Pauline Hanson
Pauline Hanson Creative Commons

Senator Pauline Hanson has been furious after the Coalition backflipped on its vote a day after backing her “It’s OK to be white” motion. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, meanwhile, said that it was “regrettable” his own senators even voted for the motion in the first place.

On Monday, the One Nation leader set forth the motion, saying “anti-white” racism was on the rise in Australia. She claimed that they needed to vote yes on it because there had been a spike in attacks on “the very ideals of Western civilisation.” It was defeated 31-28 despite the Coalition’s backing. The next day, Labor’s Senate leader Penny Wong challenged to recommit the vote, with the senators present all voting against the motion.

Attorney-General Christian Porter defended the move on Monday, saying the Coalitions’ votes just meant that they deplored racism of any kind. But Morrison called it “regrettable,” saying they should have opposed the motion just as when it came up.

“As the leader of the Government in the Senate, I take full responsibility for that error and I’m sorry that it happened,” he said. “It is indeed regrettable.”

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who previously backed Porter’s defence of the vote, had also apologised, blaming an “administrative error” for their votes. He claimed the Coalition actually wanted to oppose Hanson’s motion when it was first raised last month

Porter was also forced to explain what happened, saying an early email advising an approach on the motion went out of his office without his knowledge.

“It appears that, of the very large number of motions on which my office’s views are routinely sought, this one was not escalated to me because it was interpreted in my office as a motion opposing racism. The associations of the language were not picked up. Had it been raised directly with me, those issues would have been identified,” he said in a statement.

“As Minister Cormann said this morning, this was the result of an administrative error, including on the part of my office.”

Not convinced

Wong wasn’t convinced, saying the motion had been on notice paper for weeks.

“This is just a craven and pathetic attempt to clean up your mess,” she said. “It’s a phrase created by right-wing extremist groups in the United States to help convert people to the cause of neo-Nazis and groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

“There is nothing innocent, nothing unknown, nothing hidden about this phrase.”

The phrase, “It’s OK to be white,” is associated with white supremacist groups to stoke racial divide and to rubbish claims of the minority. Wong said the senators all knew what it meant but they were now claiming that they just made a mistake. “We don’t believe you. No one believes you,” she said.

‘White guilt’

Hanson, who was not present on Tuesday’s voting, has accused Morrison and Cormann of having “white guilt” so they withdrew their support.

“It’s one of the most remarkable days ever in Australian politics that Labor, Liberal and the Greens are now united in saying they would vote against a parliamentary motion condemning attacks on Western civilisation and white people because of their skin colour,” she said. “If I had said it’s OK to be black, every single senator in the chamber would have voted for it.”

She continued, “As I stated on the floor of the Senate, I have always believed it is OK to be black, white or brindle.”