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Controversial Australian Politician Resigns from Party Leadership

The founder of Australia's anti-immigration One Nation Party is resigning her leadership post. Pauline Hanson is stepping down due to stress and to spend time preparing for a court appearance on election fraud charges. Ms. Hanson achieved notoriety because of her extreme views on Australia's indigenous community and asylum seekers.

Pauline Hanson's decision to abandon politics comes four months before she is to face magistrates in Brisbane on fraud charges. She is accused of falsely registering her party and taking $250,000 in illegal campaign funds.

Announcing her decision to quit as leader of her One Nation Party, Ms. Hanson said she is tired and needs to prepare for her upcoming court appearance. "I've decided to take a step back from this and reassess my life and the strain this has had on my life my personal life, my family and all these legal challenges and it has been a strain on me," she said.

The former fish and chip shop owner burst on to the Australian political scene in 1996 winning a seat in the upper legislative house on a very conservative agenda.

She founded the One Nation Party soon after, outlining a platform opposing multiculturalism, special treatment for Aborigines and slashing immigration.

Ms. Hanson believes the Aborigines receive too many welfare payments from the government and do little to help themselves. She also targeted asylum seekers, calling them common criminals and queue jumpers unworthy of Australia's compassion.

Her rhetoric caused widespread offense here but it did strike a cord with sections of the conservative, white population. The party won about 10 percent of the votes in last year's state elections in Queensland and Western Australia. But support has been steadily falling since then. Ms. Hanson failed to win a Senate seat at last year's federal election.

A senior One Nation Party official says Pauline Hanson will be missed but that she has left her mark on politics. He may be right. Some analysts here in Australia believe Prime Minister John Howard won a third term in last November's election after adopting One Nation-style policies on refugees and stricter immigration rules.

But other colleagues say they doubt Pauline Hanson has left politics for good and are viewing this as a break.

Her committal hearing on fraud charges is scheduled to start in April. If found guilty, she could face up to 10 in years in prison.