All singing, all dancing

I was on Queensland’s Gold Coast last weekend with my partner and her family. The weather was warm and high-rise development continued unabated.

We all went to Jupiter’s Casino on Saturday night to see the all-singing and all-dancing Todd McKenney show. A judge on Dancing with the Stars, McKenney is a charismatic, cheesy performer who entertained the mostly middle age audience with show-tunes and Peter Allen renditions.

After about one hour, the pace of the show slowed down and McKenney told another unfunny joke. Then, from behind a bar on stage, former MP Pauline Hanson appeared. “Please explain”, she said, before singing a song with McKenney. Dressed in a blue ball-gown, Hanson looked uncomfortable but this didn’t stop her taking McKenney’s hand and ballroom dancing across the stage. The crowd lapped it up and shouted approvingly. “Only in Queensland”, I thought.

During the interval, I overheard two men discussing Hanson:

Man 1: That Hanson must be pretty desperate for money these days.

Man 2: Yeah, but she’s good looking!

In the second half of the performance, she sang a few more songs. During Peter Allen’s “I Still Call Australia Home”, with a large Australian flag at the back of the stage, Hanson wore a sailor’s hat and seemed to be enjoying the experience. She never looked especially adept at dancing and the lyrics seemed to escape her during the Village People’s “YMCA”.

Hanson has clearly been forgiven in Queensland. Perhaps her past indiscretions, insults and opinions have always been warmly embraced up north. I don’t doubt that many Australians across the country share the sentiment proudly portrayed on her website: “Pauline is the only one who will say what everyone else is thinking, when no one else has the courage.”

Her racism, ignorance and bigotry may no longer be in the public domain though others have proudly claimed the baton. One of the great mistakes of the past, however, was simply dismissing Hanson rather than trying to understand the reasons behind her views. One of the few journalists who attempted this was Margo Kingston in her stunning book, Off the Rails: The Pauline Hanson Trip.

During my night at Jupiter’s, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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