SYDNEY — She wants to ban Muslim immigration, install security cameras in mosques and withdraw from the United Nations’ refugee convention.
A few years ago, such policies were on the outermost fringes of Australian political life.
Now, the former fish-and-chips-shop owner pushing them is a newly elected member of Australia’s Senate who gets respectful treatment from the prime minister.
This is by no means the first foray into extremist politics for 62-year-old Pauline Hanson, co-founder and leader of her own party, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. But her resurgence after years in the political wilderness is a striking example of how the xenophobic populism that helped Donald Trump win the Republican presidential nomination in the United States is reshaping politics in other countries, too.
In a general election last month, many Australians were stunned by the success of One Nation, whose blatantly anti-Muslim policies appealed to many voters who felt threatened by immigration — even in a wealthy country with a far more generous social security net than the United States and few illegal immigrants.
The party helmed by Hanson, who is famous in Australia for her fiery red hair and tortured syntax, has emerged with four seats in the finely balanced Senate, where the ruling Liberal-National coalition lacks a majority and is under huge political pressure to speed economic growth. The government is likely to need One Nation to pass laws fought by the Labor Party opposition and the Australian Greens party.
Negotiating with One Nation could put the prime minister, Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull, in an awkward position. The former Goldman Sachs investment banker is a liberal on many social issues — he is a strong supporter of legalizing same-sex marriage, for example — which frequently puts him at odds with the conservative wing of his party.
Cutting deals with Hanson could alienate Turnbull’s supporters in affluent urban areas, where many people regard her inflammatory rhetoric as likely to fuel hostility toward the relatively small Muslim community.
“People in Australia are in fear because they can’t walk in the streets,” Hanson said on a popular current affairs TV show recently. “They’re in fear of terrorism, which is happening around the world. Why? Because of Islam.”
Another member of the show’s panel, prominent Labor senator Sam Dastyari, asked if he should have been prohibited from entering Australia when he was 5 because he was a Muslim born in Iran, a fact that had been widely reported here.
“Are you a Muslim?” she said, looking surprised.
Australia is one of the world’s most peaceful and socially harmonious immigrant-driven countries, and terrorist attacks are extremely rare. Nonetheless, cultural and racial differences between the 1.5 percent of the population who are Muslim and the white Christian majority receive a lot of attention and contribute to a perception among some Australians that they are being overwhelmed by a hostile religion.
One Nation plays to those fears. Its policies and rhetoric echo those of Trump and the U.K. Independence Party, which successfully championed the recent vote to take Britain out of the European Union. “Australia for Australians,” One Nation’s website proclaims.
The party wants an inquiry into whether Islam is a religion or an ideology, an end to Muslim immigration, a ban on the burqa in public, surveillance in all mosques and Islamic schools, no new mosques and the end of halal certification of food. It is skeptical about global warming.
Journalist Margo Kingston, author of a book about Hanson published in 1999, said in an interview that Hanson still resents her treatment in 1996, when she burst onto the national stage by winning a seat in Parliament as an independent after being removed as a Liberal Party candidate for questioning the size of state benefits for Aboriginals.
Even though Hanson set up a party that won a million votes a few years later, in part by campaigning against Asian immigration, she was shunned by mainstream politicians and lost her own seat in 1998, when the Liberal and Labor parties united against her. She spent the next 18 years trying to break back into federal or state politics, mounting failed runs in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2013.
In this year’s election, One Nation got 4 percent of the vote, an impressive result for an extremist party with no existing parliamentary representation.
Like the backing for similar parties among American steelworkers who have lost jobs to China or workers in Britain’s jobless north, the party’s strongest support came in depressed mining regions hit by a collapse in coal prices. In some battered towns on the outskirts of Brisbane, capital of Hanson’s home state of Queensland, One Nation garnered more votes than the state’s Liberal National Party.
Shayne Neumann, a Labor legislator who represents Hanson’s former district in the lower house, says many of her supporters are older white men who resent what they see as Australia’s patronizing political and media elite. “Where there is no job, there is no hope,” he said.
Hanson wants to be treated as a regular political player, “accepted and respected as a genuine representative,” Kingston said. “She doesn’t want to blow the place up.”
One Nation didn’t respond to a request for an interview.
Not long after her Senate win, Hanson was invited to meet with Turnbull at his office in central Sydney. Turnbull, who urged voters during the campaign to reject her, turned on the charm, according to Hanson.
She lobbied for policies on youth unemployment, family law and more dredging of a port in the Queensland city of Cairns, she said the next day in an online video addressed to her supporters. She made no mention of having raised more-controversial issues, such as her party’s hostility to Islam.
“He took note of everything I said and was very interested in my opinion,” Hanson said. “I feel now I have been listened to and my position as a senator has been respected. And that’s all I want.”