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.)
THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, SYDNEY, AUGUST 27, 2003
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
ONE NATION LITIGATION
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.