Unmasked Howard gets amnesia on Hanson

John Howard is rewriting history in a desperate bid to regain control of the political agenda. He’s lying – yet again – to do it.

John Howard pandered to Hanson and her supporters in public while simultaneously endorsing a high-powered, big-money, clandestine Liberal Party campaign to destroy her party through the legal system. The exposure of his duplicity to the masses since her jailing threatens to swamp the perception with the reality. And that could mean the disintegration of the unusual constituency he has so painstakingly weaved together to blitz Australian politics.

From the moment of his historic third term win, he’s appeared younger, smoother, softer, stiller. A statesman, comfortable in his skin, basking in his popularity and the collapse of his opposition. He brushes inconvenient questions away like flies, and journalists feel it’s inappropriate to push hard. He deserves respect. He commands it.

Last night’s footage of Howard’s AM interview post The 7.30 Report Abbott debacle showed a frowning, hectoring, aggressive John Howard facing a reporter willing to persist in asking the questions he evades. The delicacy of his position means that every tactic he employs has a downside. All of a sudden the public want journalists to get the truth out of him, and the public backs them when they push Howard hard.

Here’s extracts from the AM interview yesterday, where Catherine McGrath tries to pin Howard down on just how close he was to Abbott’s plot to destroy One Nation and exactly when he knew about it. Before that, an extract of a doorstop interview he gave last Friday where he denied ANY knowledge of the covert legal sting. This transcript, alone of all Howard’s transcripts since the Hanson sentence, does not appear on the Prime Minister’s website:

Q: What about the allegation that the Liberal Party may have … bankrolled the campaign against Pauline Hanson?

PM: I’m not aware of the basis of that allegation. I’m sorry.

Q:Does the Liberal Party have anything…

PM: The Liberal Party to my knowledge, and bear in mind there’s a lot of people that represent the Liberal Party, but I’m not aware of anything of that kind…



McGrath: After Howard has persistently avoided the question … Can I ask you though, going back to that initial question – Tony Abbott (in 1998) said the juggernaut should be stopped. Did you think that too?

PM: Well I thought One Nation should be exposed politically. I believe that it was perfectly legitimate to pursue a belief, as Tony did, that there was something improper or invalid about the partys registration. But that was in no way the prosecution for a criminal offence of Pauline Hanson.

(after more avoidance)

McGrath: So can I ask you though – if you thought back then that One Nation should be exposed politically, when you read it in the media in late 1998 that Tony Abbott had set this up and when he disclosed it formally to you, what did you think? Did you think, oh good on you Tony, that’s the way to go?

PM: Well I knew that he was pursuing it but –

McGrath: What did you think about it?

PM: Well Catherine I had a lot of things to think about then. I was trying to remake Australia’s taxation system. I was trying to make sure that we weathered the onslaught of the Asian economic crisis. I was worried about jobs for people and I was worried about a burgeoning difficulty in East Timor with Indonesia. I think it was the end of 1998 that I may have written a now famous letter to the then President Habibie. So I had a lot of other things on my mind. I mean, let’s keep a sense of perspective. This wasn’t the most important thing on my radar.

McGrath: No, I’m not suggesting it was. I guess I’m just giving you an opportunity to explain to our audience who’d probably like to know, did you think ‘Good on you Tony?’

PM: Well look Catherine, Tony was pursuing this. I was broadly aware of what he was doing. It was in the papers. And for the Labor Party or anybody in the media now to turn around and say that this is a dramatic new revelation that demands explanation, I mean that isse the vernacular, give us a break.

McGrath: Well I’m trying to focus in on you really rather than Mr Abbott.

PM: Yes I gathered that. I’m quite aware of that.

McGrath: I guess people would like to know what you thought that this was really going to … you know, for example Peter Coleman (Honesty in Politics trustee, Peter Costello’s father-in-law, Liberal party elder) says this morning that one of the problems was that the more you argued against One Nation, the stronger they became and the backlash was very strong. So fighting them this way could really do them some damage.

PM: Well Catherine, in fact one of the criticisms that was made of me at the time was that I didn’t attack them enough. One of the reasons I didnt attack them a lot was precisely that, and I think the judgement and the vindication of time and history is that that approach was correct. But I recognise that there are a lot of people in the community and amongst the [inaudible] who didn’t agree with me and criticised me for it and held it against me, and so I think there was a range of views even in my own party as to how to deal with this. It was an important issue historically and both now. A range of people in my own party may have disagreed. But that only underlines the fact of how hypocritical it is for people to now turn around and in effect say you attacked them too much. I mean you can’t have it both ways, can you? (Margo: No you can’t, John.)

McGrath: And further to that, you explaining that you stood back a little bit for that reason, did you also –

PM: No, stood back is your words. I just stand by what I described as my reaction.

McGrath: Yes. But did you also to some extent feel this action, this involvement of Tony Abbott will have some effect as well?

PM: Look Catherine, its five years ago. I had a lot of –

McGrath: But you must have had a thought about that.

PM: A lot of thoughts, and I’ve given you a lot of them. Let’s move on to something else.


Indeed. He had a lot of other things on his mind at the time, did he? The record shows that the One Nation threat was at the top of his political agenda – the very top. He considered it crucial to his government retaining power at the 1998 federal election. It is blindingly obvious reviewing the record that Howard chose a two pronged strategy – love her in public, destroy her through frontpeople in the Courts. As the biggest threat to his reelection, he must have known and approved Abbott’s strategy from the very beginning. And that’s why he’s desperate to fudge the timing and refuses to discuss his involvement.


During the 1996 federal election Howard expelled Liberal candidate Hanson for not withdrawing racist remarks. Six months later, 12 days after her famous maiden speech, he told a Liberal gathering:

One of the great changes that have come over Australia in the last six months is that people do feel able to speak a little more freely and openly about how they feel. In a sense, a pall of censorship on certain issues has been lifted … I welcome the fact that people can now talk about certain things without living in fear of being branded as a bigot or a racist.

I in November that year, amid strong criticism that Howard was not arguing the policy case against Hanson, Abbott wrote in The Australian:

If Howard were to answer Hanson point-to-point – rather than just repudiate her views – he would be further elevating a maiden speech that was a mixture of error, exaggeration and truism… Howard’s approach of “I disagree with what she says, but I’m happy to defend her right to say it” and “hate the sin but not the sinner” sits ill with journalism’s tendency to reduce everything to the simplicities of a 1950s western where goodies and baddies can be identified by the colour of their hats.

One Nation was established in 1997. Neither Howard or Abbott were interested in its structure that year or the first half of the next, let alone queried its legality. Howard’s strategy was to contain the One Nation threat – and turn it to his political advantage – by sympathising with Hanson supporters and preferencing One Nation above Labor. He told his partyroom he’d prefer working with One Nation in the Senate to working with the Democrats.

The first half of 1998 was dominated by the Wik debate. Howard threatened to call a double dissolution race election on Wik if the Senate again rejected his ten point plan – which it did in April. Hanson exploited the turmoil by promising to abolish native title. The Queensland National and Liberals decided to preference One Nation at the pending state election.The result – on June 13, 1998 – changed everything. My book Off the rails, records:

One Nation’s Queensland election result greatly exceeded poll predictions and rocked the nation. One Nation attracted a whopping 23 percent of the vote and won eleven seats with the help of National Party preferences. Labor picked up Liberal seats in Brisbane partly due to voter’s disgust with their party preferencing One Nation.

One Nation’s federal support ballooned instantly, and the political establishment was on fire with panic. If Howard called a double dissolution election, the prospect loomed of One Nation snatching a swag of Senate seats at the National Party’s expense and gaining the Senate balance of power. In the rural NSW seat of Gwydir, held by deputy National Party leader and Primary Industry Minister John Anderson, private party polling showed an incredible 49 percent of voters intended to vote One Nation.

Within days John Howard rushed into action. He backflipped on preferences, now pushing for the Liberals to put One Nation last in the impending federal election, and began talks with independent Senator Brian Harradine to reach a compromise on Wik, after having pledged never to amend his ten-point plan. He flew to the Queensland federal National Party seat of Wide Bay, where all three state seats including Maryborough had fallen to One Nation, to be met with antagonism at public meetings and a line-up on new One Nation MPs.

I travelled with Howard on that trip, and he was consistently sympathetic to the One Nation voters who packed his public meetings. He sought to soothe, to explain, to convince. He then flew back to Canberra and backed down on Brian Harradine’s four sticking points on Wik, thus eliminating native title as an election issue for Hanson.

Tony Abbott described the Liberal Party’s post-Queensland strategy switch in the book Two Nations: The causes and effects of the rise of the One Nation Party in Australia (Bookman, 1998), in which commentators including myself wrote essays analysing the Queensland result:

The Queensland pattern suggests that a strong One Nation vote presents the Coalition with two alternatives: conceding government to Labor (by directing preferences against One Nation); or creating a credible rival for the conservative vote (by putting Labor last)…

Obviously, rather than take a high One Nation vote for granted, the only viable Coalition strategy is to find ways of undermining support for the Hansonites. This is no easy matter, given the general fascination with what many still find hard to take more seriously than a political freak show, plus One Nation’s ability to excuse even the most bizarre revelations as beat-ups by the limp-wristed leftie press.

The Coalition could have argued the case, of course – as Jeff Kennett did. It could have softened its treatment of the Hanson underclass, or made more generous transition arrangements for people in dying towns. But Howard wanted to publicly woo the disaffected – and turn them away from Labor – through pandering to prejudices, while destroying One Nation on the quiet.

Within three weeks of the Queensland election, on July 1, Abbott began a parliamentary attack on the structure of one Nation, and really got stuck into it on July 2 (see australianpolitics). His immediate concern was crystal clear – that One Nation would get money in the bank for the first time through public funding. He wanted to stop the money flow so it would be less able to fight the federal election:

One of the key questions is the fate of the $500,000 worth of taxpayers’ money to which it has always been assumed One Nation is entitled in the wake of the Queensland election result. To receive public funding, a party must be registered under the relevant act. …

On July 7, less than a month after the Queensland result, Abbott was in the Brisbane offices of solicitors Minter Ellison with Terry Sharples nutting out a legal subsidy – lawyers supplied for free, out-of-pocket legal expenses guaranteed – for Sharples’ civil case to deregister One Nation. According to Sharples, Abbott said the Liberal connection needed to be kept secret. Important enough, as it turned out, to tell a bare faced lie to Four Corners when it interviewed him on July 31, and to lie again to the Sydney Morning Herald in 2000. He told the truth only when the Herald produced a signed guarantee:

That agreement, a copy of which has been obtained by the Herald, was handwritten by Abbott and promised “my personal guarantee that you will not be further out-of-pocket as a result of this action”. It was witnessed and dated July 11, 1998. (See Tony Abbott’s dirty Hanson trick – and he lied about it, of course)

Note that Abbott omitted to disclose his plot in his book chapter.

Why the need for secrecy? Pretty obvious really. How could Howard woo One Nation voters to preference the Liberals and Nationals above Labor if they knew his Party was soliciting disaffected One Nation members to launch legal action against the Party with the promise of legal funding? The two positions don’t mesh. They are irreconcilable.

According to Abbott on The 7.30 Report, the Sharples arrangement fell apart soon after the Four Corners interview in which he lied about it, and in less than a month he’d set up his Australians for Honest Politics Trust to talk former Hanson staffer Barbara Hazelton into launching legal action against One Nation.

So where does that leave Howard and Abbott? With widespread public outrage across political lines at Hanson’s treatment by the system in comparison to its treatment of sophisticated, moneyed dirty operators like Howard, Abbott and co, they’re in a tight spot. We’re seeing delicately spun spin unravelling under the pressure of its own contradictions. Everytime Howard comes up with a line to back Abbott and distance himself, he proves the case against them both. Mark Twain once said that you never had to remember what you said if you always told the truth.

For example, Howard and Abbott claim Hanson’s jail sentence was too severe. In other words, the party was evil enough to destroy by fair means or foul, yet Hanson didn’t do anything really wrong. Last Friday on Neil Mitchell’s 3AW radio program, Howard even said he disagreed with the party registration requirements which brought Hanson down:

And you’re dealing here with the breach of a law which is not based on something which is naturally a crime. I mean, we have created the offences of because we’ve created a law which requires the registration of political parties – years ago we didn’t require that in this country but I cant really comment on whether the conviction was justified. You’d have to have sat through the hearing. And Im not really making an observation on that. But if you ask me, like many other people, I find the sentence certainly very long and very severe…

Can I talk generally about the issue of registering political parties? Can I just put aside her individual circumstances? I’ve always had some reservations about whether the requirement that you register political parties as justified as necessary, but we’re stuck with it now and I’m not suggesting for a moment that it be changed. And because we have public funding of political parties, there has to be proper accountability in relation to that. But some people would see the law as being somewhat technical because after all people who donated to her political movement were donating to support a particular cause, and they probably felt that they were supporting that cause rather than a particular formal expression of that cause. (transcript)

Tony Abbott’s self-righteous steam and fury at One Nation’s structure was a sham. And so is John Howard.

Waltzing the media, Howard style

John Howard hasn’t just appropriated Pauline Hanson’s policies to stay in power. Remember the signature photo of Hanson wrapped in the Australian flag? Howard’s done the same on the frontpage of his website.

So, what does a man who’s suddenly lost control of the Australia he so dominates do to get on the front foot? After a bad day defending the indefensible Abbott, and some bad trade figures, what better way of reminding the Australian people why they love him, deep down, than to defend Waltzing Matilda?

But you don’t want feral reporters asking about your trials and tribulations, so your spin doctor, Tony O’Leary, calls Channel Seven at about 3.45pm and announces it’s been chosen – as the official rugby network – to come on down to the PM’s office to hear him proselytise for a minute on the song. No-one else is to be told, no other subject is to be raised, and Seven has to give the footage to other media. Hey presto – you’re on all the newses defending our culture and YOU’RE in control. Phew.

Still, it’s all a bit fraught. Howard actually urged Australians to defy the rules of the Rugby people, sort of like One Nation supporters did to the big-party cartel. “I pose the question, how are they going to stop it being sung? You try and stop 82,000 Australians singing Waltzing Matilda, you’ll only make their night.” (full transcript)

Hmmm. Funny thing to say, really, when you’ve spent days defending your parties’ big-money machine abuse of the legal system to stop One Nation and its supporters singing their tune..

Waltzing Matilda is about a battler who’d rather die than be incarcerated by the rich and powerful pastoralists and their enforcers. How would that go today? The squatter (Abbott, rich backers’ gold in pocket) sends another swagman to the billabong to trick our hero into taking a walk, the rat hands our hero to the cops, he’s paid off and our hero goes to jail?

Waltzing Matilda

Banjo Paterson, c. 1890

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong

Under the shade of a coolibah tree

And he sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled

You’ll come a-waltzing matilda with me

Waltzing matilda, waltzing matilda You’ll come a waltzing matilda with me

And he sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled

You’ll come a-waltzing matilda with me

Down came a jumbuck to dri-ink at that billabong

Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee

And he sang as he stuffed that jumbuck in his tucker-bag

You’ll come a-waltzing matilda with me

Waltzing matilda, waltzing matilda You’ll come a waltzing matilda with me

And he sang as he stuffed that jumbuck in his tucker-bag

You’ll come a-waltzing matilda with me

Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred

Up rode the troopers, one, two, three

“Where’s that jolly jumbuck you’ve got in your tucker-bag?”

You’ll come a-waltzing matilda with me

Waltzing matilda, waltzing matilda You’ll come a waltzing matilda with me


Where’s that jolly jumbuck you’ve got in your tucker-bag?”

You’ll come a-waltzing matilda with me

Up jumped the swagman and sprang into that billabong

“You’ll never take me alive!”, said he

And his ghost may be heard as you pa-ass by that billabong

You’ll come a-waltzing matilda with me

The ABC of journalistic precision

A New Millennium Master Class in television political interviewing, by Kerry Green Pen’ O’Brien and our ABC. Excerpts from last night’s 7.30 Report contribution to the Australian Public’s new millennium defence of our secular liberal democracy. My comments in bold.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Tony Abbott, when you established the slush fund to get Pauline Hanson politically, you called it Australians for Honest Politics. Was that some kind of a joke, a bad joke?

A typically ‘biased’ anti-Howard ABC start? Absolutely not. Read the letters pages. Listen to talkback radio. Read Fairfax’s online ‘Your Say’ comments regarding the name: ‘Australians for Honest Politics’. O’Brien – paid by the PUBLIC – is simply given PUBLIC proxy-voice to the common response of millions of wryly-gobsmacked Australians of all stripes. To start with, this dig (to the man who set up the trust and coined the name) is not remotely biased. It’s pure observation. It’s also funny.

TONY ABBOTT, EMPLOYMENT & WORKPLACE RELATIONS MINISTER: Of course it wasn’t and it wasn’t a slush fund. Here’s the Macquarie definition of ‘slush fund’: ‘A fund for use in campaign propaganda or the like, esp. secretly or illicitly, as in bribery.’ ABC bias or apt description? You decide. It had three trustees – myself, two other distinguished Australians, one, Peter Coleman –

KERRY O’BRIEN: You count yourself as a distinguished Australian?

Masterly journalistic footwork; instinctive Australian larrikanism at its fertile best, too. In seven timely and laser-guided words, O’Brien has got right to the heart of the Hanson-to-Liberal voter switcheroo of the last few years. Politicians like Abbott, being mainstream, get away with so much more than fringe-dwellers like One Nation simply by dint of the presumed respectability that comes with main party status. O’Brien isn’t copping it. But not out of ideological spite (that is, not as a matter of bias); instead, he allows Abbott the fair chance to hang himself, to make fully explicit at last, entirely of his own volition, the way in which that fundamental Australian assumption about Liberal (and ALP) politics has been so powerfully exploited by this in fact very radical government. Seven cheeky words getting right at the meat of Howardism’s success. Thank God for instinctive Australian tall-poppy lopping and scepticism, I say.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, it had two distinguished Australians – Peter Coleman, former federal member for the Liberal Party, and John Wheeldon, who was a minister in the Whitlam Government – as its trustees and we had a perfectly honourable intention to fund legal actions to challenge the validity of the registration of the One Nation Party in Queensland. Nothing wrong with that. And ultimately a Supreme Court decision in Queensland vindicated the position we had.

O’Brien has deftly got Abbott to place the lying triple core of his own Hanson hypocrisy AND the fundamentally dishonest inner-workings of John Howard’s version of the ‘political mainstream’ on full display. One – my trust fund included the mainstream respectable anti-Hansonite Righty Peter Coleman! cries Tony. Read Coleman’s transparent attempt in today’s Australian Op-Ed pages to flesh out the thrust of his involvement: that the ‘distinguished’ Liberal Party was simply trying to be perfectly honourable and counter the socially divisive rise of Hansonism all along. Rather than the dirty truth, which is of course that they wanted to knee-cap her in private while simultaneously dog-whistling her voters into their camp, by publicly indulging their nastier whinges and adopting some of her more superficial policies. Though certainly not her flailing anti-globe economic ones, which of course Libs like Abbott (and Lib-benefactors like Dick Honan) are never going to ditch, even though these are what truly drives Hansonism.

Two – my trust fund included the mainstream respectable anti-Hansonite Lefty John Wheeldon! cries Tony. With monstrous gall he even squeezes in dear old Gough’s name, in the usual pre-emptive attempt to neutralise any objections from mainstream Lefties; the Federal ALP, say. (Margo: Wheeldon is now a right-winger linked to radical-conservative magazine Quadrant.)

Three – Abbott laughably invokes the third in his triumvirate of sanctifying political respectability: that bastion of the Oz civic mainstream, which his Liberal Party of course positively despises and which Bishop and Howard and even he himself (in the very same breath!) undermine with their public comments querying the sentence, anyway – those pesky old ‘separation of powers’ Courts.

These three dishonest appeals to the ‘mainstream’ in Abbott’s answer (the Liberal, Labor and Legal establishments), so beautifully teased out by one tart comment from O’Brien, are all critical components of what is the broader Liberal Party defensive move now: trying to cover their grubby tracks by resort to what Abbott (Liberal MP and Minister of the Crown) thinks is still his automatic right to presumptions of political distinguished-ness. This is the core factor in understanding the enduring mainstream electoral tolerance of John Howard’s government of opportunist grubs, even after its embrace of many hitherto fringe-dweller policies. If Hanson The Ratbag says: Turn the boats around by force! she’s a socially divisive fringe-dweller. When Howard The Distinguished Lib deploys the ADF and does just that, why, he’s simply responding sensibly to legitimate mainstream concerns. When Hanson The Ratbag cries: Stuff land rights and bugger the Wog Boat People! she’s a racist. When Howard The Respectable Lib tears Wik to bits and shouts kids overboard, he’s sensibly preferring to focus on practical reconciliation, or voicing mainstream concerns about uncontrolled immigration. It’s all a matter of language and tone and context, isn’t it. Hanson The Ratbag spruiking from the back of a ute in Longreach is a divisive fringe threat to mainstream social cohesion. Howard The Distinguished Lib orating at the Sydney Institute is relaxed and comfortable, reaching out to the respectable Australian mainstream.

The things you can get away with when you wear a nice shiny suit and talk posh, eh?

Except that Kerry O’Brien, with that one superb interjection, coldly reminds Abbott that he and his Party are suddenly, on matters Hanson, as suitlessly, stark-bollocky naked as the wriggling little grubs they have long been. That in the end all the retrospective ‘noice’ talk is just so much self-deluding bullshit. That ultimately, it’s what you’ve DONE (to the country) in your time at the helm, the policies you’ve embraced, that will determine your historical place on the political spectrum. The Libs know it, and a whole lot of the younger, slightly-wetter and more idealistic types who still have long careers ahead of them, are starting to wonder just what Hard-Right Social Policy life might turn out to be like, once Howard himself has triumphantly retired, taking his sanitising sheen with him. Phil Ruddock going to court to KEEP five-year-olds in detention? Our black-clad SAS lads terrifying refugees FROM Saddam? Remove the wholly-manufactured political fiction that is dear, reassuring Mainstream Honest John himself, and it all looks rather excessive, nasty and un-Australian, doesn’t it. Could it be that Howardism without Howard will turn out to be just a little bit rat-bag fringe-ish, a tad mainstream voter-lonely? Yikes! Man the retrospective ‘respectable’ battle-stations, Tony Abbott and the Oik Exploiters Team!

KERRY O’BRIEN: There are a lot of people out there right now who would believe that you’re anything but honest in the way you’ve explained all this.

Watch now as Tony tries to stitch his shredded suit back together.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, I think that I can live with my conscience. (Read: Trust me, mainstream Australia – I’m still The Honourable Member! Honest!) I think it was very important to challenge the Hanson juggernaut back then in 1998. (Read: Trust me, small-l Boomer Liberals and mainstream Boomer Whitlamites: I was on your bleeding heart side all along! Kennett said we should challenge the Hanson juggernaut, too – in public. Like honest gutsy leaders would.) The difference is, Kerry, that a lot of people who were angry with her then feel sorry for her now, and I suppose I do myself, because I think that there’s a sense in which the punishment meted out to her doesn’t really fit the crime, but certainly, at the time, the reality of her so-called party needed to be exposed and I was happy to try to do it. (Read: But if we Libs had done it Jeff’s way and approached Hansonism honestly and healthily in cooling, defusing public debate – that is, if we’d GENUINELY ‘exposed the reality of her party’ IE to open debate – well, her supporters just wouldn’t have voted for us, would they!? And unless we can continue to maintain our hypocritical duality on poor/nasty, hard-done-by/socially-divisive Pauline Hanson now, as I’ve just tried to do here, then they won’t vote for us tomorrow! Certainly not now they’ve found out that the Oik Exploiters Team was nutting her all along!)

KERRY O’BRIEN: We know you established that fund to use Terry Sharples as a stalking horse in 1998.

TONY ABBOTT: No, that’s not right. Stalking Horse: Macquarie definition 2: “Anything put forward to mask plans or efforts; a pretext.” Alstonian biased language, or acute linguistic precision? You decide.


TONY ABBOTT: No. I had dealt with Terry Sharples – I had dealt with Terry Sharples because he was the person who initially was going to bring this legal case to stop Des O’Shea from providing that money to One Nation. Terry Sharples and I came to a parting of the ways and it was after that parting of the ways that I set up the Australians for Honest Politics trust.

KERRY O’BRIEN: But it’s not the first time you talked about money with Terry Sharples?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, I promised that Terry Sharples would not be out of pocket.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Hmm. Well, just on this issue, let’s briefly flash back to the interview you did with Tony Jones on Four Corners which went to air on August 10. You did that interview, I’m told, on July 31, ’98, where you denied any knowledge of any sort of fund for Terry Sharples. We’ll just have a quick look.

In a small stroke of production genius – 7.30 Report supervising producers are Clay Hichens and Phil Kwok – we’re treated to an inset box monitoring Abbott’s death-roll expression, as he is hoist slowly on the petard of his own rank historical lies. A grand use of real-time technology to help give us, the Public, a better chance of grasping the Public Truth. Pictures tell a lot of stories, and for us to be able to watch Abbott’s facial contortions in the next few seconds, which represent a veritable War and Peace of duplicity and deceit, is fabulously civically-inclusive. Abbott’s discomfort? Well, it’s as if we’re rubbernecking on a younger Tony being caught red-handed behind the bike-shed with a dirty magazine by some bruiser Jesuit Brother.


TONY JONES: So there was never any question of any party funds –

TONY ABBOTT: Absolutely not.

Oh dear me. I bet John Howard – Master Obfuscator – has nightmares about that answer for years. Chortle.

TONY JONES: Or other funds from any other source –

TONY ABBOTT: Absolutely not.

I believe the appropriate Spin Doctor post-mortem is: ‘Bugger’.

TONY JONES: Being offered to Terry Sharples?

TONY ABBOTT: Absolutely not.

Poor pious Tony, three times the denier. Perhaps he can find post-political career grace in a seminary? We segue back in on O’Brien, in very best icily-controlled killer mode now. And just how nail-gun precise is this next question – he knows he has to contemporaneously re-pin Abbott to this ‘ancient’ history for it to ‘matter’.


KERRY O’BRIEN: And you’re saying now that wasn’t a lie – not just Liberal Party funds but any other funds?

Check. Abbott’s got two choices: a) just admit that it was a lie back then and brazen it out, or b) try to waffle around it. You can imagine Howard’s spinners positively screaming at the TV at this point, urging him to cut his losses now. Abbott, like all arrogant cooked gooses, takes the fatal second option.

TONY ABBOTT: I had promised that he wouldn’t be out of pocket, but there’s a difference between telling someone he won’t be out of pocket and telling someone that you’re going to have to pay him money.

Check-mate, give or take a few days or weeks. It’s all over. Abbott’s just dug his political grave. O’Brien keeps handing him the tools: shovel, pick-axe, crow-bar…

KERRY O’BRIEN: What’s the difference? If you say to me, “Kerry, you won’t be out of pocket for this”, aren’t I entitled to assume that means you’re going to guarantee the funds for me?

TONY ABBOTT: But the thing was that it was an entirely contingent matter. Money would only have gone from a person who was willing to support this case to Sharples in what I thought was the then-unlikely event of a cost orders being made against him.

…dynamite, hammerdrill, bobcat…

KERRY O’BRIEN: Let’s just look at precisely the question that Tony Jones put to you in ’98. He said, “So there was never any question of any party funds –

TONY ABBOTT: Party funds.

KERRY O’BRIEN: “Or other funds?”.

TONY ABBOTT: Yes and as you’ll notice –

…excavator, steam-shovel, nuclear-powered diamond-driller…

KERRY O’BRIEN: And you didn’t lie in your response when you said, “Absolutely not, absolutely not.”?

Daffy old Tony Abbott seems to be on the way to bloody China!

TONY ABBOTT: And as you’ll notice, Kerry, he said “party funds”. I started to answer the question and I went on to answer the question, but strictly speaking no money at all was ever offered to Terry Sharples. Pro bono lawyers were arranged and someone had offered to stand a costs order, should a costs order be made, but, no, no money was ever offered to Terry Sharples.

It’s true that O’Brien is working with an apparently-willing feed man now, but his professional control and focus and precision is supreme. Watch this methodical filleting unfold now. It’s fantastic television journalism; a towering example of how this medium, in the hands of skilled and experienced professionals operating via a public broadcaster, can help pull down the contemporary firewalls separating the public from the powerful, giving us ALL a chance to see for ourselves the massive, self-serving self-delusions and polite fictions that people like Abbott sustain in their own (respectable, mainstream, pious!) consciences, such that their own dirty, amoral backroom machinations won’t cause them too many sleepness nights.

KERRY O’BRIEN: When you put out your statement last night explaining your position, you were at pains to say that your answer only applied to the first part of the question, that is to Liberal Party funds, but it didn’t apply to the second part of the question – “or other funds”.

TONY ABBOTT: And then I went on to say, strictly speaking no money at all was offered to Terry Sharples, and that’s correct.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Look, by your own admission now, you set up the fund –

TONY ABBOTT: Yes, after – well after –

KERRY O’BRIEN: ..for the Australians for Honest Politics Trust –

TONY ABBOTT: Well after that incident.

KERRY O’BRIEN: ..on August 24.

TONY ABBOTT: That’s correct.

KERRY O’BRIEN: On August 24, 25 days after the interview.


KERRY O’BRIEN: That’s not well after.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, it’s after.

KERRY O’BRIEN: It’s three weeks.

TONY ABBOTT: So I was supposed to say, Kerry –

KERRY O’BRIEN: But nothing was in train?

TONY ABBOTT: So I was supposed to say, “Oh, and by the way, Tony, in a few weeks time I’m going to set up a trust fund that is going to fund a different legal action”? Was I supposed to say that?

KERRY O’BRIEN: And you weren’t working on setting up that fund?

O’Brien’s hoping for a solid denial, because he knows that he and other journos can go on and check this out. He gets it. Another groan from the Spin Doctors, I’ll bet. Abbott’s toast – if there’s still such a thing as Public Truth, that is.

TONY ABBOTT: No, because at that point in time I believe I may still have had some kind of an involvement with Terry Sharples, but after the Sharples matter wasn’t going to progress anywhere, or certainly wasn’t going to progress anywhere with my assistance, I then thought, “Well, it is really important to regularise this whole thing”, and that’s why –

KERRY O’BRIEN: So in the space of three weeks you got around all these other people and organised and set up a trust fund in three weeks?

TONY ABBOTT: You’re amazed by that, are you?


TONY ABBOTT: Well, get real, Kerry.

KERRY O’BRIEN: But you did? You did all that in three weeks?

TONY ABBOTT: Yeah, yeah, sure. Sure.

KERRY O’BRIEN: It must have been really urgent.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, look, it was. Think back, Kerry, to that time. I mean, you were crying, as were so many other people, for someone to stop this terrible Hanson juggernaut.

KERRY O’BRIEN: I was asking questions. I wasn’t crying for anything.

The desperate Abbott having a go at him personally now, but O’Brien’s in masterly control. (‘I was asking questions.’ Priceless.)

TONY ABBOTT: If you go back, Kerry, to the parliamentary debate on 1 July, I think it was, of 1989 – 1998 – Labor speaker after Labor speaker were demanding, screaming, that the Government in general, but I in particular, do something to stop this terrible Hanson woman. Well, I did.

KERRY O’BRIEN: What we’re focusing on was whether you misled the people of Australia –


KERRY O’BRIEN: No, the public, the audience that watched the program.

Priceless. Absolutely priceless. We’re here, all right. We watched. Man, are we watching what you do now with Tony Abbott, Prime Minister.

TONY ABBOTT: And I believe that my answers were justified.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Well, Terry Sharples says you had a meeting with him and others on July 7, ’98, where you offered him $20,000 to cover his legal costs.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, see, I dispute that and I always have.

KERRY O’BRIEN: You did have the meeting though, didn’t you, on July 7?

TONY ABBOTT: Yes, so what? Big deal.

Take a shower, Tony? The last Liberal Party defence: public apathy. I s’pose it might work yet again.

KERRY O’BRIEN: And the question of costs didn’t come up?

TONY ABBOTT: Look, the question of how much it would cost, what would be the possible downside of a court case – sure, that came up.

KERRY O’BRIEN: So you did talk about costs with him and you talked about meeting the costs?

TONY ABBOTT: Yes, but there’s a difference between offering to pay someone money – offering to pay Terry Sharples money – and supporting a legal case.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Where were you going to get the money?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, I’m not going to tell you that, Kerry.

KERRY O’BRIEN: When you offered him the money where were you going to get it from?

TONY ABBOTT: Kerry, I am not going to tell you that.

KERRY O’BRIEN: So you didn’t have a fund in mind?

TONY ABBOTT: No, I didn’t.

KERRY O’BRIEN: You didn’t have a fund in train?

TONY ABBOTT: No, I didn’t at that stage.

KERRY O’BRIEN: But you were confident that you would be able to find money for him, presumably not out of your own pocket?

TONY ABBOTT: Not for him not for him – but for an action, for a legal action.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Let’s not split hairs. Let’s not split hairs.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, let’s not.

KERRY O’BRIEN: It was to fund his action?

TONY ABBOTT: Yes, and there is a world of difference between funding an action or, at least, getting pro bono lawyers to act without charge and having someone who might stand a costs order in the contingency that a costs order might be made and offering him money. I did not offer him money.

KERRY O’BRIEN: And then you offered to underwrite effectively his costs in a legal action. That is money. Costs is money, isn’t it?

So where are we finally at? Well, O’Brien has coldly, relentlessly, irreversibly and brilliantly manoeuvred Abbott into that rock-and-a-hard-place where many of us, probably since about kids overboard, or maybe ‘never-ever GST’ times, or maybe even ironic ‘Honest John’ days, have wanted the Howard Government to be: publicly and unambiguously forced to argue that black is white and two plus two equals five. Read and enjoy (the endgame bold highlights are mine):

TONY ABBOTT: Well, I said that he would not be out of pocket.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Is costs money?


KERRY O’BRIEN: When it really gets down to it, costs is money, isn’t it?

TONY ABBOTT: What I said was that he would not be out of pocket.

KERRY O’BRIEN: He wouldn’t be out of pocket?

TONY ABBOTT: That’s correct.

KERRY O’BRIEN: With money? Money? Cash? Money?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, I said he wouldn’t be out of pocket.

KERRY O’BRIEN: And on July 11 you met him again and you handwrote a guarantee, didn’t you?

TONY ABBOTT: I had sent him a note, but this is not new news, Kerry.

KERRY O’BRIEN: No, but then on July 31 –

TONY ABBOTT: All of this was on the record years ago.

KERRY O’BRIEN: But on July 31, you told Tony Jones – you gave him an “absolutely not” denial about any kind of funds going to Terry Sharples.

TONY ABBOTT: I said that I had not offered him money and I stand by that.

KERRY O’BRIEN: You offered him costs?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, I said that he wouldn’t be out of pocket.

KERRY O’BRIEN: That’s money!

TONY ABBOTT: Oh, come on, Kerry.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Tony Abbott, that is money. Let me hear it from your lips — that is money!

TONY ABBOTT: Let’s move on. I did not offer to pay Terry Sharples any money.

KERRY O’BRIEN: You offered to cover his costs.

TONY ABBOTT: But I did not offer to pay Terry Sharples any money.

KERRY O’BRIEN: I think the audience understands that costs is money, so we’ll move on..

You bet your toasted political arse we do, Tony.


If John Howard won’t sack Abbott then John Howard presumably believes that court costs are not money, too. That, of course, is a matter for the Liberal Party and its supporters to address. Though a Minister of the Crown who truly believes such a thing, and says so right out there in public, should, I submit with some embarrassment, more properly be regarded as occupying a place on the Australian political spectrum some considerable way beyond the conspiratorial fringe of even we Lunar Lefty Greens and Redneck Righty Hansonites.

Certainly not in the ‘respectable mainstream’, anyway. Then again, I’m not an economist, and don’t fully understand Tony Abbott’s new-fangled Market Theory ways.

But it does pay to remember, when reflecting on this fine piece of Public Broadcasting, that the 7.30 Report specifically, and the ABC more broadly, is under considerable attack from such Ministers right now. (If Abbott can’t grasp that court costs are money, then what on earth would he make of a more complex fiscal concept like ABC funding!?) And if Australian Citizens think that programs that enable interviews like this one are worth defending in the Australian Public Interest, then maybe you should drop the show an encouraging line at guestbook.

Where-ever you stand politically, I think that this sort of work is an incredibly important check-and-balance component of our threatened secular liberal democracy, and as such deserves our strongest possible support. The ABC has its shortcomings just like every other part of the Australian Public Polity, but when it works – and it mostly does – then it works for nobody but us Australian Citizens. Bravo, Kerry O’Brien. Bravo 7.30 Report. Bravo, Aunty.

Hanson to sue Abbott?


Tony Abbott image found by Webdiarist Harry Heidelberg.

Tony Abbott pulled a cashbox together to solicit and fund court cases by disgruntled One Nation types to destroy One Nation. Is that legal? Can Hanson now sue HIM for damages?

Today’s Sydney Morning Herald editorial, The deceit of Tony Abbott, raised this intriguing question:

It is one thing, however, to wish to counter a political threat. It is another to actively promote and assist in legal proceedings to that end. Mr Abbott is not entitled to lie later about his involvement in this activity, whether to the media, a constituent, or the Parliament. Mr Abbot now concedes he twice arranged pro-bono lawyers to assist Mr Sharples. His actions have a whiff of the old offence of maintenance and champerty, meddling in another’s law suit for his own advantage.

Webdiarist Jozef Imrich alerted me to a piece by Ken Parish, a law lecturer at the Northern Territory University who thinks Abbott could be in hot legal water. Here’s an extract from the piece on his weblog troppoarmadillo:

What interests me more about the “slush” fund revelation is whether Abbott, and others involved in its establishment (including allegedly Peter Costello’s father-in-law Peter Coleman), may have committed the tort of maintenance, which would allow Pauline Hanson to sue them for damages. (Mike Seccombe’s revelations about the Costello connection are at Howard knew of slush fund to target Hanson.) Here’s what Butterworths Halsbury’s Laws of Australia has to say about the tort of maintenance:

Maintenance consists of unjustifiable support or promotion of civil litigation in which the person has no direct or legitimate interest and may be accomplished by assisting either the plaintiff or the defendant in the proceedings without lawful justification. Champerty is an aggravated form of maintenance which consists of unlawfully maintaining an action, or a suit, upon an agreement to receive a share of any proceeds from the litigation. The torts of maintenance and champerty are actionable by a person who is caused special damage by the intermeddling. Both torts are of decreasing importance and have been abolished in some jurisdictions. Both wrongs also constituted a criminal offence.

The essential element of impropriety in an action for either maintenance or champerty is the officious intermeddling in, and supporting of, litigation in which the defendant has no legitimate interest. The intermeddling of the defendant must be shown to be intentional but there is no requirement of proof of malice or to show that the intermeddling was without reasonable and probable cause. The torts are applicable only to intermeddling in civil litigation and do not apply to assistance provided in criminal prosecutions, nor for intermeddling in administrative proceedings which are not contested litigation.

The most common way of committing maintenance is by providing financial assistance to a litigant, either by lending money to permit the bringing of the suit, or by bearing the full or partial costs of the litigation. It is not champerty for a solicitor to act for a client without means and to bear counsels fees and other disbursements where the solicitor has considered the case and has a bona fide belief in the clients cause of action or defence, and there has been no bargain with the client for a share of any proceeds from the litigation. However, champerty will lie where a legal practitioner engages in speculative litigation on an agreement to receive a proportion of any damages recovered.

It is a defence to the tort of maintenance or champerty that the person interfering in the litigation has an interest recognised by law in the proceedings. Where there is a genuine and legitimate common business interest between the maintainer and the maintained in the result of litigation, some activities in support of litigation may be justifiable. A legitimate common interest may also be found in a direct and substantial pecuniary interest in the outcome of litigation such as contracts of indemnity, or contracts of insurance. It must be shown that the activity which constitutes some intermeddling in, or support of, the litigation is a proper method of seeking to protect the common interest. It is possible, but exceptional, to be able to justify a champertous agreement on the basis of common interest.

Acts which are prima facie maintenance or champerty may be justified on a range of grounds which include the relationship of master and servant, kinship, compassion and charity. Where reliance is placed upon charity as justifying an intermeddling it must be shown that there is a genuine belief in the litigants impecuniosity. However, it is not necessary to show that the litigant is in fact destitute and otherwise incapable of engaging in litigation without assistance. Charity to assist the poor includes the situation where the litigant has assets which cannot be reached or used. The privilege will not afford a defence where the intermeddler has sought to promote his or her private interests and it is very difficult to justify champerty on the basis of such relationships of privilege.


Ken Parish comments:

As far as I can see on a very quick search, although the tort of maintenance has been abolished in several States, it still exists in Queensland. Moreover, it’s difficult to see Abbott and his fellow Sharples benefactors successfully making out any of the defences discussed above. Hanson may yet have the last laugh.

I actually have some practical professional experience with the tort of maintenance. Some years ago I acted for then NT Labor Opposition Leader Bob Collins in obtaining a Supreme Court injunction against the entire NT Cabinet after a Minister had been forced to reveal in the media that the Government had agreed to fund defamation litigation by former Chief Minister Ian Tuxworth against Bob Collins. Apparently the agreement to fund Tuxworth’s litigation had been made as part of a secret deal to get him to agree to resign quietly as Chief Minister in favour of another CLP nominee thought to have better electoral prospects. My morning in court as junior counsel was a personally memorable one. Not only was I suing the entire Cabinet on behalf of the Labor Opposition, but spectators in the public gallery included then right wing heavy and federal minister Graham Richardson. The argument got off to a seemingly disastrous start as soon as my senior counsel got to his feet and announced our appearances. The presiding judge, Justice John Nader, demanded to know in an imperious tone: “This isn’t another one of your political stunts is it, Mr McDonald and Mr Parish? I won’t have my court turned into a three ring political circus!”

Senior counsel then proved why his daily charge rate was much higher than mine. “Of course not, Your Honour, nothing could be further from the truth. This is simply a legal argument about whether an interlocutory injunction should be awarded on ordinary legal principles to restrain the commission of an ongoing and prima facie serious actionable civil wrong committed against a citizen of the Northern Territory.” It was, as Richo observed afterwards in tones of awe-struck admiration, one of the most brazen lies he’d ever heard in a courtroom. Justice Nader must have been impressed too. He gave us the injunction, and the entire case settled soon afterwards on terms not to be disclosed.


Ken’s readers have already posted some interesting thoughts on Hanson’s case against Abbott. Have a look – it’s worth it.

OK, Webdiary lawyers, please tell us all about it. You’ll get the facts in Tony Abbott’s dirty Hanson trick – and he lied about it, of courseAbbott set up slush fund to ruin Hanson and Howard knew of slush fund to target Hanson. What are the chances of Hanson succeeding in a civil action against Abbott, Costello’s father-in-law and the other organisers of the Australians for honest politics trust? Provided you prove your bona fides, I’m happy to publish your thoughts under a nom de plume.

And are there any experts in political donation disclosure requirements? The Commonwealth Electoral Commission queried Abbott about letting the people know who donated to the ‘trust’ and he said he didn’t have to disclose donations because “the entire purpose of Australians for Honest Politics was to fund legal actions against One Nation”. The Commission dropped it – why? Later, the Commission acknowledged during a Senate committee hearing that this could amount to a giant loophole in disclosure of the donors to political parties. Set up a fund to destroy an opponent and it’s not a donation to the Liberal Party!!!

So what does the Commission’s legal opinion say, and did they ever get one? The Commission has shut its mouth. It will say nothing. The Commission must be independent, scrupulous and fearless because it is the steward of a fair electoral system, the foundation stone of a functioning democracy. So why won’t it talk to us?

If you go to electoralcommissioncontacts, at the bottom of the form is a feedback link. The Commission says: We welcome your feedback on our performance.

If you have any questions for Mr Abbott in his capacity as a Cabinet Minister, his email is tonyabbott. If the member for the Sydney North Shore seat of Warringah is your MP, his personal webpage is attonyabbottMP.

Now Abbott lies about lying, copies Howard’s Manildra

Tony Abbott is fighting for his political skin, but he still can’t lie straight in bed. Last night, he put out a statement suggesting he did not lie to the ABC. Why? You guessed it, he was only replying to the first part of the question! And, you mightn’t guess this, because offering to pay Terry Sharples’ legal expenses was not offering money!

He’s learnt from the master deceiver and has done a Manildra!

The Four Corners question from Tony Jones was: So there was never any question of any party or other funds from any other source being offered to Terry Sharples?

Abbott: Absolutely not.

In his statement last night, Abbott said:

“I replied, in response to the first part of the question: ‘Absolutely not.’ No Liberal funds were at any stage offered or involved.”

But Tony, the question asked was whether any Liberal Party OR OTHER FUNDS were at any stage involved. He must be taking lessons from the master, because that was how Howard tried to get out of lying to Parliament this month (See Howard meets Honan: You be the judge whether he lied about it).

Abbott’s second attempt to say black is white and lies are true was to suggest that the trust was set up after the interview. So it took him only three weeks to set up a trust and sign the trust deed? Yes, Abbott told Kerry O’Brien on the 7.30 Report last night. He set up the trust to find other disgruntled One Nation members to legally destroy One Nation when his prior arrangement with Sharples fell over.

But that proves the lie, doesn’t it, because he’d denied any funds from any source being offered to Sharples. No, said Abbott, because offering to pay legal costs is not “funding” the legal case or paying “money” for it. And when he made the promise to Sharples – before conceiving the trust idea – where was he going to get the money? “I’m not going to tell you,” Abbott told Kerry, and he’s not going to tell us who donated to the trust, either. Oh dear, we’re getting too close to the shadow world of big power and big money which manipulates our democracy for its own ends, aren’t we? Way too close.

Abbott signed a note on July 11, 1998, long before the Four Corners interview, personally guaranteeing to fund the Sharples case. Here are the relevant extracts from Deborah Snow’s piece on Abbott in the Herald in 2000:

Abbott’s troubles began with a meeting he instigated with Sharples at the Brisbane offices of solicitors Minter Ellison on July 7, 1998. … The meeting discussed how to raise money for a court application by Sharples to stop public funds being paid to One Nation. Within days, the action had been mounted and would ultimately succeed – although not without a massive and convoluted falling-out of the anti-One Nation players along the way.

What has been at issue since is to what extent Abbott promised to bail Sharples out if he got into financial difficulty (Sharples is now being sued for bankruptcy by One Nation in Queensland).

At the original Minter Ellison meeting, Sharples maintains, Abbott asked him to “keep his name out of things” because, claims Sharples, Abbott didn’t want the action seen to be connected with anyone from the Liberal Party. A few days later, Sharples asked Abbott for a written undertaking to cover Sharples’s costs.

That agreement, a copy of which has been obtained by the Herald, was handwritten by Abbott and promised “my personal guarantee that you will not be further out-of-pocket as a result of this action”. It was witnessed and dated July 11, 1998. A few days later, when interviewed by the ABC’s Four Corners, Abbott denied any such deal existed.

When the Herald first put to him Sharples’s claim that he’d promised money at the outset to be paid into a solicitor’s trust account, Abbott said: “No, it’s not correct.” But later he concedes: “I had secured the agreement of a donor to provide up to $10,000, if necessary, to cover any costs award made against Sharples. This person had no connection whatsoever with the Liberal Party. That was the basis of my letter. I wouldn’t accept that it was an indemnity. (The full extract is at Tony Abbott’s dirty Hanson trick – and he lied about it, of course.)

This is where the ‘distinction’ between paying legal costs and funding the legal action comes in. Kerry blew him away on that bit of sophistry. Indeed, I have never seen a senior politician so humiliated on TV since Kerry put to John Hewson, then Liberal leader, the results of Liberal Party polling he hadn’t seen. Nothing like a bit of forensic interviewing to expose Abbott’s fangs. You’re not an advocate, you’re supposed to be an interviewer, he said, and his glare was a sight to behold at interview end. Watch out Kerry – The Government’s gunna get you for this.

Yesterday afternoon, the Herald’s Mike Seccombe put a series of questions to John Howard on his knowledge of and involvement in Abbott’s honest politics trust fund, and what action he would take about Abbott’s lie to the Australian people. Lo and behold, out popped Abbott’s statement last night. That’s means Howard is worried.

Unrepentant yesterday when he spoke to the Herald, Abbott now says sorry for responding to Deborah Snow’s request for the reason he lied to the ABC with: “Misleading the ABC is not quite the same as misleading the parliament as a political crime.”

Abbott last night: “It is not acceptable to mislead the public. I should not have responded flippantly to the SMH’s question and I am sorry that I did so.”

But last night, when Kerry O’Brien asked, “Did you mislead the ABC?” Abbott replied, “I don’t believe I did.”

Abbott tried to squirm out of his crisis with a tricky press releases designed to confuse people so much they’d drop the story. They won’t Tony. Have you ever considered the strategy of being honest? The idea is that if you come clean, admit your sin, apologise and say you’ve learnt your lesson and won’t do it again, you leave room for generosity by the victims, and perhaps even forgiveness.

Herald reader John Mitchell wrote today: “In defence of my local MP Tony Abbott, who lives not only in my suburb but even in my own street, I must refer readers to the flyer circulated by Mr Abbot before the last federal elections. It focuses in detail on his personal life, stating that he is of high moral tone, a devout catholic and attends church regularly to pray with his wife and family. I cannot see how such a person could be accused of all these dreadful political shenanigans.”

Abbott went on John Laws’ radio show this morning to save himself, and Howard gave a doorstop to hose down the drama. Abbott is determined to keep Howard out of it: He told Kerry that “I was doing this entirely on my own.” Did Howard do anything to stop his efforts to destroy One Nation in the Courts? “Should he have?” Abbott replied.

Here’s the Howard transcript – notice he he won’t commit himself to backing Abbott’s honesty – then the relevant extract from Abbott’s statement last night.

Abbott’s tactics replicate the Government’s con in the last week of the 2001 election campaign, when Admiral Shackleton blew the lid on the children overboard lie by saying it never happened, then, under pressure from Reith and co, signed his name to a government prepared statement saying defence had advised the government that it had happened. The statement omitted, of course, the fact that defence had corrected the mistake several times but the government ignored it. The statement did the trick – Howard was able to slide around the truth until election day, and even accused questioners of accusing Shackleton of lying!!! (SeeRed light questions and Circling the wagons, written two days before the election, and Rotten corpse of an election published on election eve.)



Subject: Tony Abbott

Q: Mr Howard, you said on Friday that your party had nothing to do with the Pauline Hanson fighting fund (inaudible)?

PM: Well look can I just, I’ll come to the detailed questions in a minute but this whole thing has got quite out of proportion. No politician has been involved in any way with the criminal prosecution of Pauline Hanson. Peter Beattie wasn’t involved, Tony Abbott wasn’t, I wasn’t, Kim Beazley wasn’t, Simon Crean wasn’t. Pauline Hanson was prosecuted for a crime by the independent Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions and I think all of this suggestion coming from the Labor Party that in some way Mr Abbott was involved in the prosecution is an attempt to represent him as having something that he hasn’t been. So I just think everybody ought to take a shower and sort of calm down and get the thing back into perspective.

Q: Why were you surprised at the sentence Pauline Hanson received?

PM: Well I made a comment on the size of the sentence, and I don’t really have anything to add to that. People know my view on that and I don’t have anything to add to it. But I just want to emphasise that she was the subject of a criminal prosecution, Abbott had nothing to do with the criminal prosecution, neither did Beattie, I mean I want to make that clear, any suggestion that Mr Beattie had anything to do with the criminal prosecution is ludicrous as well. I just think we all should get a hold of the thing and keep the thing in perspective.

(Margo: Howard said this last Friday. On Sunday, Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop said Hanson was “a political prisoner and pointed the finger at Queensland Premier Peter Beattie. Last night – THREE DAYS AFTER HOWARD CLEARED BEATTIE OF WRONGDOING – she went further on Lateline, accusing Beattie, without a shred of evidence, of directing the Queensland Director of Prosecutions to lay the charges against Hanson. This is the gravest charge that can be laid at any politicians door, let alone any DPP’s, and comes in the face of a categorical denial by Beattie this week. (Beattie maintains distance from Hanson jailing).

I ask: Is Howard running one line while allowing attack dog Bishop to run the other to take the heat off Abbott and smear Labor? Disgusting, isn’t it. An extract from the debate:

CRAIG EMERSON: I ask you to withdraw your outrageous statement about the Premier of Queensland being involved in some sort of corrupt way which were involved in the prosecution of Pauline Hanson or resign. You withdraw that or resign right here and now.

BRONYWN BISHOP: The statement I made, and I stand by it all the way, is that it was a political decision taken by the Beattie Government to prosecute Pauline Hanson under the fraud – under the Crimes Act for fraud. That is a political –

CRAIG EMERSON: The decision was made by the DPP and you know it.)



Q: Abbott did mislead the public, so should he be sacked?

PM: Look Abbott has answered for that and you go and talk to Abbott, he’s made a statement.

Q: Mr Howard, when did you learn about the establishment of the anti-Hanson fund?

PM: Well it was in the media five years ago. Look, it’s five years ago, I would of I guess become aware of it around about that time, but I can’t tell you exactly when, I mean I have hundreds of conversations with hundreds of people every week, to ask me to remember every conversation. But the important thing is that it was disclosed in the media in August of 1998 and he made no secret of it.

Q: Are you happy with Ministers of your Government being involved in destabilising other parties like that?

PM: Well it’s the job of the Liberal Party to politically attack other parties, theres nothing wrong with that –

Q: – setting up the fund

PM: Well look he was quite open about it, and one of the trustees of the fund is a former Labor Party Minister.

Q: Has he mislead the public, do you think he has?

PM: Well Mr Abbott says he didn’t, you have a look at his statement and I’ve always found Tony Abbott a very honest man.

Q: Do you support his conduct on this matter?

PM: Look Tony Abbott was open in his attacks on One Nation, One Nation was a political rival of ours and I don’t regard it as wrong of one of my colleagues to attack political rivals. But the core of the thing is that he wasn’t involved in her criminal prosecution, now that’s really end of story. She was convicted as a result of a prosecution bought by the Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions, not as a result of Tony Abbott establishing some kind of fund. I mean we’ve all lost sight of that and in the process people think he’s in some way responsible for things that hes not responsible for.


Tony Abbott media release, August 26


A question has arisen about an answer I gave to Four Corners given that I subsequently established a Trust to fund legal challenges to the validity of the registration of One Nation in Queensland. I should make it clear that the answer I gave to Four Corners preceded the formation of the Trust.

On the Four Corners programme broadcast on August 10 1998, I was asked: “So there was never any question of any party or other funds from any other source being offered to Terry Sharples?” I replied, in response to the first part of the question: ‘Absolutely not.’ No Liberal Party funds were at any stage offered or involved.

Strictly speaking, no money at all had been offered. The lawyers I organised were acting without charge and the support for costs which I had promised would only become an issue in the event of a costs order being made against Sharples.

Much later, after Sharples had launched legal action against me claiming open-ended damages arising from my promise that he would not be out of pocket, my solicitor offered to settle Sharples’ claim for $10,000. Sharples rejected this and I have never paid him any money.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on March 11 2000: “Challenged about the conflict between this (that is the solicitor’s offer to Sharples) and his denial on Four Corners, Abbott initially replies, ‘Misleading the ABC is not quite the same as misleading the public as a political crime’.”

It is not acceptable to mislead the public. I should not have responded flippantly to the SMH’s question and I am sorry that I did so….


You’ll be unsurprised to learn that Abbott has not published this disgraceful statement on his ministerial website.

Bring on the real agendas

G’Day. The Hanson story is hot, fast and fascinating – so I skipped my week off. Tonight, the indefatigible Antony Lowenstein, F2 trainee and Webdiary groupie, gives us the lowdown on how the commentators are telling the Hanson story. For One Nation background see australianpolitics.

Bring on the real agendas

by Antony Loewenstein

Depressingly predictable agendas are the order of the day for media commentators, however since the jailing of Pauline Hanson and David Ettridge last week, a new kind of political orthodoxy has emerged. The attack dogs have fallen relatively silent, if not (self?) muzzled, and the liberal press have resumed their attacks on Hanson as a policy-maker, rather than seriously addressing the reasons behind her continued popularity, if not current martyrdom.

The media’s continued blackout on the ever increasing gap between those who feel empowered in Australia (and less likely to support Hanson) and those who feel disillusioned and removed from decision making, will hurt all Australians in the long run. The us-v-them dynamic must stop, and commentators in the media must begin to take responsibility for their continued obsession with primarily discussing the Big Two Parties whilst ignoring the growing undercurrent of alternative voices. Are some racist? Yes. Are some likely to increase division in society? Unquestionably. But if those in positions of power aren’t engaging in this debate, it’s clear what the outcome will be. Societal cracks are already beginning to show.

SMH’s editorial on August 22, Hanson’s Tawdry Martyrdom, suggested that:

The jailing of Hanson and Ettridge will strengthen the conviction that the established political parties have long been out to destroy One Nation – while quietly accepting many of its policies. There is something in this. In reality, though, the destruction of One Nation and the political careers of Hanson and Ettridge was pretty much all their own work.

To the letter of the law, the judgement may well have been correct in Queensland law, despite a possibly harsh sentence from Judge Patsy Wolfe. However, how do we explain the outpouring of support for Hanson despite the fundamental rightness of the guilty verdict?

The Australian editorial on August 22 had a whiff of condescension, arguably the kind of attitude that increases her support:

Perhaps Hanson is in prison for breaking a law she did not understand – if so, it demonstrates the fatal flaw that was always likely to destroy her career. Just as she never appeared to understand trade and tax policy or why immigration and indigenous affairs could not be easily altered to her prescription, she did not realise that improperly registering One Nation could destroy her. (Hanson was the architect of her sad fate)

Rupert’s Herald Sun took a conciliatory tone on August 22 with an editorial that was unkind on Hanson’s crimes but critical of her sentence. (Hanson’s price)

The Australian’s Steve Lewis Poll rorting’s fine for the big players states quite clearly that our political landscape is a sick one, allowing serious corruption to continue unchecked while small fry like Hanson are given harsh sentences:

Still, she did not deserve to be jailed for three years for the crime of using members of her supporters’ group to register One Nation as a political party. Where’s the justice when Alan Bond served just four years for stripping more than $1 billion from Bell Resources, ripping off countless investors? And where’s the justice when the main political parties routinely engage in shady electoral dealings which, for the most part, are completely unpunished?

The Sunday Age had the most powerful editorial, Pauline Hanson Still Walks Among Us, issuing a blunt challenge to the major political parties (and he media?):

There is a better way to fight Hanson however, and that is to openly discuss the threat racist ideas pose to our social cohesion and future in the region. Xenophobia is an irrational emotion; in a nation of immigrants, with a history of social tolerance, it should not have a natural place. Hanson’s rise and fall also reminds us of the importance of leadership. Without it, fear and hatred affect political outcomes. Hanson’s fortunes are in decline, but unfortunately her influence continues, even behind bars.

Overseas coverage was widespread, especially in our region, but the UK’s Independent on August 21 in Far-right firebrand Hanson is jailed for electoral fraud cited the most salient Hanson quote of recent times:

The reason why I got into politics was actually to make a difference. When you have the government and the Prime Minister take up your policies, I think I have made a difference.

On August 25, Herald Sun commentator Andrew Bolt suggested that Pauline had committed a crime but had already done her time. Bolt seemed to be encouraging more parties of similar pedigree to One Nation, if “we want to encourage new parties, new voices, new ideas”:

No party has been so vilified. None have had their supporters so regularly threatened, spat on, abused and even punched. No party leader has been so viciously caricatured as a racist and a moron. Hanson, for all her sins, forced the big parties to stop treating these voters like mushrooms, and that has to have restored the “confidence of people in the electoral process”. (Free Pauline Hanson)

Is Bolt seriously suggesting that One Nation has brought greater accountability to the Liberal or Labor parties? And more seriously, is Bolt encouraging new parties with hateful policies, rather than supporting those who aim for social harmony and inclusiveness? His flirting with the politics of the lunar right is welcome in an inclusive media environment, but the question remains: does he want Hanson released simply to annoy the “elites” in society whom have long disliked her (and him)?

Alan Ramsay’s Don’t Cry For a Sleazy Grub column in last weekend’s SMH pulled no punches, and Mike Carlton heaped on the vitriol in Too Severe on Stupidity:

Hatred piled upon ignorance, bigotry heaped upon stupidity, she was the exemplar of George Bernard Shaw’s ‘feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy’.

Naturally, this was seen as the “sneering of these little cappuccino-quaffing journalists”, to quote my the Herald’s Paul Sheehan. Even today her media hagiographers like to affect the notion that she spoke an intrinsic Aussie truth which has escaped those lofty elitists who befuddle their brains by actually reading a book or two.”

These views are undoubtedly shared by many SMH readers, but they don’t engage or attempt to explain her popularity, and moreover, give ammunition to those who accuse the media of treating Hanson with utter contempt ever since her maiden speech. Shaun Carney had a more reasoned discussion of the Hanson legacy in Saturday’s AgeHoward the Invincible? His piece highlights the fickle nature of Australian politics. Howard may well be the man for the times, as is often argued, but here he explains the frequently misguided analysis by many in the media. Are Hansons’ ghosts likely to give Howard another helping hand come the 2004 election? And how much did Hanson contribute to an environment in which Howard could suffocate all opposition?

To read the commentary, he [Howard] has every card in the deck. No matter what the Labor Party does, Howard’s supremacy is beyond question. Australian politics is not even considered a contest! Howard has the threat of terrorism on his side. Voters are frightened and Howard makes them feel safe. They want him to stay put. They do not care that he did not tell them the truth about weapons of mass destruction and the reasons for waging war on Iraq, or the children overboard, or his meeting with ethanol boss Dick Honan. Whatever he is doing, it is worth it. He is the great father figure of the nation who the people feel will protect them. This is the analysis and, all up, it is not very persuasive.

Piers Akerman in the Daily Telegraph was remarkably restrained in Three years too long for stupidity. He argued that Hanson was stupid, no more or less:

Before attempting to portray Mrs Hanson as a martyr, or more insanely as a political prisoner and an heir to Nelson Mandela’s heroic legacy, her supporters might ask themselves whether they want a return to a corrupt governmental process that for so long protected crooked Queensland politicians and rotten police officers.

Tellingly, there was no mention of Akerman’s good mate Tony Abbott. Questions remain as to the closeness of Akerman and Abbott, and whether Akerman is well aware of his friend’s role in the case.

The only way to maturely cope with the issues raised by Hanson is not to simply dismiss them as simplistic, racist or discriminatory, (though they may well be), but to engage the wider community in discussions about the issues of the day. Whether that is multiculturalism, immigration or economic rationalist policy, the personal impact of major party policy cannot be ignored any longer. Or the double standards.

A few words on the so-called “elites” and the ramifications for Hansonism. It’s a term loosely thrown around by commentators and politicians alike, and has become a powerful weapon in silencing dissent in Australia. It’s been used to dismiss journalists, lawyers, doctors, ABC reporters and intellectuals, amongst others. Howard has brilliantly tapped into the vein of distrust by many Australians towards those who supposedly rule us. Professor David Flint, Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Authority, recently published The Twilight of the Elites, which sums up the arguments of Howard, Abbott, Hanson and co, as does a recent op-ed piece:

So those who dare present the traditional views of most Australians are inevitably branded as conservative, or worse. But members of the elite commentariat are presented to the public as if they are mainstream – which of course they are not. If you believe in cultural relativism, or that crime should not be followed by punishment, or that our borders should be thrown open – in sum if you oppose traditional institutions and values – you are hardly in the mainstream.

The message is blunt: If you diverge from the government line on the big issues, beware. As Tony Abbott said in launching Flint’s book:

The problem is that too many people in the commanding intellectual heights of our society have in recent times thought that because they might have been better educated and arguably better informed than the general public, they were therefore better people, and when it comes to making basic value judgements, there’s no reason why a professor is going to be intrinsically better at that than a shopkeeper and I think that’s the mistake that the elites, in inverted commas, have tended to make.

But I think that it would be fair to say that there is a world view in the ABC and in the Fairfax Press which tends to have very different views on, for argument’s sake, the three Rs, republicanism, refugees and reconciliation, than those of the majority of the Australian public.

Perhaps the barrage of criticisms from the right side of politics will force the left to learn more persuasive ways to engage the greater public. Hansonism is but one representation of an insecurity felt throughout Australia, an Australia rarely discussed in the mainstream media. Ideologues on both sides of politics have clouded the issues for too long.

In late 2002, Professor John Quiggin argued in How Power Elites work in Australia that the political landscape in Australia has split to the extent that neither side appears willing to listen to the other. The result is a force like Hansonism:

Keating’s new agenda attracted strong support from some members of the elite – these are the people that John Howard talks about when he uses the term ‘elite’. But the economic rationalists were either indifferent or actively hostile, particularly when proposals for Aboriginal land rights clashed with the interests of the mining industry, the chief financier of Australia’s free-market think tanks.

With the election of John Howard, and his advocacy (punctuated by occasional backflips) of the social agenda represented by Pauline Hanson, positions hardened. Today, the Australian elite is divided in much the same way as the population as a whole, between a right-wing group which favours both free markets and a conservative or reactionary social agenda, and a left-wing group which supports republicanism and reconciliation, and opposes free-market reform.

The main difference between the elite and the population as a whole is the absence of any group corresponding to the One Nation support base, opposing both free-market policies and social liberalism. Because of this absence, the Australian elite is both more ‘economically rationalist’ and more ‘socially progressive’ than the population as a whole. However, it is increasingly uncommon to find both traits in the same person.

In late 2001, the Whitlam Institute released Battlers vs Elites, which deconstructed the term “elite” and attempted to explain the processes through which Australia would have to pass to reach a greater understanding of itself. It would not come through name-calling, or petty putdowns. Rather it would come through an inclusive policy by political parties interested in engaging the greatest number of people. The question needs to be asked however: do the major parties really want to understand those members of the public with supposedly distasteful views?

Our attention to the incidence of the rubric of “elites” and its populist alternative “the mainstream” has a straightforward aim: to draw notice to how these rubrics are inseparable from the propagating of the policies of Howardism; and to note the particular provenance of “elite theory.” Howardism will pass but not without struggle, precisely the kind of struggles – over the complexities of and inequities currently inscribed in social relations of class and “race” and gender and sexuality and region, for example – it seeks to deny.

Finally, Angela Bennie had a fascinating article in last weekend’s Herald about the role of the public intellectual and his/her importance in fostering debate and new ideas (Missing in Action). It goes to the heart of the kind of country Hanson and Howard have forged in the last seven years, an environment of shutting down dissent, and most disturbingly, forcing the so-called elites to whisper their views on the periphery of society rather than fully engaging in mainstream Australia.

Australian writer and critic Ivor Indyk sums up the challenges ahead:

Australians have an ambivalence about the very word intellectual, because that person is perceived to be claiming a position of authority. It smacks to them of elitism. And that goes against the Australian egalitarian idea. Most of the people who do speak out on public issues are academics, who therefore come with institutional backing. So do people who come from those so-called think tanks.

I also believe the public intellectual has a position in the community that has to be fought for, striven for. The role is not just a given, it emerges at certain moments in the public’s time of crisis or need. It is the public who invests them with authority when they speak out at certain times in the community’s life. That is the time it is right for them to be heard. And that’s when the public listens and invests them with this particular authority.

Only when Australia cherishes the art of the dialogue, rather than the monologue, can we can call ourselves a truly progressive nation. And only then we may fully understand the legacy still being written by Hanson and Howard.

Tony Abbott’s dirty Hanson trick – and he lied about it, of course

It was somewhere down in Toffsville in a city’s smoke and steam,

That a blueblood club existed, called the Oik Exploiters Team.

As a Privatising Greed-Gang ’twas a marvellous success,

For the Members were distinguished by unseen, unscreened largesse.

They had ‘economic policies’ so nice and smooth and sleek,

(‘Cos their opportunist owners changed the bastards once a week.)

And they started up for Oxley in pursuit of Anti-votes,

For they meant to (quietly) help these angries hit their angry notes.

Despatched their useful ‘Leader’ (social-climbing Sydney grub),

‘Ere they started operations on the Anti-Every Club.

G’Day. As you read Howard’s blather on Hanson today (PM labels Hanson’s jail sentence ‘severe’), bear in mind that his close mate and political hatchet man Tony Abbott – the bloke who hand-picked the appalling David Oldfield to work in his Canberra office – was involved in destroying One Nation.

Last night’s Johnathan Harley Lateline report Hanson’s fall the result of long campaign is instructive. Abbott got disaffected One Nation member Terry Sharples a barrister with close Liberal Party connections to mount a civil case against the registration of One Nation and promised Sharples he’d help fund the case. He denied this on the record to Four Corners. When confronted with a document proving his lie, he said misleading the ABC was not as bad as misleading Palriament. We know from the last couple of weeks that misleading parliament is cool these days. Here’s an extract from Deborah Snow’s SMH feature Absolute Abbottpublished March 11, 2000.

After One Nation shocked the Coalition by winning 11 seats in Queensland in June 1998, Abbott determined to dig up every piece of dirt he could on Hanson and her associates. He soon hooked up with Terry Sharples, a Gold Coast accountant and disgruntled One Nation candidate.

Sharples had evidence he believed could show One Nation had fraudulently registered as a political party in Queensland. This was potential dynamite. If successful, it could stop One Nation receiving half a million dollars of public money under the State’s electoral funding laws, money that otherwise would flow into the movement’s Federal election war chest.

Abbott’s troubles began with a meeting he instigated with Sharples at the Brisbane offices of solicitors Minter Ellison on July 7, 1998. Also present were the late Ted Briggs, a disaffected former State treasurer of One Nation, and Tom Bradley, a solicitor and a mate of Abbott from student politics.

The meeting discussed how to raise money for a court application by Sharples to stop public funds being paid to One Nation. Within days, the action had been mounted and would ultimately succeed – although not without a massive and convoluted falling-out of the anti-One Nation players along the way.

What has been at issue since is to what extent Abbott promised to bail Sharples out if he got into financial difficulty (Sharples is now being sued for bankruptcy by One Nation in Queensland).

At the original Minter Ellison meeting, Sharples maintains, Abbott asked him to “keep his name out of things” because, claims Sharples, Abbott didn’t want the action seen to be connected with anyone from the Liberal Party. A few days later, Sharples asked Abbott for a written undertaking to cover Sharples’s costs.

That agreement, a copy of which has been obtained by the Herald, was handwritten by Abbott and promised “my per-sonal guarantee that you will not be further out-of-pocket as a result of this action”. It was witnessed and dated July 11, 1998. A few days later, when interviewed by the ABC’s Four Corners, Abbott denied any such deal existed.

The morass worsened when Sharples entered the witness box in court on August 21, 1998, and also denied any agreement over funding with Abbott. He now claims he believed the questioning related to the injunction, not to possible cost orders.

Sharples, citing Abbott’s indemnity, is now furiously pursuing the minister for money to cover his massive court costs. To date Abbott has publicly ducked the indemnity issue, insisting his involvement came to an end within weeks, when Sharples sacked the pro bono lawyers that Abbott had arranged.

But, as recently as four months ago, correspondence seen by the Herald shows Abbott’s lawyer writing to Sharples asking him to accept $10,000 to call the whole matter quits (although still maintaining this is not “an admission of liability”). How does Abbott explain the inconsistencies?

When the Herald first put to him Sharples’s claim that he’d promised money at the outset to be paid into a solicitor’s trust account, Abbott said: “No, it’s not correct.”

But later he concedes: “I had secured the agreement of a donor to provide up to $10,000, if necessary, to cover any costs award made against Sharples. This person had no connection whatsoever with the Liberal Party. That was the basis of my letter. I wouldn’t accept that it was an indemnity.”

Challenged about the conflict between this and his denial on Four Corners, Abbott initially replies: “Misleading the ABC is not quite the same as misleading the parliament as a political crime.” But later he argues that he took the reporter’s question to relate solely to the provision of Liberal Party funds.

Abbott also denies speaking to Sharples and asking him to keep his name out of things in court. “I said to him, ‘Terry, this thing is out of control … You should just terminate this action. There’ll be a costs order against you and I’ll look after it.’ And he said, ‘No, I’m on a crusade’, or words to that effect, and away he went. Sharples thinks he can take this matter to the High Court if he wants and Abbott’s going to pay every step of the way.”

On signing the indemnity, Abbott says: “Obviously in hindsight I shouldn’t have done it. But if I had my time again and it was necessary to make an alliance with some pretty unusual people to stop a very serious threat to the social cohesion of the country, well, I would do it. I mean, how else were we going to stop One Nation at the time?”

Yet many nagging questions remain. Sharples says Abbott began referring him to a man called John Samuel for money: “Abbott told me a number of times that I should speak to Samuel about the dollars and cents.”

Samuel turns out to be a character of obscure provenance from Western Australia, who first turned up exposing cost overruns at the State’s casino and questioning its deals with the now-disgraced former Labor government. Later he was involved in efforts to split the Democrats in Western Australia, and later still, joined One Nation, only to lead the revolt from inside the organisation in that State.

Samuel won’t reveal who his backers are. But he styles himself as Abbott’s protector, telling the Herald: “I didn’t want to see someone of Abbott’s credibility involved. I spoke to my friends in the West and they all agreed. I spoke to Tony and said I’d take it from here.”

Abbott admits that “in discussions with a number of One Nation people – and One Nation people were always wanting money for this or that – I would say go and talk to John Samuel. He has access to people who might be able to provide access to that sort of thing.” He says he doesn’t know where Samuel’s alleged financial backing comes from, and admits asking few questions.

Meanwhile Sharples, who has fallen out with a number of his erstwhile collaborators, fights on. He is now single-hand-edly battling an appeal by One Nation – with no funds for legal representation.

Abbott is adamant he’s got nothing to hide: “Look, I really want to stress, the anti-One Nation thing was all my doing. Were any senior Liberal Party people involved? No. Were any junior Liberal Party people involved? Well, apart from me, no. Was I doing this because the Liberal Party had told me to? No. Was I doing this because I thought the Liberal Party wanted me to do it? No. Did I get any encouragement from the Liberal Party after I’d been doing it? No. Has anyone in the Liberal Party ever said to me, ‘Well, Tony, thank God you did that’? No.

“All my doing, for better or for worse. It has got Tony Abbott’s fingerprints on it and no-one else’s.”

Which is precisely what has got some of Tony Abbott’s colleagues worried.


Jack Robertson says of Howard’s latest spin:

Howard said today: “I don’t think Pauline Hanson’s political abilities were high, I think her policies were ill-developed and she did from time to time touch prejudicial elements in the community but not perhaps to the extent that many of her critics suggested.” If you can keep from laughing hysterically, you can have merry japes imagining JWH on other ‘Great Moments in Nation-Changing History’:

On Federation: “Not a completely pointless exercise in bumf-shuffling, I suppose.” On Gallipoli: “Lost the odd bloke or two, but it all came out in the wash, eventually.” On the ’42 strategic switch: “Winny was tied up with something in Burma, so Curts gave Frank a dingle instead. No biggie.” On Gough’s Revolution: “I was blinking at the time myself, but apparently he knew Ancient Greek.” On Kennett: “Jeff? Name-calling? Funny, no-one ever told me.”

He’s not seriously expecting anyone to cop tripe like that, is he? My bemused admiration at his chutzpah knows no bounds. Guess he clocks the ‘New Oz’ more acutely than I ever will. Or want to, really.

By the way, the party structure adopted by Hanson and co was the very one recommended to her by another Liberal, former Western Australian Liberal senator Noel Chrichton Brown, who was one of several far right figures courting her to form a party before she picked Oldfield. He wrote Hanson a detailed letter setting out the structure, arguing that democracy in the party would destroy it.

ABC election analyst Anthony Green wrote an important piece on the Hanson matter in the Herald today, Perils of Pauline: her breach of ‘club’ rules was technical rather than deceit. He points out that if Hanson had been a member of the Queensalnd parliament, she could have registered her party the way she did without a care in the world. The pollies club, you see. He also points out that the Sharples civil action against ON’s registration which finally led to the charges against her was defended by the Queensland Electoral Commission, which thought all was fine. There is no requirement for a democratic structure in political parties, none at all, as the major parties can attest to.

At the end of another dismal political week, readers in seats owned by a Liberal or National Party MP should know that your MP voted against referring Tuckey to the House of Representatives privileges committee to examine his multiple parliamentary misleadings this week. The government and its tainted MPs weren’t even prepared to have an internal inquiry into the matter by a committee on which it had the numbers. The case is so open and shut no-one could put their name to a report exonerating Tuckey.

So when Richard Alston and John Howard carry on about the ABC needing an independent review body for complaints, bear in mind that at the least the ABC conducted an internal review. The Alston/Howard poison against the ABC has nothing to do with principle, and everything to do with preserving their regime from scrutiny.

Your Hanson emails keep pouring in. I’ll start with Webdiary’s One Nation contributor Greg Weilo then a selection of short ones before our versatile columnist Jack Robertson’s ode to Pauline and John. My favourite one liner is from Colin Griffiths: I do not agree with the polices of One Nation but with the sentence of three years for Pauline Hanson and David Ettridge this country now has the lowest common democracy.

I’m on holidays next week and back September 1, for Spring. Antony Loewenstein has agreed to guest edit a Webdiary on Hanson, so keep you responses rolling in.


Greg Weilo in Adelaide

In the blink of an eye, Big Media has reversed its spin. Pauline Hanson, the most vilified Australian since federation, is no longer portrayed as ignorant and stupid. She has now been cast as a Machiavellian plotter, deviously pursuing nefarious schemes in order to destroy Australian democracy and overthrow the Commonwealth.

The fiendish plot is necessary in order to justify her three-year prison sentence, whereas confusion over the bureaucratic details of a political party registration just doesnt have the same impact.

The Judge seems to believe that Hanson deviously tried to deceive the voting public, by arranging to get “Pauline Hansons One Nation” written on voting papers next to the names of people who supported her policies. Most people would find this clarifying rather than misleading, but many judges seem to enjoy demonstrating their remarkable ability to twist the truth into incomprehensible conclusions.

Apparently its OK to make and break promises about “no children living in poverty by 1990”, “L-A-W tax cuts”, or “never-ever GST”. Its OK to lie about your electoral address, to branch stack, rort your travel allowance or to receive votes from dead people. That’s not deceiving voters, that’s just politics, but letting the voters know what they are voting for is beyond the pale.

Apparently its important to split hairs when determining whether One Nation had 500 supporters or 500 members when deciding if it should be registered as a political party. The fact that the party received over one million votes was ignored in the federal election, so why should it matter now?

The fact that the party registration was independently checked, verified and approved by a government official is beside the point. If a mistake was made, the fact that it was a first offence and performed without intent is also irrelevant.

The $500,000 funding was intended to reimburse political candidates for election campaign costs. The costs were incurred, receipts were provided, but the money was still ordered to be returned. It was. Hanson had already effectively received a $500,000 penalty for an alleged mistake in applying for party registration.

Bizarre legal decisions are par for the course when it comes to One Nation, as evidenced by the Heather Hill case. Activist High Court Judges put their ability to creatively interpret the law into overdrive, when they decided that the Queen of Great Britain, defined as Head of State in the Australian Constitution, was a “foreign power”. Just don’t mention the catch-22, in that every federal politician must swear allegiance to this “foreign power” upon entering parliament, and therefore become ineligible to hold office.

Meanwhile, most Big Media journalists can hardly contain their glee, with gloating references to strip searches, prison uniforms and maximum security cells. The Democrat Senator Aden Ridgeway, acknowledges the treatment that white Australians can expect when they become a minority, with sneering remarks about the need for protective custody within the prison environment. Our prisons are just like Zimbabwe in miniature, and a glimpse into our multicultural future.

Anybody questioning the fairness of the legal system is ridiculed as a “conspiracy theorist”, yet what hope is there in finding 12 unbiased jurors to assess Hanson’s innocence or guilt after years of relentless vilification by Big Media? What hope of a fair trial when the police, the public prosecutor and the judge depend on Hanson’s political opponents for their appointments and promotions?

What kind of judicial impartiality imposes a three year custodial sentence for a legal technicality and a victimless crime, when last May the same judge delivered a six month sentence on a serial pedophile who abused an 11 year old girl? (The Australian):

PAULINE Hanson yesterday received six times the jail term the same judge gave a pedophile who molested an 11-year-old girl in her bed. In May this year Chief Judge Patsy Wolfe sentenced the 52-year-old man with a history of sexual, drug and violent offences to six months in prison. The grandfather was a repeat offender and had previously been jailed for 2 1/2 years for attempted rape 30 years ago.

How can Big Media claim that “white collar crimes” receive harsher penalties, when HIH’s Ray Williams and Rodney Adler retain their millions and their freedom?

Everybody knows that Hanson was sentenced as a political prisoner, with people from Bob Carr to Natasha Stott-Despoja virtually admitting the obvious. The world has now seen how Australia treats her political dissidents, but no doubt the silence from the “human rights activists” will be deafening.

Despite all the obstacles put in her path, Hanson and her supporters have only ever pursued democratic change. Hopefully they will never change this strategy, but it is worthwhile keeping JFK’s words in mind:

“If you make democratic change impossible, then revolutionary change becomes inevitable”.


Paul Forsyth

Re Margo Kingston’s Mother of the nation in jail, it’s father in charge, the Herald has gone too far (again!) with the libellous pen of that miserable dish rag of a creature, Kingston.You people still believe you run a quality broadsheet newspaper,huh??? The creature is a lunatic.


Peter Adams in Adelaide

Congrats on this morning’s piece on Pauline Hanson. As one of the many small-L liberals swimming harder against the political tide I found the situation superbly summarised and articulated in your piece, especially highlighting how the political professional in Howard hijacked the amateur’s agenda. I grew up in Bjelke-Petersen’s Queensalnd, but what we’re living in now frightens me even more. Keep up the good fight !


Paul Dillon

Your piece on Hasnon is the best article of its type I have read this year. Unfortunately it will probably be too truthful for the many who should heed it. The Opinion section of the Herald provides a source of information, understanding and balanced views that is becoming increasingly essential as our society corporatises and the “father” of our nation leaves us in the care of big brothers. (Margo: See Governing for the big two: Can people power stop them? for the imminent danger to your independent Herald.)


Duane van Twest

Just one word is really needed – “Exactly!” Thank you so much for this article and so many others on all the topics effecting us today. There are so many things that enrage me about this matter but over and over it comes down to the fact that the big boys club is at it again – just one of many tricks as you’ve highlighted in the many articles I’ve read (and forwarded) over the last few months.

It’s quite ironic that the power the members of the various boys clubs wield is disproportionate to the integrity of the individual members themselves. Isolate them and they are cowards, full of insecurities, without confidence to stand by their convictions, very self centred and without vision. In an imbalance in natural selection, these people have risen to an artificial level of importance and power – due only to their collective strength.That is why they so fear the collective strength of those they try to manipulate.

PS: I’m not a long suffering blue collar worker. I am a quite well off professional who just doesn’t like seeing injustice.


Howard Petts in Nowra, NSW

Hi! I’m wondering if it was Wilson Tuckey who uttered those ridiculous statements about Aborigines being unable to handle public funds because of their ‘cultural’ tendency to look after relatives first. (Margo: It was indeed.) If it was, then the recent uncovering of Wilson Tuckey’s own ‘cultural’ dispensation to look after his own family (and lie about it) as a minister is ironic. More than that, it is a case of the pigeons coming home to roost (or the truth being revealed). It is a strange irony too that Pauline Hanson, who advocated tougher sentences for criminals, is now receiving what she asked for.

I liked your piece on the hypocrisy of the major parties regarding the imprisonment of Pauline – it seems that it is an advantage to be in charge when you’re engaged in corruption, lies and deceits. I was reminded that the leaked DFAT reports of a few years ago talked about the widespread corruption of Pacific Islands leaders – it seems that now we truly are fit for leadership in the Pacific!


Maureen King in Lane Cove, NSW

Have you noticed that not so many people seem to care very much about what happened to David Ettridge? I suspect that they feel like I do – that Pauline does not deserve to be treated so harshly by the courts because she was such an incredible dill. But then other stupid people have not been able to use that as a defence, so why should Pauline be treated any differently to them? I understand ignorance is not an excuse under our legal system.

Another comment I would like to make is that I wish the general public would make as much fuss about Aboriginal deaths in custody, domestic violence or dreadful health as they have about the Dumb Redheaded Person.

Finally, what about the socially deprived who have been treated to harsh penalties over the years under laws like mandatory sentencing in the Northern Territory? Why should Pauline be treated any differently to them just because she has worn a few glamorous frocks over the years and managed to become notorious because of her innate stupidity?

Please explain?!!


Peter Kennedy

I was on a jury about 4 years ago where we tried a man for murder (eventually reducing it to manslaughter) for killing his mother in law. He got 3 years inside for that. How can they justify Pauline Hanson’s sentence against for electoral fraud (or what’s worse – getting caught)?


Geoffrey Moule

I have never written to the SMH before but I must register my outrage at the treatment given to Pauline Hanson by the Queensland judical system. She may have committed an offence but the sentence does not in anyway reflect the nature of the crime. Consider for the moment the crimes being committed in this country by all types of deviates, and the light – if any – punishment given to them. Pauline should be released and at the most given some community activity for her crime.


Geoff Ward in Carlinford, NSW

It is not often that I feel such a sense of outrage that I am moved from my usual apathy to comment on a matter that does not impact me.

The sentence handed down to Pauline Hanson is one such event. This simple-minded woman, caught up in the euphoria of her short-lived political success, made some mistakes, which are now considered an electoral fraud, and has been sentenced to 3 years in gaol. She has been convicted of the victimless crime of defrauding the Queensland Electoral Commission of some half a million dollars, which she has now, apparently, fully repaid.

Alan Bond got a lesser sentence for defrauding the Bell Group shareholders of more than one billion dollars. Convicted armed robbers have been known to receive lesser sentences than 3 years. The perpetrators of the vicious father and daughter Nunes bashing have been released on bail.

I don’t support Pauline Hanson’s racial, red-necked policies. However, I do feel sorry for her and feel that her sentence is a travesty of justice. Three months, and even one month, in gaol is a severe punishment for a person who has not injured anyone and has not deliberately set out to break the law in a serious way. I think, as a civilised and decent society, we have lost the plot.


Jack Robertson, in poetic mode

An ode to the invisible gentleman who (temporarily?) sold Australia to the bigots in us allwith apologies to the Geebung Polo Club and the Cuff and Collar Team, who at least had the guts to wear their true colours on their sleeves and slug it out in public.

It was somewhere up in Oxley, in some working Ippy pub,

That they formed an institution called the Anti-Every Club.

They were mean and angry battlers from the outer sprawling belt,

And the gripe was never floated that the Antis hadn’t felt.

But their style of playing politics was rough and riled and raw,

They had f**k-all Big End dollars, but a mighty lot of poor.

And their Anti-Every leader led the Anti-Every song,

For her coat was surface-pleasing (though her Anti-Ideas wrong).

And they aimed their hottest anger at the globalised hubbub,

They were narky, were the Antis of the Anti-Every Club.


It was somewhere down in Toffsville in a city’s smoke and steam,

That a blueblood club existed, called the Oik Exploiters Team.

As a Privatising Greed-Gang ’twas a marvellous success,

For the Members were distinguished by unseen, unscreened largesse.

They had ‘economic policies’ so nice and smooth and sleek,

(‘Cos their opportunist owners changed the bastards once a week.)

And they started up for Oxley in pursuit of Anti-votes,

For they meant to (quietly) help these angries hit their angry notes.

Despatched their useful ‘Leader’ (social-climbing Sydney grub),

‘Ere they started operations on the Anti-Every Club.


Now readers will remember all the tricks they used to win,

How their useful-idiot Leader drove the useful wedges in.

The plan was pretty simple, ’twas to hide their greedy game,

By setting up some decoys for the Anti-Club to blame.

Abos, Asians, Greenies, Jews, they didn’t really mind,

So long as all these City Oiks could hide behind a blind.

Lost your job? It’s all them Arabs, coming in their boats!

Lost the farm? The Black Man, with his High Court wanker-votes!

Phone line’s crap? The bank’s shut down? There’s no more local planes?

Elitists! Damned elitists! Since that Keating took the reins!


Now the Anti-Every boys weren’t smart, but neither were they thick,

The Oik Exploiters’ grubby game was never going to stick.

Especially when their Biggest Pigs got obvious (and lax),

One-Tel, HIH, the AMP, dear Max the Axe.

Corporate payouts, bail-outs, cons, exposed their ‘market’ guff,

Milton Friedman – bullshit-artist – shivering in the buff!

The Oikish gig was nearly up, the buck was on the stop,

They’d have to raise the dirty stakes, to stay on dirty top.

And then – a double miracle! The Oikish scams will run!

For it’s TERROR!!! And the TAMPA!!!

And they’ve got the Antis skun.

* * *

I loved a sunburnt country…

It was somewhere out the country, in the town I learned to fend,

In a place that had no Melbourne Club or ASX Big End.

Thatcher didn’t visit, Hayek never took a squizz,

And ‘privatising zeal’ meant minding other peoples’ biz.

We never really bothered what these Oiks did up the smoke,

Didn’t give a shit if they got rich or went dirt broke.

Tho’ glad that Reggie thought the scrub should join the flying caper,

Glad that Frank (or Keith?) produced our profitless local paper.

We thanked the urban ‘User-Pays’ for sending stuff our way.

And blessed the PUBLIC POLITY for giving us a say.


Born in PUBLIC wards and caught in PUBLIC doctor’s hands,

Tonsils out in PUBLIC; PUBLIC pills for swollen glands.

Taught to read and write and count by PUBLIC school ‘elite’,

PUBLIC music lessons (as a PUBLIC-funding treat).

Played on PUBLIC ovals, swam in PUBLIC swimming pools,

Yet now we flog Oz off – we selfish, greedy, ‘private’ fools.

This ‘inner-City wanker’ trod an elitist PUBLIC track,

And now he craves a chance to PAY TOMORROW’S PUBLIC BACK.


I bet that not one of us, not from Kerry Packer or John W. Howard down, really, really likes what is happening to the Australian Ideal: this short-sighted and largely-by-stealth flogging off, to the highest Bloodless Stock-Market Telescreen bidder – in our globalised Free & Automated Number-Crunching Market Game – of the genuine fair go for all. Bush or Town. City or Suburb. Black or White, or in-between. Straight or gay. Man or woman. Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, or anything else, or nothing. Billionaire or bum. Reffo or toff. We’re supposed to be governed by flesh-and-blood Human Beings, not economic ideologies. And we all have Free Democratic Will. We can make Australia whatever the hell we choose tomorrow.

Our politicians, and especially the PM, have been played for mugs by this destructive, non-existent beast – Market Theory – for too long. Surely WE will decide what sort of country we make for our kids, the opportunity ‘circumstances’ that will greet the Jack Robertsons and John Howards and Pauline Hansons of tomorrow?

She herself may be gone from the Australian political stage, and I’ll shed no tears, because she helped do a whole lot of nasty damage in her time, and it seems she turned out to be just another cynical self-server, anyway. But her many admirers, enthusiastic and absolute or grudging and qualified, mean and nasty or big-hearted and misrepresented and used and misled, are still here. And the better angels of all their – our – decent and gentle Australian natures, and the burning impulse to bellow what they – we – were trying to bellow, remain. Our mainstream politicians should start listening. Our very best and brightest Corporate leaders, too.

Yep, especially the smooth, invisible gentlemen up the Big End of Town, who are now pretty much alone in holding the purse strings of this nation’s tomorrows. Don’t flog Australia’s National Soul, gents, because sold souls usually die, and dead ones can’t easily be brought, much less bought, back to life. That’s the lesson we should learn from the One Nation epoch, in my view. We’re all in this together. If one single Australian kid living in a town 100 miles east of bloody Paraburdoo hasn’t got a decent phone or water or power service, or decent access to a hospital and a school and vaguely-regular transport to the exciting Big Smoke, bursting with its infinite possibilities, then none of our kids have.

If the Australian ‘Private Polity’ – that ‘Threatening Peril’ which, beneath all the easily-manipulated and wedgy, politically-convenient scapegoating, was what truly fired the Hanson movement in the first place – can’t or just won’t ensure a true ‘fair go’ for all Australians on a sustainable basis into the future, then I’m afraid the ‘Private Polity’ is just no bloody good to us Australians. We’re all this together. We have to be. We must be.


Mother of the nation in jail, its father in charge


So, the self-proclaimed mother of the nation is in jail, and the man who took her policies and finessed her beliefs is Prime Minister of Australia.

The rights and wrongs of Pauline Hanson’s conviction and sentence aside, her imprisonment is a graphic symbolic representation of the state of Australia and its politics.

Australia’s political, police and legal establishment has put Pauline Hanson – fish and chip shop heroine to the poor, the ignorant and the disenfranchised, the woman who created a party out of nothing in an instant and mobilised Australians never before involved in politics – behind bars.

Big money, big brains, big spin machine politics triumphs – replete with its big, often disguised corporate donations, branch stacking, crony capitalism, deceit and betrayals of the poor and the powerless. Politicians with brains, money and privilege walk free after defrauding the taxpayer, ministers and the Prime Minister survive with a smile after lying to the public- even about the reason for war – and profit from politics with sinecure taxpayer funded jobs or jobs with big corporations exploiting their political contacts.

The big brand names of politics and the big media – with all their considerable assets – worked tirelessly to silence the scream of the Hanson’s disenfranchised. I wrote in my book about her 1998 election campaign, Off the Rails: The Pauline Hanson trip, that Australia had been lucky that our brand of far-right nationalist politics had been amateur, unresourced, and too-quickly put together by carpetbaggers like David Oldfield and David Ettridge. What if a professional had captured the masses’ imagination – where would Australia be now?

Now we know. A professional has stepped in. His name is John Howard. She wanted refugee boat people given five year temporary visas instead of permanent residence. Philip Ruddock deplored her inhumanity, then, once Hanson was out of action, gave refugees three year visas instead. She demanded that the boats be turned around at sea. In August 2001, our SAS boarded the Tampa and our defence force did just that.

The professional John Howard merely engineered the fears and angers of the insecure and economically suffering to his base political advantage. Softly softly suggestions only, then he sat back and watched the flames engulf each utterance, most recently with capital punishment after he gave the States the all clear to reintroduce it. Tick – another Hanson policy adopted.

The professional, John Howard, faced a fragmentation of the conservative vote with Pauline Hanson. Her One Nation Party helped elect Queensland and Western Australian Governments in early 2001. She pledged to put all sitting members last at the 2001 federal election, almost guaranteeing a Labor victory.

But then came Tampa. The One Nation vote collapsed and its voters ran to Howard. So did Labor, in mortal fear. The professional, John Howard, was triumphant, and Labor unelectable. Australia’s march to fascism began (see Howard’s roads to absolute power).

And now? The disenfranchised Hansonites are in the middle ground on social policy, Howard brilliantly manipulating their ignorance to exploit their downward envy as he screws them economically and demands they find the money to pay for their own basic health and the education of their children.

The disenfranchised have empowered a resurgent Greens Party. Those who once saw themselves as mainstream Australians in an Australia committed to the universality of human rights are now grassroots activists, visiting refugees, researching their treatment in detention camps, writing books, lobbying politicians.

And the rest of the old old middle ground?

Former Kim Beazley chief of staff Syd Hickman put it this way this week at the launch of the Reid Group, dedicated to reviving Liberalism:

Understandably it is taking liberal Australians a fair while to appreciate the alarming reality that faces us. After all, liberalism for a long time represented the political middle ground. For much of the past thirty years small l liberals have had the luxury of being the swinging voters who decided who would win federal elections. What we thought about key issues used to matter. Quite frankly, in political terms, now it doesn’t. And that’s why core liberal issues like the future of the ABC, the secular education system and universal health care get such meagre attention.

People who hold liberal values must demand their own place in the political spectrum. To get it they are going to have to work outside the old frameworks. They should stop telling themselves that it’s good enough to be the wets or progressives in political parties which are now openly dedicated to illiberal ends. This is not virtue, its self delusion.(See Can liberalism fight back?)

Hanson was the most hated woman in Australia when she shocked the powerful and the comfortable with the truth – that our construct of a tolerant, progressive, open Australia was a myth. Now, Australians overwhelmingly feel sympathy for her as she languishes in jail.

It’s easy to explain, really, with the benefit of time. Underneath the racism and the ignorance, Hanson triggered a people’s movement. It was crushed with all means at the powerful’s disposal. And we all know it.

One final word. John Ralston Saul made the point in his book, The Doubters Companion, that outbreaks like Hansonism are not the fault of supporters, but of the elites:

“There is no reason to believe that large parts of any population wish to reject learning or those who are learned.People want the best for society and themselves. The extent to which a populace falls back on superstition or violence can be traced to the ignorance in which their elites have managed to keep them, the ill-treatment they have suffered and the despair into which a combination of ignorance and suffering have driven them.”

So blame the Labor elite of 1983-1996 for the rise of Hansonism. And blame John Howard’s elite for exploiting it now. And please, let Pauline Hanson walk free. She’s more innocent than our major parties by miles.

Now we feel sorry for her!

G’Day. There’s always another sensational twist in the Pauline Hanson story, isn’t there? And our feelings about her and what she meant for us keep changing too. Heaps of reaction today from Webdiarists, overwhelmingly of the view that the sentence stinks. And this on a leftie-dominated site. Crazy. My first take is Mother of the nation in jail, its father in charge. I’ll have a go at a more considered assessment of her legacy tomorrow. The Hanson support group’s take is at paulinehanson.

Tonight your first reaction, but first, some links to Hanson Webdiaries for a blast from the past in this most complicated relationship between the red head and the Australian people.

Hansonism: Then and Now, November 9, 2000

Pauline Hanson rises from the grave, February 5, 2001

Behind Pauline’s comeback, February 12, 2001

Pauline’s mob pumps out the Sunburnt Battler, February 13, 2001

One Nation and chaos theory, February 14, 2001

The blame game, February 16, 2001

Howard prefers Hanson?, February 19, 2001

Hanson and you, February 15, 2001

Retrospective Hansonism,September 26, 2001

Beyond Hanson, January 14, 2002

Fundamental inexperience, January 15, 2002

Hanson’s legacy, January 16, 2002



Australian icon of far right jailed for fraud

by David Fickling in Sydney, Thursday August 21, 2003

Pauline Hanson, the founder of Australia’s xenophobic One Nation party, who was once seen as a potential prime minister, was sent to prison for fraud yesterday.

“It’s a joke”, she shouted as she was jailed for three years on three charges of electoral fraud. After hugging her family and her co-accused and fellow One Nation founder David Ettridge, who received the same sentence, she was led away to the cells.

Hanson has seen her career nosedive and the party she led is in tatters.

One Nation has a single federal senator and four state MPs in Queensland and Western Australia. But without the fraud for which she was convicted yesterday it might not have existed at all.

The court ruled that 500 signatures used as proof of One Nation’s membership base in 1997 had belonged to an unofficial Hanson support group.

Funding of $500,000 (then worth about 175,000) from Queensland state, with which One Nation’s campaigned for its breakthrough election in 1998, was also obtained by fraud.

The Queensland premier, Peter Beattie, said last night that a sympathy vote could cause a temporary resurgence of One Nation support: a view endorsed by many of the party’s supporters.

“The sentence is bloody outrageous,” said Bill Flynn, One Nation MP for the Queensland seat of Lockyer. “We have murderers who go to jail for less. If any good can come out of this I would say to her, ‘Chin up, girl. They can make a mar tyr out of you but it will come back to bite them in the bum’.”

Hanson first appeared on the political scene with a shock victory in the suburban Brisbane seat of Oxley in 1996.

Initially endorsed by the rightwing Liberal party, she was removed from its slate when her views on Asian immigration and Aboriginal rights became known.

Her policies, which she described as “… a fair go for all Australians”, included slashing health, education and housing aid for impoverished Aborigines. She said Asian immigrants were synonymous with crime and disease, and that immigration should stop until unemployment reached nil.

The Liberals deselected her because of the fear that her extreme views would help Labor.

Their mistake became apparent when she was elected to Canberra on a 23% swing. Since then, it has been the ruling Liberal-National coalition, rather than Labor, which has benefited most from her views.

At One Nation’s high-water mark during the 1998 Queensland state elections, one in four people backed the party.

A few months later it polled 8% in the federal elections, equivalent to 1m votes, but the success was marred by Hanson losing her own Oxley seat, and decline soon followed.

David Oldfield, another of its founders, denied that the verdict posed a threat to One Nation’s existence. “I think there’s plenty of signs the party is in trouble, but it’s had greater troubles than Pauline Hanson going to jail,” he said.

“The greatest troubles have been arguments within One Nation itself, many of them caused by her.”

Hanson stood this year as an independent for a Sydney seat in the New South Wales state election, but lost to a gun-ownership lobby.

Despite her disappearance from parliament, her impact on Australian politics has remained dramatic. “She transformed the political landscape,” Margo Kingston, her biographer, said.

“She started off as a profound risk to the conservative side of politics, but when [prime minister] John Howard broke the bipartisan policy on refugees during the Tampa [immigrant boat] crisis, that was completely turned around. From that moment One Nation support ended, its support went to John Howard, politics was shifted to the right and Labor was dragged along with it.”

Hanson always insisted that Howard had simply stolen her policies on Aboriginal rights and immigration. “It’s ironic,” said Ms Kingston. “The woman who started all this is in jail and the man who took her policies is prime minister.”


Ben Kennedy

You say in The Guardian: “She started off as a profound risk to the conservative side of politics, but when [prime minister] John Howard broke the bipartisan policy on refugees during the Tampa [immigrant boat] crisis, that was completely turned around. From that moment One Nation support ended, its support went to John Howard, politics was shifted to the right and Labor was dragged along with it.”

I don’t know if this is true Margo. Pauline was a risk to the Conservative side of politics, but I don’t know if it was “profound”. In the UK the Coalition would have been dead ducks under first-past-the-post, but in Australia the major parties can always appeal for minor party preferences; afterall, a minor party or independent voter’s second preference is just as deadly as their first once their preferred candidate has been eliminated.

Being a regular reader of your work, I know that like many other commentators you also conveniently ignore that fact that it was the ALP between 1989-1994 that established the architecture of the system for dealing with refugees and unlawful entrants, which included the introduction of the much-maligned but highly popular and effective policy of “mandatory detention”. I don’t recall you criticising Labor back then – remember that Cambodian person who was stuffed into a body bag and dragged kicking and screaming onto an airplane? That was during Keating’s watch; Margo Kingston apparently had no moral qualms about refugee policy back then. (Margo: Dead wrong Ben. I was a trenchant and persistent critic of Labor’s boat people policy, working on it almost full time for the Canberra Times, where I then worked.)

At the same time you criticise others for not taking a principled stand against the death penalty – flailing them for turning their morality on and off like a switch – you seem to be forgetting your own hypocrisy. (Margo: Please advise the basis for your charge of hypocrisy.)

As for John Howard breaking bipartisan policy on refugees – am I suffering from serious brain damage or do I distinctly recall Kim Beazley explicitly saying in parliament during the Tampa crisis that: “On this issue the government and opposition are as one.” Perhaps you recall Bob Brown’s colourful opposition to Mr Howard’s actions. Bob doesn’t have an official party though Margo, at least not in parliament. (Margo: Howard broke the old biparrtisanship, Beazley joined Howard in the new one.)

I acknowledge that Mr Howard used One Nation-like ideas about turning refugee boats around (which was, in fact, one of One Nation’s better proposals) to fashion a legislative response to the issues raised by the Tampa affair – however the parliament, rather than the Howard government, established this arrangement – an important difference.

I know you will most probably ignore this email, but would you like to have a go at justifying any of the claims you have made above? (Margo: Why would you assume that? I’ve make a point of publishing articulate criticism of my work since I started Webdiary three years ago.)


Sean Hocking

I heard you on radio this morning, and for once I have to disagree with you. I think a jail sentence is completely appropriate, if only because she allowed Howard to steal her ideas!

She started a party that talked about exclusion, thinly veiled racism and worst of all allowed her ideas to be hijacked by the Liberal Party. She then played politics and the media game to the hilt and has come undone in the process.

I don’t worry about the martyr argument. Whether she went to jail or not she and her supporters will always paint her as a martyr.

My only hope that by some miracle Howard will one day end up in front of the same judge, but then again I live in fantasy land.


Helen Darville

I’ve always been of the view that you understood the whole ‘Pauline Hanson phenomenon’ better than any journalist in Australia. Your piece today only confirms that view. It seems we will have to pay for all the things we thought were true of Australia but turned out to be myth. And pay. And pay. And pay. Maybe our grandchildren will be free of the debt.


Martin Davies, Webdiary’s artist:

Ms Hanson’s conviction is certainly going to send a chill up the spine of politicians who think deceiving the public is in their interest. Liars and con men beware – the courts will send you to jail. Sure.


Denise Parkinson

Great article today on Howard and Hanson. You have articulated what a good number of people in this country would be thinking and feeling right now.


Krista Gerrard

Loved Off the rails. Do you think a Lib or ALP pollie would have ever got to prosecution on the same facts or would a deal have been struck early on? (the former). Do you know if Pauline was offered any deals, with respect to her charges, or did she fight on in an attempt to prove her innocence? (No, but my bet is she wasn’t.) Do you still think she is mostly narrow minded and stupid, rather than a force of evil or bad? (Yes. The evil is elsewhere.)


Gary Fallon

First we had Howard, then we had Tuckey and now Hanson goes to prison. All politicians. All lied.

The raving right are asking for a referendum on the death penalty. Howard wants to change the Constitution to weaken the Senate.

I’d like to see a referendum put to the Australian people that would change the Constitution to require any Minister of the Crown accused of misleading Parliament face the High Court to answer the charges and if found guilty to be expelled from Parliament and forfeit all of his/her superannuation entitlements.

The most interesting part would be the ‘No’ case that Howard would inevitably put forward!


Russell Dovey

You know, I hate to say this, but jailing someone for three years because they didn’t do their paperwork correctly is a bit harsh, in my opinion. We all know that it’s David Oldfield who manipulated these two, rode them to power, then dropped them like a hot turd. He’s still sitting in the NSW senate, collecting his paycheck and pushing his racism.

Hell, John Howard is an even better example. He not only blessed Hanson through faint lack of praise, but his Coalition stole her racist policies to woo her racist supporters.

Hanson gets three years in prison for being too stupid to understand the difference between a political party and a support movement, and Howard gets three years (and counting) in Kiribili House for giving racists permission to spread hatred. This is not justice.


Harry Cole in Drummoyne, Sydney

What happened to Hanson today proved beyond doubt that what we have in Australia is a sham democracy. A sham democracy within which any ordinary person who articulates political opinion, and tries to organise some kind of grassroots movement outside of the approved organisations, is ridiculed, demonised and finally jailed.

Oh sure, it wasn’t done overtly – but don’t take the Australian public for total fools. To be quite honest, I could not stand the ghastly woman. I thought she was reactionary and divisive. But that is not the point. The point is that if you are denied, by whatever means, the right to organise politically and challenge the way your country is being run, then what you have is something other than democracy. That being the case, all you political journalists, analysts, editors and soothsayers might as well pack it in and go home, after all what use is a parliament and its hangers on without democracy?


Tony Lane

Since I’ve always been an anti-Hansonite my first reaction to her jailing was **YES** but on reflection it looks totally disproportionate. Without knowing the details of the case, it looks more like she was guilty of gung-ho naivety than fraud. Community service would have been my option if I was the judge. Ettridge may well be another matter – I’ve always felt he was a cynical hanger on.

Your article points out some of the more complex truths behind the current scene. Do you really feel Australia is sliding into fascism? I ask not because I disagree, but because I have felt so alone and old-fashioned holding this viewpoint myself! Anyway, keep on stirring – there are some of us listening and puzzling out what to do.


Peter Woodforde in Canberra

Anyone would think she was an “illegal” except for the fact that she actually got an open trial. And she’ll never see the inside of one of Howard’s wicked hell-holes in Nauru or Baxter. Her sentence is nonetheless unduly harsh and rather stupidly unimaginative, as well as completely out of kilter with community expectations.

It’s a bit hard to write about Pauline Hanson the day after the murders of Sergio di Mello and his colleagues. On any count, he had more good in one of his finger nails than there would be in a whole exercise yard full of Pauline Hansons (let alone John Howards). But her long harsh sentence is cockeyed, as is Peter Beattie’s very disappointing and uncharacteristically maladroit response.

Beattie was right, however, to say that many will see Hanson as a martyr. I seriously doubt that it will cause too much of a resurgence of One Nation, but there will be many, many people in Australia today – from across the political spectrum – saying the sentence was unfair. They will resent it and further despise “them” who inflicted it. And they won’t have anywhere to go – the alienated never do. So the national political process is further poisoned. The expression of this almost certainly won’t be particularly political, but we’ll all feel it.

Out in the suburbs, people will remember that a reckless drunk got a similar (but suspended) sentence for killing a cousin or workmate with a motor car. They will know people who were bashed and robbed, and saw the perpetrators cop six months. They will remember that the kids who burgled and vandalised their home never even got caught. They’ll recall the battalions of heavy-jowled captains of industry who stole millions and walked.

And they will have uneasy feelings about close-to-the-wind political shenanigans in the moonlight sate and all the other rotten boroughs, too.

Peter Beattie was perfectly entitled to say that there was no political direction of the Hanson trial and that it was entirely and properly in the hands of the judiciary. Perhaps with an appeal looming, he was also entitled to stay his hand on much comment, anyway.

But at some stage, he might need to say the obvious – that the sentence is over the top and out of kilter with community expectations. It defies the principle of a fair go.

Bob Carr does it, although only when the convicts get too little, and they are from an unfashionable ethnic group. Ironically, Carr’s actions are part of the post-Hanson mood which grips huge chunks of the community.

People won’t forget the perils of Pauline, and the outcomes may bubble unpleasantly for years to come.

Meanwhile, our heroine is banged up with a new constituency (including a former Queensland Chief Magistrate). She’s probably already boning up on the biography of Nelson Mandela. Perhaps she’ll right a book to follow up “Off the Rails” – “My Struggle.”


Lyn Freeman

I read your piece on Pauline Hanson and agree entirely with everything you said. The double standards in this country leave me speechless – mainly because I don’t have the guts to speak out.

I don’t like One Nation politics but I admire any show of Democracy in action and she did that, as it was her right to do. This charge and sentence stinks of ‘witchunting’ to me! She is another one to be burned at the political stake, who else? Carmen, Roz, Cheryl and Natasha barely escaped, who else has been there? The dark forces certainly do ‘kill’ all our women politicians.

I just hope there is enough of a backlash against Pauline’s sentence and the trumped up ‘fraud’ conviction to slap Howard and the rest of the elites square on the jaw. But I’m dreaming I know he is untouchable now!

I will be voting Green in the next election all the way, just as my only way of protest.

Can liberalism fight back?

G’Day. I attended the Reid Group launch today in NSW Parliament House in search of a flicker of hope for our democracy, and got it. As I wrote in Rekindling Liberalism: a beginning the Reid Group was set up to prove that Liberalism is not dead in our society, just in our political parties. The members I met today were Cameron Andrews, a former Democrat, Syd Hickman, a former chief of staff to Kim Beazley, James Gifford, a Wilderness Society activist, and David Barr, the independent state member for the Sydney North shore seat of Manly. Sounds like an ‘unholy alliance’ to me!

I’ve published Syd Hickman’s speech below. Apart from Syd’s misconceived attack on the Greens, I agree with just about all of it. So might Herald reader Pamela Chippindall in Sydney’s Point Piper, whose letter to the editor published today said in part: “…there are no Liberal “wets” in Federal Parliament, merely a collection of “yes-persons” who endorse their leader’s policies and pronouncements. But outside the Canberra hothouse, we flourish. We walked across the bridges of the nation for reconciliation, we marched in the streets for peace, or at least UN-sanctioned war, and we’ll fight for an ABC which will continue to encourage free and uninhibited debate, even when the topic is the present American administration (and no, we’re not anti-American, Mr Alston).”

Besides putting up genuine Liberal policies, the group is considering endorsing independent liberal candidates for safe “Liberal” seats at the federal election. Trends at the recent State election show there’s real potential to frighten a few “Liberals” in core constituency territory, just as John Howard has paralysed Labor by taking some blue collar voters.

David Barr survived a concerted attempt by the Libs to take back Manly at the recent State election, mainly because hundreds of grassroots supporters put in very hard yards on his behalf. This could be the future if enough people are prepared to put the work in and converse with people they usually wouldn’t have a beer with. The idea would be to find a person non “Liberal” party members in the seat and community people believe has the integrity, guts, intelligence, commitment and drive to represent the electorate with honesty in the public interest, and to stand up for the health of our democratic instititutions and democratic values.

The big task would be to convince such a person to stand – after all, why would any sane person want to try to enter the political bearpit? The way to do that would be for enough people in the seat, across the non “Liberal parties” and community groups, to back the candidate before the election and deliver support to get him or her through the ordeal. Even if the candidate didn’t win, a solid support base would put enormous pressure on the “Liberal” member to promise to fight for Liberal principles instead of caving in to Howard’s neo-conservatism out of fear or personal ambition.

In Faultlines in Howard’s plan for absolute power, I wrote about the possibility of “unholy alliances” in the face of a powerful and determined threat to our democracy that many of us – despite our political differences on many issues – hold dear. If people who care about our democracy can put aside their differences to fight for what unites them – the core principles underlying our democracy – then they really can roll back the anti-democratic, corporatist juggernaut now rolling all over our freedoms and civil rights and ignoring the long term public interest for short term profit.

The threat to our democracy has got to the stage where only the people can save it. As Barr said today, we’ve got a government into corporate cronyism which cares nothing about civil rights and deliberately misleads the people on crucial issues during elections and even on going to war. “The government is getting away with an awful lot because there’s no opposition to stand up for different values and to get a different dialogue going,” Barr said. “We’re reduced to a low level, low brow debate – we desperately need people to stand up and say what’s going on in our democracy and what we can do about it.”

And there’s lots independents like Barr can do. At the moment, he’s trying to get a law passed which would limit the amount of costs a plaintiff can get in a successful defamation case to the amount of damages he or she receives. What happens now, Barr says, is that rich people can close down the free speech of epople without big money behind them through small-time defamation claims prosecuted by big time QCs. “It’s a gross inhibition of free speech. How can our democratiuc society allow the wealthy to take punitive action against someone who’s not wealthy?”

I’m working on a piece about Howard’s latest attack on free speech and the right of ordinary people to participate in and influence politics – his attempt with Peter Costello to strip charitable status from groups who engage in political advocacy. This is a long term Howard strategy with three related elements, including a contract with the neo-conservative think tank the Institute of Public Affairs to devise a policy to control and exclude non-government organisations and charities from the political process. I hope to have something ready by the end of the week.

Before Syd Hickman’s speech, Daniel Moye bites back at Philip Gomes’ critique in Whose democracy? of his conservative self examination Owning your beliefs.


Intellectual Yoga

by Daniel Moye

If only we could all have the intellectual flexibility and versatility of ideas of this nefarious New Left. We could then embrace and contemplate the world with our Yoga-master and find wondrous solutions to healing the world’s ills. But do not be confused – this is not a passive position but an active inquiry bound by a zealous need for transformation and transcendence of our history to bring a new dawn to the world.

Let us again redefine the debate and transform ourselves and our future. We can no longer be ideology bound, we must embrace this open-sourced common foundation of redemption and save the world from its sociopathic tendencies.

Awaken yourself to this rising Age of the Second Enlightment and embrace the righteous cause of a renewable future. Do not be passive in your middle class fishbowl – embrace this future with all its promise and we could finally find that salvation we all crave for Freedom from ourselves.

Teach me Yoga master, to disavow my longing to waste my last $20 dollars on bourbon and punting. Enlighten me, so that I can unshackle myself of the envy I have towards my D.I.N.K. friends and their newly borrowed Sydney housing dream. Lead me to this promised land of selflessness and far-sighted wisdom. Free me with your seductive voice as I drift off into meditative bliss.

Woe is me, who will only get cramps from yoga and who always ends up falling asleep and snoring when he meditates. I guess only that mythical bartender in the sky will be my salvation. Double bourbon and coke please.

Points of Clarification for Philip Gomes and all interested parties:

1. The political compass found me somewhere close to the centre but in the libertarian right. Unfortunately that was no surprise. It is an interesting website.

2. My use of the term ‘ownership’ was used more in a philosophical sense than in a direct material sense. It is true that ideas, ideals and institutions are in the public domain and yet some are owned, but that was certainly not the point that I was attempting to make. Rather, that when we confront the world we tend to possess ideas and ideals of ourselves and the society we live in. When confronted with a heavily marketed world, where people and ideas are not always what they seem, how do we repossess things that have been camouflaged by others?

3. I agree that in many senses Australian political conservatism has become very ideology bound. When contributing to this forum, I am attempting to reengage other conservative readers into reclaiming a broader conservative consensus.

4. I would suggest that your observation that modern conservatism is sociopathic in nature (paraphrase) is a caricature, and like my little ditty above and all caricatures is either wholly or partially false

5. Do not confuse Obscurantism with Conservatism. Conservatives are always open to new ideas but tend to want to moderate the changes of the world through traditional institutions and their moral framework. It is true that there is a preponderance of a particular type of conservatism under the Australian and American governments, and not all of their policies are conducive to providing as broader conservative umbrella as I would like to see.



Address by Syd Hickman

Jubilee Room, NSW Parliament House

Tuesday August 19 2003

What are we on about? Why has this bunch of people, some ex-Labor, some ex-Democrat, some ex-Liberal – as well as quite a few with no previous associations in politics – come together to start this organisation?

The short answer is, the new application of old liberal values.

Right now, here in Australia, there is a black hole, a vacuum of ideas. And it’s a worry. Debates about the future of this country have become stale, reduced to point-scoring on minor issues, not consideration of major ones. We are all suffering as a result. And things will get worse if we don’t take action.

The causes of this change are party political. John Howard has successfully reoriented Australian political debate around a deeply conservative agenda. The ALP has failed to provide any kind of alternative vision, and simply comes up with populist twaddle or watered-down versions of conservative Government positions. The Greens and Democrats have become two variants of the economic irrationalist left.

Which leaves us with a great and gaping hole in national debate. And the great hole that exists is around liberalism – about a set of sensible, moderate and progressive beliefs that, when implemented in policy, have always delivered the best outcomes for Australia. The liberals within the Government are too cowed – or dazzled – by John Howard’s success to speak up for their beliefs. The term ‘Wet’ is now a dirty word. So is Moderate. So is Pragmatist. Even within the Labor party, the kind of progressive liberal values that guided the best of the Hawke-Keating reform efforts are now expressed as a nervous moralising.

So our political advocates have vacated the field. Which means it’s time for the citizens to step up.

Understandably it is taking liberal Australians a fair while to appreciate the alarming reality that faces us. After all, liberalism for a long time represented the political middle ground. For much of the past thirty years small l liberals have had the luxury of being the swinging voters who decided who would win federal elections. What we thought about key issues used to matter. Quite frankly, in political terms, now it doesn’t. And that’s why core liberal issues like the future of the ABC, the secular education system and universal health care get such meagre attention.

The war on terror has made great cover for the quiet dwindling of our key national institutions. We can complain loudly but that won’t change things. Quite frankly, things will not return to that long-standing idea of normal. We can not seriously believe a) that Peter Costello will become Liberal leader and b) that as Prime Minister he will suddenly discover his inner Moderate. Surely no-one seriously thinks Labor will suddenly regroup around progressive and forward-looking ideas?

People who hold liberal values must demand their own place in the political spectrum. To get it they are going to have to work outside the old frameworks. They should stop telling themselves that it’s good enough to be the wets or progressives in political parties which are now openly dedicated to illiberal ends. This is not virtue, its self delusion.

Conservatism must be opposed by a true liberal alternative, just like George Reid produced over a century ago. We in the Reid Group do not aim to be a political party but we do see ourselves making a start on a body of ideas and policies that can contribute to a political goal.

We focus our view of the future on five key ideas, what we call the five pillars.

The first is to strengthen support for an open and environmentally sustainable economy. The capitalist economy, combining free enterprise and free trade, has proved to be the best system for raising living standards and providing individual choice of life-styles. It is also increasingly clear that open, inclusive, tolerant societies generate the creativity and leadership that produce the highest levels of wealth creation. A commitment to sustainability is good for the environment, and also for business. The simplest summation of the Reid Group position is the phrase ‘for an open economy, a progressive society and a sustainable future’. We believe these are mutually-reinforcing positions.

The second pillar is the need to maximise the efficiency of government. One hundred years on from Federation it is time for a serious renovation of government. The original allocation of responsibilities between the Commonwealth and States is not working. The digital age offers enormous possibilities for government administration. And there is a great need to eliminate wasteful programs that exist only to buy votes. Across the board government is a big part of national efficiency and there is a lot to be done.

Third, revitalising our public institutions. The great public institutions that play a quiet but vital role in creating and maintaining our society are under threat. Think of the legal system, public health, public education, public broadcasting, the universities, the public service, the defence force, scientific research, museums, regulatory agencies. All are experiencing problems of funding cuts, improper interference or over commercialisation. We believe these institutions must be strengthened, not weakened, as society becomes more diverse and complex.

Fourth, encouraging the growth of the community sector. There is tremendous potential for social benefits from engaging more people in community activities and from dealing with social problems, in a more localised and personal way. With increased funding flowing from corporate social responsibility programs, and the stimulation of more philanthropy, the possibilities are endless. But governments must resist the temptation to use the community sector simply as a cost saving device. This is a complex area for government involving serious legislative and administrative change. We intend to pursue it vigorously.

And finally the fifth pillar. We support devolving government authority and empowering local communities. This is a recognition of what is already happening out of necessity. Society is becoming more diverse and the range of decisions that must be made are increasingly complex. So more decisions must be made by the people or institutions that really understand the problems and the potential. You can call this pluralism, or the end of top-down, one-size-fits-all, decision-making. The Reid Group sees a role for government in facilitating this process, making sure the decision making bodies are appropriate, devolving funding along with power and responsibility, and helping to enact decisions.

So, to return to my theme, we are here to take these very big ideas, the five pillars, develop them, and drum up support for a national renovation along such lines.

But I should add that we are also internationalist. Australia has 0.03% of the world’s population. But we make up nearly 2% of the global economy, and we are responsible for about 10% of the earths surface. To we true liberals in the Reid Group that has implications. Clearly we must work for a rule-based international system with strong global institutions, we must make a serious contribution to improving the situation of poorer nations, and we have a very big environmental role.

I will conclude with the observation that we are a small group but we have very big ideas. We want a big Australia. And we are going to have a go at spreading the word.

So, with high hopes for success, I declare the Reid Group open and ready for action.