One Nation is tipped to become a major influence in Queensland politics. The Catholic Leader journalist Mark Bowling spoke to its new Queensland leader about a range of issues in a recent interview.
ONE Nation’s new Queensland leader Steve Dickson was an altar boy and schooled by nuns at St Martin’s Catholic school in Carina on Brisbane’s southside.
It was a time in his life when he learnt many of his life-guiding principles.
Two months ago, when the 54-year-old announced his defection from the Queensland LNP Opposition to One Nation, long-time political allies labelled his move as “treacherous” and “self-interested”.
After a decade with the LNP and having served as a minister in the Newman Government, Mr Dickson said he was fed up voting as part of the LNP party bloc, on issues in which he held no conviction.
“God gave us a free will to think for ourselves. But some of us take that in different ways. I do what I believe is right,” he said.
“We all have principles in life.”
Mr Dickson said he “drew a line in the sand” last September when the Queensland Parliament voted to reduce the legal age of consent for anal sex from 18 to 16.
He refused to vote with the LNP bloc to support the bill.
“It was the first time I didn’t vote,” Mr Dickson said. “ I refused to. So did 13 of my colleagues. That’s the difference between having principles, and voting for something you don’t believe in.”
Mr Dickson said legislation restricting medical cannabis – which has been found to be useful in treating epilepsy and some forms of cancer – was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.
“Families were coming to me who had sick and dying children,” he said. “Enough is enough.”
Mr Dickson was frustrated that State Government legislation passed last year continued to force patients to wait lengthy periods while the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved products.
Chronically ill patients were being forced to buy cannabis illegally, and Mr Dickson said he could not understand why MPs were “unwilling to provide real solutions and real relief” for patients.
After jumping to One Nation, Mr Dickson is still feeling the barbs of his critics.
Some former colleagues just can’t understand why he would align himself with the politics of Pauline Hanson and the far right.
Mr Dickson has been pushing his own agenda – introducing a private member’s bill aimed at fast-tracking access to medicinal cannabis – and screening candidates to fight the next state election, which he believes One Nation can win.
The election is due in or before 2018.
Mr Dickson wants One Nation to contest every seat, but said he was not willing to compromise on picking quality candidates.
“I’m a really hard taskmaster. I want the best candidates we can get,” he said.
“I want people who are free thinkers. I want people that are going to come on board and make a difference in Queensland.
“They vary from welders, through to millionaires and people high profile in business, sitting and ex-councillors and MPs.”
Mr Dickson won’t be drawn on which MPs could be lured to join One Nation.
“What I can say is we haven’t had a lot of lawyers or unionists wanting to sign up, and I don’t know why,” he says this with a wry smile.
Galaxy polling in February showed One Nation support had soared to 23 per cent.
Ms Hanson’s popularity could help the party pick up more than 20 seats and hold the balance of power in a 93-seat parliament.
And even though One Nation did not perform as well as predicted in the recent West Australian election, Queensland is One Nation’s heartland.
So what does Mr Dickson stand for, and how does that fit with the Catholic principles he grew up with?
The Catholic Leader asked Steve Dickson to talk about some key issues. Below are his answers.
Tweet This: Journalist @RunningAmokMark asked Steve Dickson to talk about some key issues for @thecatholiclead http://catholicleader.com.au/analysis/a-chat-with-one-nation-queensland-leader-steve-dickson
His own faith:
“Could you call me a devout church-goer… no. I got married in a Catholic church. I don’t go to church regularly. I pray a lot because I have a belief in my heart and my mind. And that’s my right. Churches are there to bring people together, to do what is right in our local communities and be a part of fellowship. Your family is everything. You hold them so close to you because there is nothing so important. You should care for them, look after them and see they have a reasonable lifestyle for the future.”
Migration and racism:
Mr Dickson believes One Nation has evolved from the right-wing popularist party founded by Ms Hanson two decades ago.
While Ms Hanson used her maiden parliamentary speech in 1996 to warn “we are in danger of being swamped by Asians”, Mr Dickson said One Nation had matured, it was not the party of the far right anymore, and was unfairly branded as racist.
“I am probably the least racist person I know. When you get married, you take on responsibility; when you have children you take on extra responsibility. As you move through life things change. And I don’t think political parties are any different to that.”
Mr Dickson said his politics was “closer to the centre right than the far right”.
“I am nowhere near the Left at all, and maybe we (One Nation) are coming back towards the centre a bit more than where we used to be,” he said. “Is that a bad thing? No. I think it broadens your base, takes a lot more people with you on your journey and I think people are really hungry for change.”
“I am not going to allow anybody to take a child’s life,” he said.
Mr Dickson stood ready to oppose the two abortion bills proposed by Rob Pyne before they were withdrawn from Queensland Parliament last month. He has vowed to oppose any new abortion legislation.
“Gone. Hear me clearly. Out the door. Not happening in Queensland. It’s wrong. We are catering for 0.5 per cent to tell ninety-five per cent of the world what to do. That’s not democracy. As far as people’s sexuality is concerned, they can choose to do whatever they like – God’s given everybody an opportunity in life. Do what you like, but don’t impose it on the rest of the world. Individual rights.”
“I am fully supportive of the Federal Government’s stand – that it goes to a plebiscite. I have my right, as you do, as do the 24 million people who live in this country. Don’t let the politicians decide on this one. It’s too big a deal.”
Mr Dickson supports a plebiscite on euthanasia, giving each member of parliament a free vote.
“It’s an individual decision. I support the opportunity for people to have a free vote. Regardless of my personal opinion, I think giving people the opportunity to say via a plebiscite that’s where the public get’s to have a say about the future of this country. That’s democracy.”
(Pauline Hansonís One Nation Party’s website includes a policy in support of euthanasia.)
“It’s real. If we are happy to dig coal out of the ground and export it all over the world for people to burn, and we tell people we shouldn’t be doing it here, we’ve really got to look in the mirror. Because that’s not fair. That’s not right.”
Priests and Church culture:
“I feel like I’ve been let down and the Catholic Church has been let down, and many churches let down … we as human beings have frailties of the flesh. We all know it. Anybody who is involved as a Catholic or believes in Jesus Christ or God, knows He gave us an opportunity of free will and He gave us an opportunity to do those good things as well as those not so good. I am disappointed in those priests who have fallen short.”