Yesterday afternoon, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson brought before the Senate a motion which urged them to acknowledge that “it is okay to be white”. It was the same motion that was knocked back during the September sitting of parliament, and it failed again yesterday—albeit by a troublingly small margin. While 31 members from Labor, the Greens, and the crossbench ultimately voted the motion down, 28 government senators voted with One Nation in an apparent attempt to address "the deplorable rise of anti-white racism" in Australia.
That’s not a good look for the Morrison government—and in a staggering about face, they’ve today come out and blamed their support for the motion on an “administrative error”.
"There is a process involved in determining the position of the government in relation to 50 to 60 motions a week," Mathias Cormann, finance minister and the government’s leader in the senate, told reporters at Parliament House. “Yesterday, as a result of an administrative process failure, the government senators in the chamber ended up, on advice, voting in support of the motion. As leader of the government in the Senate, I take responsibility for that error and I'm sorry that that happened. It is indeed regrettable."
Among those who voted in favour of the motion were Eric Abetz, Cory Bernardi, Matt Canavan, David Leyonhjelm, and Mitch Fifield.
Many people have linked the phrase “it’s okay to be white” to online alt-right communities and white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, SBS reports. Labor senator Penny Wong described it as “akin to something a neo-Nazi would support”. Hanson, however, claims that the motion was in fact aimed to combat racism and to assert that "People have a right to be proud of their cultural background whether they're black, white or brindle."
"The most demonised person in this country is the white male," she told the media today.
The motion has since been put to the Senate again, upon the government’s request, thus giving them the chance to re-vote and formally reject it. Cormann said it may seem implausible that the government voting for the motion yesterday was an administrative error, The Guardian reports, but it’s true.
“For me personally, this is severely embarrassing,” he said. “I thank Senator Wong for giving us the opportunity to [redo] this vote to reflect, truly reflect, the views [of the government].”
The Senate re-vote once again knocked back Hanson’s “okay to be white” motion this afternoon—this time with the government voting against it.