Thursday, 4 May 2017

Is Pauline Hanson failing to fully comply with state and federal electoral laws - again?

It almost beggars belief. Is Pauline Hanson failing to fully comply with state and federal electoral laws – again?

The Saturday Paper, 29 April-5 May 2017:
One Nation risks deregistration in Queensland following the failure of Pauline Hanson to advise the Electoral Commission of Queensland about a botched incorporation that has left it with a noncompliant constitution. The party secretly switched legal structures last November without telling members, using a draconian clause in its superseded governance rules that allowed One Nation state executive members to do whatever they chose without question. Former insiders have said a principal purpose for the incorporation was to put in place a corporate veil so the entity rather than members of the executive would be the subject of legal action.
The method of incorporation and the failure to consult is consistent with a trend of centralising all of One Nation’s power in Queensland, which has in the past been illustrated by attempts to close branches across the country through the use of proxies to forcibly remove “troublesome” state leaders, attempts to close bank accounts over which the One Nation national committee had no authority, and the initiation of complaints to police to intimidate a sub-branch in the Northern Territory.
At the same time, the party neglected to observe mandatory rules contained in Commonwealth and Queensland electoral laws, which must be included in its constitution for One Nation to be a political party with legal standing. Breaches of provisions that specify which clauses must appear for a constitution to be compliant under law are grounds for the cancellation of a party’s registration under Section 78 of Queensland’s Electoral Act.
Neither Senator Hanson nor the deputy registered officer – party treasurer and Hanson’s brother-in-law Greg Smith – informed the electoral commission of the changes in legal structure of the entity. There were two reporting deadlines missed by One Nation – notification of the changes should have been delivered seven days after December 31 and March 31. 
News of One Nation’s constitutional high jinks follows revelations over the past six months related to the party’s preselection and disendorsement processes during the West Australian election, questions about its compliance with goods and services tax legislation, and doubts about the donation and declaration of an aeroplane to Pauline Hanson for campaigning purposes.
It also follows a network-wide ban of the ABC, announced in a Facebook video posted by Hanson after the April 3 airing of a Four Corners report that highlighted a range of issues faced by One Nation. The program, criticised by Hanson and her colleagues as a media “stitch-up”, has resulted in a formal investigation by the Australian Electoral Commission, related to the donation of the two-seater plane.
Pauline Hanson’s One Nation is the business name of One Nation Queensland Division Incorporated, which was an unincorporated association since it registered on January 23, 2001. That changed last year when the entity was incorporated with the same ABN. 
The entity is regarded as the same for tax purposes and the name of the unincorporated body has transitioned into the incorporated form……, 5 April 2017:

And that’s where the law comes in. The facts as we know them are that Ashby has a plane, in which he flies Hanson around the country on what is clearly One Nation business. Hanson herself has made numerous public statements, including on the party website, asserting that the plane belongs to One Nation. It is literally plastered with her name and face.

One Nation is a registered political party. The Commonwealth Electoral Act requires each party, and each of its state branches, to lodge an annual return with the Australian Electoral Commission, within 16 weeks after the end of each financial year. The annual return must include disclosure of all amounts received by, or on behalf of, the party from any single source totalling more than $13,000 (for the 2015-2016 year).

Donations are expressly defined as including the value of a gift. There is no room for doubt that, if a generous supporter gave an aeroplane to an official of the party, so that that official could fly the leader of the party around the countryside on party business, then the gift of the plane (or the cash to buy the plane, if that’s what happened) would be required to be disclosed in the party’s next annual return to the AEC.

Queensland has its own political donation disclosure laws, which are tougher than the federal regime. Returns are required to be lodged six-monthly, all gifts over $1000 must be disclosed, and any gift worth more than $100,000 has to be reported within seven business days.

One Nation’s Queensland Electoral Commission return for the relevant period in 2016 discloses nothing about the aircraft purchase or gift, but it does include an expenditure item of $1187.09 paid by the party to “Jabiru Aircraft Service”. There are numerous payments to Ashby’s companies for printing services, totalling some $17,000 in the same period. Who was paying for the running costs of the aircraft is a mystery.

But it’s pretty simple, really. Whoever paid for Hanson’s plane — however they paid for it and who legally or beneficially owns it — it was, in form and substance, a gift to the direct benefit of her eponymous political party, and she has treated it and talked about it as exactly that for the past two years…..

The Australian2 May 2017:

One Nation’s Senator Hanson shifted her story again on Monday night and said a $106,000 plane “came from” party donor Vicland’s Bill McNee to be used by her chief of staff James Ashby, but it was not a donation.

“So the plane came from Bill McNee, but it was not for the party it was to James for his business?” Sky News’ Andrew Bolt asked.
“Correct,” she answered……

Last night Senator Hanson said the Victorian businessman had allowed Mr Ashby to use the plane.

“He didn’t donate the plane to James Ashby. Having met James, they became friends,” Senator Hanson told Sky News.

“Bill’s a developer and he actually has a lot of business that he does in Queensland, and Bill was continually looking around for a plane.

“He found out James was a pilot (and) he thought: “Here’s a great opportunity to actually have a plane and to actually ¬use it as well.’ ”

The Australian, 3 May 2017:

Pauline Hanson’s controversial chief of staff says he has a “crossover” business relationship with the Melbourne property developer and political donor at the centre of a disclosure row over the purchase of the light plane used by the One Nation leader for election campaigning.

But James Ashby, whose iron-fisted control of Senator Hanson’s office has created ructions inside the party, insisted yesterday that he bought the $106,000 Jabiru 23-D aircraft in 2015 for recreational use and for his printing business in Queensland.

Senator Hanson raised further questions about the status of the plane on Monday when she confirmed on Sky News it had “come from” Bill McNee, but was for Mr Ashby’s firm, not her travel for One Nation.

This conflicts with the media-shy businessman’s assertion that he had no knowledge of the aircraft or how Mr Ashby acquired it. Mr McNee’s company, Vicland, is the Hanson party’s biggest donor, though in a rare interview last November he told The Australian he was stopping all political donations because “it’s something I don’t believe in any longer”.

Pressed on whether he had provided funds to Mr Ashby to buy the plane two years ago, Mr McNee said: “My God, if I am going to buy a plane, I would buy one for myself.” He hung up when contacted yesterday.

The Australian Electoral Commission is investigating whether the acquisition of the plane by Mr Ashby and its use to fly Senator Hanson to campaign events in Queensland before her re-election to federal parliament last July subverted financial disclosure laws.


The Guardian, 20 August 2003:

The fiery redhead, renowned for her garish wardrobe, had pleaded not guilty to fraudulently registering One Nation in the state of Queensland. She also denied dishonestly obtaining A$500,000 (£206,000) in electoral funds used for the campaigns of 11 politicians elected to the Queensland state parliament….
Prosecutors had accused Hanson and Ettridge of passing off a list of 500 supporters as genuine, paid-up members of One Nation in order to register the party and apply for electoral funding.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 August 2003:

Former One Nation leader Pauline Hanson and party co-founder David Ettridge have been jailed for three years each after being found guilty of fraud charges by a Brisbane District Court jury.

Judge Patsy Wolfe made no recommendation for parole.
Hanson, 49, and Ettridge, 58, had pleaded not guilty to fraudulently registering One Nation in Queensland on December 4, 1997.

Hanson had also pleaded not guilty to dishonestly obtaining almost $500,000 in electoral reimbursements after the 1998 state election.

But a Brisbane District Court jury found the pair guilty on all counts after more than nine hours of deliberations.

ABC Radio, PM, 6 November 2003:

MARK COLVIN: But first, the freeing of Pauline Hanson and David Ettridge. The One Nation co-founders have won their bid to get out of jail, after successfully overturning their convictions and their three-year sentences for electoral fraud.

Eleven weeks ago, Hanson and Ettridge were both sentenced to three years jail, after a jury found that they'd fraudulently registered the One Nation Party which they'd founded. Hanson was also found guilty of fraudulently obtaining nearly half a million dollars in electoral funding.

But they'll soon be released from jail, and family and friends were elated by the decision when it came down at Queensland's Court of Appeal this evening.

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