Pauline Hanson, who founded Australia’s right-wing One Nation Party, today resigned as its leader saying she needed to concentrate on fighting fraud charges.
‘‘It was my decision to hand in my resignation as national president,’’ Ms Hanson said. ‘‘I’ve constantly got these court battles and challenges, and I couldn’t do the job.’’
Ms Hanson and former One Nation director David Ettridge have been accused of the alleged fraudulent registration of the political party in 1997. The pair are due in court in April. The charge carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence. Both have pleaded innocent in a pretrial hearing.
‘‘I do believe it’s a political witch hunt, and a lot of people don’t have faith in the justice system - and I’m fighting the justice system,’’ Ms Hanson said today.
She added that she had another six legal challenges pending, but did not provide details.
The One Nation party made international headlines and alarmed Australia’s Asian neighbours in the late 1990s with calls for an end to Asian immigration and strict limits on welfare handouts to aborigines.
In a 1998 state election, the party attracted almost a quarter of the vote to win 11 seats in the Queensland legislature. At a 1998 federal election, the party won almost 9% of the vote nationally.
But One Nation fared poorly in the most recent national election in November of last year, and Ms Hanson lost her own bid for a Senate seat.
Ms Hanson, who once owned a fish and chip shop, said she will remain a member of the party but needed to take time off for herself. She said she would consider raising cattle on her ranch in Queensland state.
‘‘I’m tired, I want a bit of a break from it,’’ she said. ‘‘I want to pick up the pieces of my life.’’
She added that she would not rule out a return to politics if she is absolved of the fraud charges.
‘‘I won’t say ... that I’ll never stand for Parliament again. It’s something that I have to assess further down the track.