It's hard to imagine that the reputation of Pauline Hanson, the former fish and chip shop owner turned right-wing firebrand, could sink any lower in Australia. But today her few remaining fans were cringing following the publication of raunchy photographs of her posing in lingerie, and nearly naked.
The pictures were taken in the 1970s, when Ms Hanson was about 19, by an ex-boyfriend, Jack Johnson, according to the Sunday Telegraph. He recently came across them and decided to peddle them for hard cash. “Sorry it's come to this, sweetheart,” Mr Johnson, an ex-Army commando, told his former girlfriend via the tabloid newspaper. “That's the way it is.”
Ms Hanson, who won a seat in the Queensland parliament in 1996 after campaigning against Asian immigration, is attempting a political comeback at next Saturday's state election. While some observers suggested that the publication of the photos had been timed to cause her maximum harm, others said it might win her the sympathy vote.
The pictures were taken at the five-star Pelican Bay Resort in Coffs Harbour, on the New South Wales coast, where the couple spent a weekend after meeting in a Brisbane grocery shop where Ms Hanson worked.
According to the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Johnson presented her with the lingerie after they had been out to dinner, danced at a disco and plunged into the ocean for a midnight swim.
Both were reportedly drunk, she on Passion Pop (a mixture of wine and fruit juice) and he on Stella Artois lager. “I gave her the stockings and the teddy set,” Mr Johnson said. “She tried on the sexy gear and started modelling for me, so I got out my camera.”
The photo-shoot lasted about two hours, and at one point the couple took pictures outside their room, where they were seen by other guests.
The next morning at breakfast, a fellow guest made reference to the previous night's events, upon which Ms Hanson locked herself in the couple's room until they departed.
Ms Hanson, former leader of the One Nation Party, which is now defunct, declined to comment on the pictures yesterday. But a friend described the leaking of them to the paper as a low act. “What a nasty thing to do,” he said.
Ms Hanson met the young soldier when he called in at her shop and “started chatting up this young bird who was working there”. She rejected several invitations to go out, but then agreed to have a drink with him, and they began seeing each other regularly. “I had the best Harley [Davidson] in town,” he claimed. “That's why she was keen on me.”
The weekend away was to attend the opening of the resort, to which Mr Johnson had been invited. He told Ms Hanson everything would be paid for, including drinks, and they made the four-hour trip south on his motorbike. Soon afterwards, he was sent to Hawaii for training, and when he returned, she was involved with someone else.
Mr Johnson said he had never shown the pictures to anyone else until a fortnight ago, when a friend was helping him to digitise his photographs. They came across the shots; the friend recognised Ms Hanson, and told him they were “worth money”.