CORRESPONDENCErnLetter From Australiarnby R.J. StovernAustralia’s Pat Buchanan:rnOut, But Not DownrnIf 1998 is remembered in Australian politicalrnhistory for nothing else—a probablernassumption, given the administrativerngridlock which otherwise prevailed —itrnwill go down in the annals for two events:rnPrime Minister John Howard’s upset reelectionrnon October 3; and, of longertermrnsignificance, Pauline Hanson’s failurernto retain her parliamentary seat.rnThis latter development eliminated thernlast few semantic distinctions betweenrnvultures and political commentators,rnwhether in Australia or abroad (Britishrnand Asian newspaper coverage of thernelection result was devoted to almostrnnothing else). Saying the last rites forrnMrs. Hanson or for her One Nation party,rnhowever, will prove as reckless as werernthese same commentators’ assurances sixrnmonths ago of her absolute invincibility.rnWhat she has already achieved isrnformidable. At Queensland’s state electionrnon June 13, One Nation won 11 parliamentaryrnseats (from a total of 89) andrn23 percent of the popular vote. Thernwoman whose star had so completelyrnfaded by early 1998 that she seemedrnmerely “to point a moral or adorn a tale”rnfor journalists on an exceptionally dullrnTuesday afternoon — in fact, on June 13rnshe did not even stand as a candidate —rnreturned, to constitute the stuff of thernchattering classes’ nightmares. Even shernfailed to predict her troops’ success. (Asrnone subsequently disenchanted partyrnmember told reporters, One Nation hadrnbeen devoting most of its resources not tornthe state poll but to the imminent federalrnSenate campaign: “We [the state electionrncandidates] were just cannon-fodder.”)rnThe humiliation of Mr. Howard’srnparty colleagues by the electorate on thatrnoccasion indicated that the chief threatrnMrs. Hanson posed was to the Liberal-rnNational Coalition. Queensland’s NationalrnParty leader Rob Borbidge insistedrnthat—despite the special loathing inrnwhich One Nation held him because ofrnhis acquiescence in Mr. Howard’s 1996rnanti-gun laws —he could safely ignorernsuch One Nation bumper-stickers asrn”Shooters Put National Liars Last.” Thisrnwas the biggest mistake of Mr. Borbidge’srnlife. Before June 13, he was Queensland’srnpremier. He is now Queensland’srnformer premier. (“Put[ting] NationalrnLiars Last” refers to Australia’s bizarrernpreferential suffrage system, which requiresrneach voter to rank all candidatesrnin his state or federal electorate by writingrnthe digits 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., beside therncandidates’ names on the ballot paper.)rnFor days after the election, in which hisrnLiberal-National team had been savaged,rnMr. Borbidge tried cobbling togetherrnan alliance that would grant tornOne Nation most of what it wanted,rnwhile keeping the opposition Labor Partyrnout of power. He failed, and Labor’srnPeter Beattie —who, unlike Mr. Borbidge,rnhad maintained before votes wererncast that in no circumstances would herngive One Nation coalition-partner statusrn—now occupies the premiership,rncontrolling Queensland’s unicameralrnlegislature with an independent parliamentarian’srnconditional support.rnTwo quotations summarize the situationrnafter Mrs. Hanson’s Queensland triumph.rnOne comes from the lady herself,rnmilling around the tally-room floor asrnthe nation’s cameras captured her delightrnat the outcome: Asked how she accountedrnfor this success, she assured thernFourth Estate, “You just weren’t listening.”rnThe other great phrase comes fromrna Brisbane-based, newly recruited OnernNation supporter, explaining to the SydneyrnMorning Herald on June 12 thernepiphany which had steeled him to voternfor Pauline rather than for the primernminister’s associates: “I saw a politician’srnlips move,” he said, “and they weren’trntalking bulls–t.”rnBy law, there did not have to be anrnAustralian federal election before Marchrn1999; but after June 13, Mr. Howardrncould not have been thrust more obviouslyrnor desperately into electioneeringrnmode —even if he were being precededrnby a gaggle of drum majorettes. Norrncould he have looked more like a loser.rnWhenever he obeyed his natural instinctsrnof ignoring Mrs. Hanson, in thernbelief that she would wither once deniedrnwhat Margaret Thatcher called “the oxygenrnof publicity,” he was assailed by colleaguesrnas well as the mass media for notrndemonstrating “leadership.” Wheneverrnhe worked himself up into a denunciationrnof Mrs. Hanson, his efforts were condemnedrnas being too little, too late. Therndissipation of electoral and moral authorityrnwhich it took Malcolm Eraser (whornserved as prime minister from 1975-rn1983) five years to achieve, Mr. Howardrneffected in two. In mid-1997, it was stillrnpossible to view Mr. Howard as the contemporaryrncounterpart to Mr. Eraser afterrnthe latter’s 1980 near-defeat: on thernropes, true, yet not on the canvas, andrnperfectly capable of landing an uppercutrnupon an insufficiently deferential referee’srnjaw. After the Queensland electionrnresult, however, the obvious comparisonrnwas with Cough Whitiam’s last shambolicrnmonths of office, during 1975, whenrnthe only question seriously concerningrnhis intimates was how completely hisrngovernment would be defeated. But atrnleast Mr. Whitlam had managed tornnotch up two (narrow) electoral successesrnbefore his teeth hit the sidewalk. Mr.rnHoward looked set to become the firstrnprime minister in almost 70 years to losernoffice after a single term. Moreover, thernlast figure to suffer this indignit)’, JamesrnScullin in 1931, had—by Howard standardsrn—a positively Rasputin-like survivalrninstinct: He forfeited power only becauserna third of his Labor Party parliamentariansrnbolted to the opposition. No suchrnschism extenuated Mr. Howard’s ineffectuality.rnTo the damage inflicted upon him byrnMrs. Hanson, Mr. Howard appeared determinedrnto add a cyanide cocktail of hisrnvery own devising: his insistence that,rnif re-elected, he and federal TreasurerrnPeter Costello would implement a tenrnpercent across-the-board consumptionrntax. This occurred despite his answer inrn1996 to the question of whether a consumptionrntax was back on his agenda:rn”Never, ever, ever.” The last Australianrnparty official before Mr. Howard to advocaterncomprehensively taxing goods andrnservices was Dr. John Hewson, a formerrnLiberal Party leader. In the 1993 elec-rn34/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn