Since the Senate results were announced, one new senator in particular has received a lot of media attention. Malcolm Roberts of One Nation, who scraped into the last Queensland spot, has been hotly solicited for interviews, appearing on several current affairs shows, and has been extensively profiled in the press.
By his own admission to Triple J radio’s Hack program, Roberts would not have been elected to parliament had it not been for the lowered quota required to get elected in a double dissolution and undemocratic changes to Senate voting rules introduced this year. But as a crank of the highest order, he certainly makes for entertaining viewing.
A self-described “consultant” who has spent more than 30 years in senior management roles at many of Australia’s mining companies, Roberts is an emphatic climate change denier, who claims that “there is no evidence anywhere in the world” that human production of carbon dioxide is affecting the climate.
For the past nine years, Roberts has worked to expose what he terms the “corruption of climate science”. He is the volunteer project manager for the Galileo Movement (which boasts right wing shock jock Alan Jones as official patron), which has published hundreds of documents describing climate change as an elaborate conspiracy of the UN and international bankers to rake in profits from trading carbon credits and to undermine the sovereignty of nation states.
There is evidence to suggest that Roberts is a member of the far right sovereign citizen movement. Adherents of this movement purport to live outside the law and governmental system, are exceedingly preoccupied with avoiding paying taxes and think governments employ grammar to control us and deceive us into signing illegitimate contracts.
Roberts denies any association with these bizarre conspiracists. But the Sydney Morning Herald republished a letter he wrote in 2011 to the then prime minister, Julia Gillard, demanding that he be exempted from the carbon tax, which used weird punctuation consistent with sovereign citizens’ beliefs that the insertion of commas and hyphens into text and proper nouns is an aid to evading government power.
On his own website, Roberts claims that his verbose and obtuse diatribes describing climate change as a myth and countless letters harassing climate scientists and their institutions are actually about “protecting freedom by understanding climate, science and sovereignty”.
Apart from promoting climate change scepticism, Roberts has outlined other key priorities for his term in the Senate: reform to the Family Law Court in order to preserve the security of the family, and an overhaul of the tax system, because “tax is in everything that is wrecking this country”. Importantly, he has also made it clear that he is for the removal of section 18C from the Racial Discrimination Act – the section which makes it illegal to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” a person because of their race or ethnicity.
Although Roberts appears confused about the origins of the 1975 legislation, telling the ABC’s Insiders program that he believed Gillard had introduced it as a way of “nobbling” Andrew Bolt, his stupidity should not get in the way of us seeing his comments as part of One Nation’s racist offensive against Muslims and refugees.
Roberts made clear to Hack presenters that he is a rampant Islamophobe, repeating Hanson’s call for a ban on all Muslim migration and stating that he believes Australia is in danger of becoming subject to sharia law. His insistence that 18C is “suppressing free speech” and his exhortation that we “need to dismantle political correction [sic] by speaking the truth” echo the racist backlash of the Howard years, when One Nation dragged the political climate to the right and legitimised racist hate.