But far from writing her off as an "irrelevance" as did former Prime Minister John Howard or dismissing her as "not a welcome presence in the Australian political scene" like current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Pauline Hanson represents an important voice that needs to be heard.
No, I haven't gone mad! Nor do I support "politics of fear and hate" (as categorised by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten). So please stay with me as I explain why I think Australia needs Pauline Hanson...
There has been a seismic shift in social dialogue about critical issues facing Australian society with a strong left of centre voice primarily represented by mainstream media. Tolerance, inclusion and compassion are today's socially acceptable values with any views interpreted as violating these values condemned and shut out of the conversation. Recently, a number of celebrities have been publicly criticised and censored for expressing such points of view. On the surface this appears to be a positive shift in societal attitude, but below the surface another type of intolerance is emerging that violates the same space that is being defended. When opposing views are labelled or stifled, robust conversation descends into one-sided commentary that pushes frustrated views underground. If these views are not allowed to be expressed in respectful public dialogue, no matter how distasteful they may be, they will manifest themselves in behaviours that may have far greater social consequences than offending someone.
People need to be heard. Leadership consultant Patrick Lencioni says, "people don't so much have an innate need to have their own way as to have their way considered." Someone like Pauline Hanson has been granted a platform by 587,250 frustrated Australians to have their voices considered. We may disagree with some of these voices but we need to listen to them. To dismiss them as 'stupid' or 'bigoted' without considering the concerns underlying their view of reality only serves to widen already deep divisions among Australians. During the 2013 election, former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson is quoted as saying, "The greater the potpourri of ideas we've got in a pluralist society the better the chance we have of getting good policy out of it." We will never resolve the serious issues facing our country while we continue to suppress complex views and demonise the people who attempt to bring them to the table for open discussion.
I may not like or agree with Pauline Hanson but Australia needs people like her who have the courage to represent unpopular views that are rumbling under the surface. My fear is that unless the tone and manner of public debate changes soon, these rumblings will erupt into serious social unrest.