hurt feelings turned into an ongoing, very expensive legal debacle over freedom of speech. A loss for Hanson should end in the High Court. Everyone’s favourite constitutional expert Bret Walker SC is waiting in the wings, but Hanson will need some help to get there to fight a case likely to be an historic defence of offence.

OUR MAN IN CANBERRA

Ask anyone in Canberra, and they will tell you with complete certainty. The identity of the former politician outed by ASIO chief Mike Burgess is an open secret in the halls of power. It’s unclear if any of them actually know, but they think they do.

And based on what Burgess revealed, it’s epic.

“This person knew what they were doing,” Burgess said in one of the interviews he did after his explosive threat update. This was not a naive politician who awkwardly stumbled into the wrong cocktail party, necked too many martinis and accidentally started spouting off about national secrets.

The more Burgess spoke as the week went on, the more he gave away. This former MP actively engaged with foreign secret agents, knowing who they were, and what they were doing. This character helped foreign spies get access to bureaucrats so they could squeeze sensitive information out of them, stuff you can’t google.

Burgess says the MP knows who they are, and is well aware they were busted. But, wisely now that laws exist making their betrayal illegal, they no longer pose a threat to national security.

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation ASIO Director General Mike Burgess poses for a portrait ahead of his annual threat assessment speech at ASIO headquarters in Canberra, Wednesday, February 28, 2024. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
The more Burgess spoke about the former MP who had disclosed state secrets, the more he revealed. Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

Despite Burgess insisting for some time now that foreign interference and espionage had supplanted terrorism as ASIO’s No.1 security concern, some still dismiss the revelation of the Aussie double agent as some sort of publicity stunt, a beat-up.

Like our top spy needs a headline. But here’s the thing. If the MP is indeed the one Canberra’s political elite think it is, then old Tinker Tailor Cobber is not the spy who stayed out in the cold. The ASIO target, now dormant apparently, may not be a threat anymore, but certainly has not disappeared from public life.

Rather than being isolated or ostracised, Cobber still has lots of powerful mates in politics and the public sphere, and is highly regarded and admired by many of them.

The political connections are deep and the former politician remains an influential character across a range of issues. Cobber continues to enjoy a public profile and remains close to some of the nation’s most powerful people in politics. The person is definitely an ongoing figure of influence.

But then, Burgess, in unreported comments, complicated the entire affair. Cobber is the most egregious example of a double agent. But there is more than one politician to have betrayed their country. “A small number,” Burgess said of the turncoats, “have actually stepped over the line”.

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