Please Explain

Anna Broinowski

Please Explain
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Please Explain

Anna Broinowski

After eighteen years in the political wilderness, Pauline Hanson is back and more powerful than ever. Please Explain is a compelling, intimate look at how an Ipswich fish and chip shop lady changed the nation - and how she speaks directly to Australian society and our multicultural identity today.

In 1996, Pauline Hanson gave a speech that changed Australia. Attacking Asian and Indigenous people and foreign aid, Hanson unleashed a Pandora’s box of violence and division on the progressive country Prime Minister Keating had positioned as ‘part of Asia'. After her famous defeat in 1998, her political downfall seemed assured - but she stayed firmly in the spotlight, whether she was being locked up for electoral fraud or jiving on Dancing with the Stars. Now, after almost two decades in the political wilderness, Hanson is back and more powerful than ever.

Before One Nation’s astonishingly successful return to Australian politics in 2016, multi-award-winning filmmaker Anna Broinowski had complete access to Hanson and her ‘Fed Up' election campaign. Broinowski followed Hanson as she flew from Rockhampton to Sydney to Great Keppel Island and beyond in her Jabiru two-seater. The crazies, the madness, the division and the hatred Hanson attracts and inflames were all on show - sometimes funny, sometimes frightening, and often surreal.

At the time, no one was taking Pauline Hanson and One Nation’s political chances seriously, but Broinowski quickly realised that there was a movement forming behind her. Pauline Hanson’s explosive political journey mirrors Australia’s own: from left-leaning multiculturalism, to the divided landscape we live in now. And, alongside the shocks of Brexit and Trump’s presidency, Hanson’s resurrection reflects a broader global trend towards outrageous far-right outsiders.

Please Explain is a compelling, intimate look at how an Ipswich fish and chip shop lady changed our nation - and how (whether we like it or not) she speaks directly to Australian society and our multicultural identity today.

Review

Author and filmmaker Anna Broinowski first introduced herself to Pauline Hanson as a ‘pro-refugee, pro-environment, pro-reconciliation leftie’. She had approached the notorious politician in 2009 with the idea of making a feature film about her extraordinary life story and Hanson, impressed by her honesty, agreed to be involved. Despite knowing they would disagree on almost every issue, Broinowski and Hanson spent years together traipsing around Queensland on various campaign tours and visiting old haunts where the now-senator spent her most formative years. The feature film was never made, but Broinowski turned this research and her unprecedented access to Hanson into a documentary and then this book. Hanson’s election to the Senate in 2016 (in the same year as Trump and Brexit) provoked much soul-searching from the progressive media, but this book is absolutely unique in its genuine will to try to understand the person behind the persona.

Broinowski traces Hanson’s life from 1950s Australia, as one of seven kids whose parents worked long hours running a cafe, to becoming a very young single mother, to entering an abusive second marriage, to being alone again with four children and a fish-and-chip shop to run. Hanson then went on to win a seat in the House of Representatives, only to be jailed for 11 weeks for electoral fraud and lose eight election campaigns. That these experiences have not led to a more compassionate and open-minded person is a fascinating aspect of this book, made even more compelling by the fact the Broinowski genuinely likes Hanson despite being appalled by the many of things she says.

This is an important book for understanding Australian politics today and a sobering look at how desensitised we have become to public racism over only a few short years. Hanson was once Australia’s most heavily guarded politician due to the number of protestors that would rally at her speeches. Now, there’s barely a dissenter in sight.


Kara Nicholson is part of the online Readings team.

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