After a two week standoff between One Nation leader Pauline Hanson and her New South Wales Senator Brian Burston, Burston has now resigned from the party to sit as an Independent. Hanson and Burston first came to blows when Burston signalled his intention to honour One Nation’s commitment to support the Turnbull Government’s company tax cuts.
Pauline Hanson announced in late May she was withdrawing from her promise to support the company tax cuts accusing the Turnbull Government of not fulfilling their end of the agreement. This reversal was seen as a political move by Hanson to improve her poll numbers and be in a better bargaining position with the government before the Longman by-election.
The difference in opinion between Hanson and Burston blew up when Hanson appeared on the Bolt Report with Ben Fordham explaining how betrayed she felt “This isn’t the first time Brian’s stabbed me in the back, and that goes back a long time ago, and you think I, this hurts me, it hurts me deeply because … it means so much to me what I’m trying to do”.
Brian Burston stated he had no intention of resigning and still believed in Pauline and denied he had tried to defect to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party as claimed by their state leader Robert Borsak.
However the day after her appearance with Ben Fordham she wrote to Brian Burston calling on him to resign from the Senate to give the seat back to One Nation and that he was removed from his positions in the One Nation Party organisation.
The saga took another twist when Burston published a letter he wrote to Pauline Hanson’s Chief of Staff James Ashby accusing him of leaking information to the media that when One Nation was deciding its position on the company tax cuts Burtson was receiving a rectal examination.
Today Burston has released a statement confirming his departure from One Nation saying it was “with a heavy heart” that he had to resign adding that “my relationship with Senator Hanson is irrevocable”.
He was more blunt when speaking to Fairfax Media about his departure calling the party labelling it “Gone Nation” because “There is no democracy in the party — every single decision made is made by Pauline Hanson, and if you don’t agree then you’re gone”.
Brian Burston’s departure from One Nation leaves the party with just 2 sitting Senators out of the 4 that were elected at the 2016 double dissolution election which is seen as significantly weakening her bargining position in the Senate.
Western Australian Senator Rod Cullenton resigned from One Nation but was later disqualified by the High Court due to a criminal conviction at the time of nomination and was replaced by Hanson’s only remaining Senator Peter Georgiou.
Malcolm Roberts elected as a Queensland One Nation Senator was found to be ineligible due to dual citizenship and his replacement Fraser Anning resigned from One Nation within hours of taking his seat in the Senate. Anning this week announced he was joining Bob Katter’s Australian Party. Anning like Burston had been in the party for over 20 years but had left due to a falling out with Hanson.
Many have referred to this as a One Nation meltdown or crisis and predicted it could speel the end of the party’s and Pauline Hanson’s second incarnation. The statistic is often brought up that 23 elected One Nation MPs have left, been expelled or disqualified during the party’s history.
However Burston and Anning’s terms expire at June 2019 and One Nation polling is still around 8% which puts them in a position to reclaim the seats at the next half Senate election.Pauline Hanson herself won a 6 year Senate term to 2022.
Questions that remain are whether any future Senators elected under the One Nation banner will display the loyality Pauline Hanson demands and if Pauline’s brand and cult of personality is strong enough to withstand this latest internal drama.