One Nation leader backs penalty rate cuts and likens government’s vaccination programs to ‘a dictatorship’.
Pauline Hanson has backed penalty rate cuts, reasserted her respect for Vladimir Putin and described successive governments’ vaccination policies as blackmail.
The One Nation leader asked for proof of Russian involvement in the downing of flight MH17, which killed 298 people, including 38 Australians.
“Did he push the button?” she said. “My comments were I respect the man. He is very patriotic towards his country, the people love him, he is doing so well for the country. So many Australians here want that leadership here in Australia.”
Bill Shorten immediately condemned Hanson’s support of Putin.
The Labor leader tweeted: “37 Australians died on MH17. Putin should not be admired by anyone.”
Malcolm Turnbull responded shortly after the interview when he spoke to reporters in Queensland.
“Vladimir Putin’s Russia is not and should not be an object of admiration in any respect,” the prime minister told reporters in the town of Barcaldine.
“It should withdraw from the territory it’s occupied in the Ukraine and it should provide the information that we know they have on the identity of the people who shot down the MH17 airliner and in doing so murdered 38 Australians.”
Turnbull was visiting western Queensland as part of an ongoing campaign to shore up Coalition MPs against the rising popularity of One Nation.
Hanson was also critical of the government’s coercive vaccination programs. She advised parents to test their children before vaccinations because some parents reported problems.
“What I don’t like about it is the blackmailing that’s happening with the government,” Hanson said. “Don’t do that to people. That’s a dictatorship. I think people have a right to investigate themselves.”
Hanson, who bills herself as an outsider who rejects major party politics, also advised the LNP dissident George Christensen not to desert the Coalition because it would destabilise the Coalition government.
In her first interview on the ABC’s Insiders program since her return to politics, Hanson said she had not changed her policies since she first entered politics in the 1990s – a marked contrast with the Liberal party’s position.
While John Howard refused to swap preferences with One Nation during his term, the senior Liberal minister Arthur Sinodinos defended the WA Liberals’ deal because “the One Nation of today is a very different beast to what it was 20 years ago”.
Hanson said the only difference after 20 years in politics was she was more informed but her policies had not changed and she cited immigration – though her target had refocused from the Asian community to the Muslim community.
“I have grown with it, I think become a bit older, a bit wiser and better informed with politics,” Hanson said. “This time around I’m not just the independent on the lower house floor, I’m a senator with three other senators with me.”
As Labor and the unions prepare to campaign against the government on the Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut penalty rates, Hanson spoke out in support of the rate cut that would see a pay cut to hundreds of thousands of low wage workers.
Asked if she supported the cut, Hanson said, “I think, in principle, yes, I do”.
When it was suggested a lot of her supporters would be impacted by the decision, Hanson said “I’m hoping to give small businesses a chance for growth”. She said low-income workers would be still be getting a wage.
Hanson said, as a former business owner, she had sympathy for small businesses that had to compete with larger companies like McDonald’s, which could negotiate enterprise bargaining agreements with unions for lower wages.
“How can you expect someone to pay $34 an hour in wages in a takeaway shop, food retail, yet McDonald’s are paying $26,” Hanson said. “Where is the union jumping up and down for the battlers?”
Her argument was in stark contrast to the Coalition, which has steadfastly refused to argue either way on the penalty rate decision, saying only it was the decision of an independent umpire.
Shorten, who before the decision said he would support the FWC’s decision, attacked the Coalition all week for not blocking the penalty rate cut. Labor and the Greens have urged the Coalition to block the rate cut in parliament.
“This government is doing nothing about addressing this whole issue and Labor are a bunch of hypocrites,” Hanson said. “I think if we looked at it, we might be able to increase employment by helping small business.”
Hanson warned the government could not rely on her support for the company tax cut package announced in the 2016 budget. Hanson said she would prefer to get rid of state payroll taxes, which she said were a tax on employment. She said the treasurer, Scott Morrison, had told her the states would not “come to the table”.
As the Coalition struggles with a one-seat majority, Hanson had some surprising advice for Christensen, who had repeatedly threatened he would leave the Coalition unless his areas of concern were addressed.
“I advise him, stay where you are, because if he jumps ship, it will destabilise the government and I don’t believe the people want that and they would not want it from me,” she said.
“Stabilise the government, because we need that. Then he can decide his future. If he actually then says, ‘No, I’ve had enough, I can’t stay with the National party, they are not representing my electorate, what I want’, of course. If he wants to come across to One Nation, I’m not going to say no but I am not encouraging him.”
Of the WA election next weekend, Hanson said he expected to win seats in her own right in the upper house.
She said the WA Liberal-One Nation preference swap had come about because the Liberal party had changed its position on preferences with her party – not the other way around. She rejected criticism from some of her own candidates for dealing with the Liberal party.
“I have no problem with saying that because it is our best chance of getting One Nation candidates selected to the floor of parliament. Of course, who is not going to do it?”
Labor’s Brendan O’Connor said it was extraordinary that such an undemocratic leader could be a hero for Hanson.
“I find it quite offensive and contemptible that Senator Hanson would applaud and laud such a leader given the complicity of Putin in the deaths of 38 Australians,” O’Connor said.
“It’s quite extraordinary that someone so undemocratic, someone who it would appear has been involved in the deaths of so many Australians would be a hero of Senator Hanson.”