Australian PM rules out deal with Hanson

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE PACE of the Australia election campaign picked up yesterday as the Prime Minister, John Howard, vowed that his party would not go into coalition with Pauline Hanson's right-wing and anti-immigration One Nation Party.

Speaking in a head-to-head debate with the Labour Party opposition leader, Kim Beazley, shown on television last night, the Prime Minister described the One Nation Party as a "challenge" but insisted he would not enter into any deals it.

Mr Howard's pledge followed suggestions last week that several of his Liberal-National Coalition Party candidates might direct their votes to One Nation under the preferential voting system.

Mr Beazley was equally anxious to distance himself from One Nation, warning that despite their poor showing in recent opinion polls, he did not regard Mrs Hanson's followers as a "spent force".

After winning 11 seats in the recent State Queensland election, Mrs Hanson has failed to attract a similar level of support in other states.

The heated debate between Australia's two main candidates gave the them a chance to appeal directly to voters in what, since the general election was announced two weeks ago, has been seen as an uninspiring campaign.

Answering questions on the economy, tax, heath, high unemployment,both candidates pitched for the votes of "Aussie battlers", the middle-income Australians whose votes will decide the poll on 3 October.

Mr Howard tried to swing attention away from Mrs Hanson's divisive policies on to tax, saying he was risking his political future on the most sweeping tax reforms in Australian history.

Despite strong ratings at the beginning of the campaign, which placed him neck-to-neck with Mr Howard, a poll taken earlier this week showed support for Mr Beazley has fallen. Mr Howard's support is placed at 43 per cent, as voters react favourably to his party's tax reform package.