Brandis stands up for decency after burqa stunt – but that's exactly what Hanson wanted | Katharine Murphy

Katharine Murphy
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson pulls off an Islamic veil she wore into the Senate chamber. Photograph: Reuters

The most dispiriting thing about Pauline Hanson’s little stunt on Thursday is not that she entered the Senate chamber in a burqa, and then swirled it off like a coy extra in a Star Wars movie, looking to steal some sneaky love from the camera.

Offensive, reckless, dangerous and dumb behaviour from Hanson is, let’s be honest, par for the course.

It’s an art form she’s slowly perfected during her fits and starts in public life.

But offensive, reckless, dangerous and dumb is, sadly, not the worst of it.

The worst of it is Hanson got exactly what she wanted.

On Thursday Hanson wanted what she always wants: to surf the persistent vacancy and hollowness of the contemporary political discussion, and the febrile 24/7 news cycle, with its voracious appetite for sensation, to project herself, nimbly, to centre stage.

The objective is to be at once the centre of attention, and to be mocked and shunned and shamed and scapegoated by her parliamentary colleagues.

With a Queensland state election coming up, presumably it would be helpful to the looming campaign to once again hang a giant lantern over her self-styled outsider status, to be spurned by the political mainstream.

Anyone watching politics this week knows it has been a cluttered, chaotic, high octane week in Canberra, and the competition to grab your little moment in the spotlight in all the swirling insanity has been intense.

It was clear that Hanson entered the Senate with a simple objective.

She wanted to use the chamber as a platform to project herself onto the television news bulletins, onto outrage central, 2GB in Sydney – and to amplify her direct communication with voters.

That’s what the alleged outsiders do in modern politics – they occupy the life, accept the benefits, and pretend that they are somehow quantifiably different from the other inhabitants of the circus.

Hanson beamed as she was soundly rebuked by a clearly infuriated George Brandis in one of the attorney general’s finest parliamentary contributions on the hop.

Better yet when folks across the chamber leapt to their feet to reward Brandis for his full-throated rebuke with a standing ovation.

Hanson’s smile widened, the eyes flashed.

Brandis stood up without hesitation or qualification for decency, tolerance, for basic Australian values of respect and inclusion – even if the Coalition colleagues sitting behind him hesitated.

As well as insisting that Muslim Australians should not suffer the gross indignity of being mocked in their own parliament, Brandis also stood up for practicality and good sense, given terrorism is a real and present threat, and agencies require cooperation from the Islamic community in order to combat it.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

But despite the correct thing being done, Hanson’s delight at her success brimmed like a fountain.

A perfect bit of mischief, managed.

Depressing doesn’t even begin to describe it.

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