OPINION: One Nation will get bigger - but can Pauline Hanson steady the ship?

Senator Pauline Hanson speaks with the media on December 8, 2016 in Sunshine Coast, Australia. Photo: Getty.
Senator Pauline Hanson speaks with the media on December 8, 2016 in Sunshine Coast, Australia. Photo: Getty.

It was Queensland where One Nation was born, brash, unsophisticated and 'true', and it was Queensland where it gave out, broken, bitter and betrayed.

So it only makes sense that nearly 20 years later, a little bit broken itself with higher than average unemployment, a wounded economy and a state government out of ideas, that Queensland resurrected One Nation.

But Queensland has changed since Pauline Hanson and her promises first became a political force.

It seems One Nation has not.

The outlier party has dominated the political dead zone of January, with fights outside courthouses, abandoning of candidates, picking fights with New Zealand and disposing of loyal staffers, who believed in the message, if not the messenger, just six months after clawing itself back to a position of relevance.

Senator Hanson has repeatedly promised she is "wiser, more knowledgeable [and] experienced" since political infighting and personal vendettas destroyed what she had built nearly 20 years ago, but this week's One Nation news has been set to a familiar tune.

Pauline Hanson is seen at the Boonah State Primary School during the Queensland State elections on March 21, 2009 in Boonah, Australia. Photo: Getty.

Pauline Hanson is seen at the Boonah State Primary School during the Queensland State elections on March 21, 2009 in Boonah, Australia. Photo: Getty.

While the beat of infighting and vanity projects, which contradict stated One Nation policy, grows loud, Senator Hanson has endorsed 36 candidates for the yet-to-be set Queensland election. She has already lost one after he refused to delete a tweet featuring a cartoon of a woman's breasts - and disowned a potential candidate for the Western Australian election, for which the party has officially endorsed no-one, despite the poll date being set for March 11. 

This time around, Senator Hanson has James Ashby as her right-hand man. He has gathered the threads of what she wanted to do, and helped spin them to success.

He tells people he works 90 hours a week, keeping the party on-track at a federal level.  He monitors the diaries of the now three One Nation senators, helps choose staff and is involved in decision-making at its highest level.

Senator Rod Culleton holds a press conference with his wife Ioanna Culleton - the former One Nation senator was involved in a scuffle outside a Perth court this week. Photo: Richard Wainwright.

Senator Rod Culleton holds a press conference with his wife Ioanna Culleton - the former One Nation senator was involved in a scuffle outside a Perth court this week. Photo: Richard Wainwright.

In that time, a senator, whose legal troubles overshadowed any work in the Parliament, has quit, allegations of bullying and phone-throwing have been made public, and disillusioned believers have taken their grievances to the media.

It makes the idea that One Nation might contest 36 seats in the Queensland state election look like a mighty challenge, given its struggles managing the idiosyncrasies of its handful of elected members so far.

One Nation will get bigger. 

Not the biggest, but bigger.

Those who have felt ignored or left out by the major parties have placed their beliefs and hopes and wishes into an empty vessel which promises to be all things to all people, while not straying too far from its Liberal roots, and they'll tick that box with delight at their next elections.

But, by its very nature, it attracts candidates with axes to hold and grudges to bear, those who latch on to the part of the message which called to them, while ignoring the whole, those who have prided themselves on lone wolf ways and the voice of dissent, who suddenly find themselves called to walk the line, while still promised their own path.

Senator Hanson and her party are riding the wave of Brexit and Donald Trump's victory, while ignoring that both were achieved within the disciplined, and practiced, major party system.

Brexit had the support of established politicians, who took what they needed from the outliers and used it for their own purposes.

Trump ran under the Republican banner, even as he tore the Grand Old Party down.  He didn't do it as an independent, or as a newly formed movement. He sprayed his messages from red platforms, cloaked in the protection of the establishment.

One Nation does not have the resources, the patience, or the experience to vet its candidates, or those it attracts, and it lacks the boundaries to corral the ones it has.

It's Queensland where we will see just how powerful the One Nation wave is.  And it's Queensland where we will see if it can steady the ship, laden as it is with the hopes and dreams of the rebels, unsure of the cause they've attached themselves to.

This story first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald

To read the story on the SMH, click here.