Maverick Australian Politician Acquitted, Freed from Jail

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau ( - Controversial Australian politician Pauline Hanson has been freed from prison, three months after she received a three-year jail sentence for election fraud.

An appeal court in Queensland state overturned convictions handed down in August against Hanson and David Ettridge, co-founder of her anti-immigrant One Nation party.

Even opponents of Hanson were surprised when the two were jailed for fraudulently registering One Nation as a political party and, in Hanson's case, for fraudulently obtaining electoral funding.

Many commentators called the sentences excessive, and their supporters saw the conviction and jail sentence as part of a "conspiracy" by Australia's two main political parties to block a threat to the established political order.

One Nation has now called for an inquiry into the prosecution, trial and jailing of the two.

Hanson's conviction appeared to have spelled the end of her political career, as convicted criminals cannot run for state or federal parliament in Australia.

But her acquittal means she could return to politics if she chooses to do so, perhaps capitalizing on the sympathy her plight has generated.

Her supporters regarded Hanson, a former fish and chips store owner, as an outspoken patriot, while opponents derided her as a racist who famously warned that Australia was being "swamped" by Asians.

At its height, One Nation won almost 25 percent of the votes in a Queensland state election in 1998, but later saw its support wane.

See earlier story:
Backers of Jailed Australian Politician Claim 'Witch Hunt' (Aug. 21, 2003)

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow