Fraser Anning Dishes On Katter, Final Solution 'Nonsense' And His New Party
The door to Fraser Anning’s office in Parliament House has two nods to the party-hopping senator’s short but incendiary political history.
The first is an inadvertent one -- a paper copy of the yellow ‘don’t tread on me’ Gadsden flag, the type that One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts, the man Anning replaced in parliament, brandished at a press conference in 2016.
The second sign in the glass window is a more pointed reminder of the now-independent senator’s past -- a print-out of the Katter’s Australian Party logo, with a large NOT stuck on top.
Anning has only been in federal politics a year, but has already joined two parties, been independent twice, been roundly criticised by virtually every politician in parliament, and is now in the process of starting his own party.
“The 'Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party',” he told 10 daily, proudly holding up yet another paper logo.
“I’m a conservative and I believe in our nation. We’ve got a left-wing party, a socialist party and a communist party running this country."
"We need a good conservative alternative.”
The Queenslander came into parliament in November 2017 after Roberts was disqualified over his dual citizenship, and immediately stoked outrage. Abandoning One Nation on his first morning, the former grazier and hotelier spent the year embroiled in controversy over his views on immigration and LGBTQ issues.
Online, he rails against African and Middle Eastern immigration, refugees and Islam -- claims repeatedly debunked -- and called the Safe Schools program “sexually deviant propaganda”.
That latter claim got his Facebook page unpublished, after the social media giant upheld complaints his views constituted “hate speech”.
The conservative senator also constantly leans on right-wing tropes criticising “political correctness”, the United Nations, climate change and foreign aid.
But it was his call for a “final solution” to Muslim immigration that saw the then-obscure senator elevated to national villain status.
“I never said anything that was wrong in there,” Anning said when asked how he felt, four months on, about the speech that saw him criticised by every corner of parliament. As 10 daily visited him in parliament, Anning pulled out an Excel spreadsheet filled with text from the Hansard.
“We did some research. There’s 22 other politicians in this place who have used exactly the same words, no-one took offence,” he said, pointing to a number of current and former MPs who have used the phrase.
“And to call me out on ‘final solution’, which by the way Adolf Hitler never said because he spoke German, but when I bring up motions to stop funding of the Palestinian Authority, Labor, Liberal and the Greens all voted against me. I thought, ‘who’s the anti-semites here’?”
“That was a nonsense that somebody decided ‘how do we tear this guy apart? We’ll take two words out of his speech and blow it out of proportion’.”
Anning is a tall man, with a close-cropped haircut and big weather-beaten hands. He speaks softly but firmly, purposefully. Where some politicians might change tack after receiving a historic bipartisan blasting, Anning hasn’t. He stuck to his guns, and while his views might not be popular in the mainstream media, it is a different story online.
His Facebook posts are wildly popular, scoring higher engagement rates than Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten or Scott Morrison in the last 12 months, according to social tool CrowdTangle. Anning’s page has grown from zero fans to more than 50,000 since April.
“I never take any backward steps," he claimed.
The senator raised these stats as proof his new party, yet to be approved by the Australian Electoral Commission, will be a success. He claimed “high-profile” people want to join, and plans to field Senate candidates in Queensland in the upcoming federal election.
He wants more allies in that place . Because while much has been made of a ‘conservative bloc’ of votes -- a loose alliance between Anning, Cory Bernardi, Brian Burston and David Leyonhjelm -- when it comes to wider parliament, Anning claimed “75 percent of them are a waste of space”.
“Never had a job in their life, groomed for the bloody job, spend their whole life in there polishing a seat, taking money and doing nothing,” he opined.
"[Some of them] they’ve never spoken a word in the Senate apart from yelling abuse across the room, never put up a motion, never an amendment, never a bill. You think, 'what are you doing here, if you’re not working'?”
Anning doesn’t mince words when describing his colleagues. The Liberals are “left-wing”, Labor is “socialist”, Greens are “communist”; he drops a few critical remarks about Derryn Hinch; but he calls aligning with Katter, who booted him out of the party despite calling the first speech “solid gold”, a “mistake” because the Member for Kennedy was “a little bit weak”;
"His moral compass is swinging a bit wild,” Anning said.
“His political career is worth more than his moral standing, I think."
But the idea of work, of putting in a hard day’s labour, is one he constantly comes back to.
He talks of his affinity for people in the bush, for farmers and labourers, his hope to boost agriculture, and of his regular trips into country areas to meet constituents.
Anning -- a former hotel owner and cattle station hand, working “32 years at 95-hour weeks” -- has undertaken several long roadtrips around central and western QLD, speaking at pubs, and plans more through parliament's off-season.
“What I wanted to do is represent those people, get things happening in those areas, the Bradfield scheme, the dams to water the inland, so instead of bringing in rubbish fruit and vegetables from all over the world, we could have the biggest food bowl in the world,” he said.
"They’re pretty astute, the people out there."
"People underestimate them, they think they’re hicks from the bush, but they’re not. Some of the most intelligent questions I’ve had have been in these little forums.”
He claimed constituents complain of power prices, jobs, being ignored and overlooked for government projects. But he claimed the “number one” complaint he heard was immigration.
“Particularly Muslim immigration. They’re scared of it,” the senator claimed.
“They’re not at all interested in bloody climate change. Most of them believe it’s a complete nonsense, which I do.”
Next year will be the first time Anning will be on a federal election ballot as a known quantity.
In 2016, on One Nation’s Senate ticket, he received just 19 votes to his name.
This time, he is more famous (or infamous, depending who you ask) and hopes to gobble up One Nation voters unimpressed with Pauline Hanson’s time in parliament.
After a year in the Senate, he has no regrets -- and definitely won’t be apologising for the ‘final solution’.
“I said what I believe and I still believe it. How people want to take it or construe it is entirely up to them,” he said defiantly.