Senator Hanson told Sunrise on Channel 7 on Monday she was thrilled with the strong performance of One Nation and even speculated that one day she could be Prime Minister.
"To be PM, what an honour that would be. It is a privilege to be the leader of the nation. But it is a tough position and I can understand that you can't please everyone all the time," she said.
"My job now is to represent the people of Queensland and to build the party. Maybe one day, let down the track, in 15 or 20 years time, who knows what will happen."
- Sydney Morning Herald, 6th Feb 2017
The problem with the "say what they think" approach to politics is that those who do say what they think continue to do so, even if what they think is nonsensical, illogical, irrational, or just plain barbarous. I think that that is the appeal of Pauline Hanson. As someone who speaks her mind, she says things which in the ears of those who like that sort of thing, find refreshing to hear. In the ears of those who bother to think about the content of what she says, she frequently appears to be unhinged. In particular, I find her voiced policies on taxation, economics, immigration and issues such as education and the environment, mostly to be disturbing.
Despite this, I still find it amusing when the media goes into a flap about some things that she has said because if you look into them for more than the three minutes before the media returns to some other point of outrage, or perhaps a video of a puppy falling over, then they instantly appear nonsensical and impossible. The thought that Pauline Hanson would be Prime Minister of this country, is amusing precisely because as things stand, it is impossible.
Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party polled roughly 9.1% of the vote in Queensland at the last federal election. Most of those votes were above the line for the One Nation Party rather than Pauline Hanson herself, owing to the way that Senate votes are counted. Across the country though, One Nation collected about 4.2% of first preference votes. On the face of it, One Nation is mostly a Queensland phenomenon but if we are looking at an absolute best case scenario, for the purposes of this, I'm going to assume that somehow, despite 9% of first preference votes being unable to carry any seat in the House Of Representatives, that One Nation would win 9% of the seats.
If One Nation were to win 9% of the seats, the would get 13 of 150 of the total and still be 63 seats short of the required number to claim government in their own right. Although the National Party under Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen was able to claim government in its own right in the state parliament of Queensland (and arguably still does because the Liberals and the Nationals entered a formal union in Queensland), I'm not sure that that is possible at the federal level for a centre right party. Labor has frequently formed government in its own right at federal level but One Nation would be taking seats away from Labor.
With 13 seats in the House Of Representatives, One Nation would almost certainly hold the balance of power in just about every logical scenario that I can think of but it would need a seismic shift in politics in this country to dislodge the two major parties, of the like we haven't seen since the implosion of the United Australia Party and the creation of the Liberal Party.
I think it doubtful that One Nation would negotiate with the Labor Party and go into coalition with them and by default that would mean that if they wanted in, they would need to argue with both the Liberal and National parties (and the LNP in Queensland). At best, One Nation would be the smallest of three and a half parties in the centre right coalition.
This is where we drive into a brick wall at 110km/h, in a car with no brakes, no seat belts and no airbags. It is exceptionally rare that when you have two or more parties in coalition, that someone from a smaller party is able to gain control of the executive. Just a simple count of the members within the caucus makes this difficult and it takes exceptional circumstances, such as Sir Earle Page or Arthur Fadden in the 1940s or John McEwen in 1967, for the leader of the smaller party in a coalition to land the top job. The way things usually fall out, the leader of the bigger party becomes the Prime Minister, with their pick also becoming Treasurer, and the leader of the smaller party becomes Deputy Prime Minister; which is only useful in the event that the Prime Minister dies.
I think that what people in Australia often forget (or haven't been bothered to learn) is that we don't vote for the Prime Minister, and nor is the executive of the nation subject to being wrangled from the outside. Especially since the rise of Donald Trump, who used the rules and did win the Presidency of the United States from the outside of the political parties (let's be honest about this, he isn't really a Republican), people make the mistake of thinking that the systems are alike when 117 years of evidence says otherwise.
It could very well be that in 20 years' time that One Nation is able to displace the National Party but that still doesn't change the fact that apart from that turbulent opening decade of the federal parliament when the parties were still sorting themselves out, Duverger's Law has always risen and there have always been two broad centres of power. Be it the Nationalist, United Australia or Liberal Party, there has almost always been one large centre right party and a smaller centre right party where the country and city come into conflict. That however, is not how things stand now.
One Nation is a nativist, borderline racist, centre right party. It has from time to time been quite vocal and been able to tilt the policies of the major parties but for Pauline Hanson to become Prime Minister, it would have to displace one of the major parties, and for it to do so when it currently doesn't even occupy a single seat in the House Of Representatives is in my not very well paid opinion, as nonsensical as their policies.