Senator Pauline Hanson’s chief-of-staff, James Ashby, has been recorded telling party officials they can make money from candidates in the Queensland election by selling them campaign materials at inflated prices.
Details of the comments by the controversial adviser, best known for the sexual harassment allegations he made against former federal parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper, which he subsequently dropped after two years, have been obtained by The Courier-Mail. The recording is believed to be from a meeting last year with senator Hanson present.
Ashby has denied the allegation saying he made “a poor choice of words” and claiming the recording was illegal.
The AFR has published the 2 minute 30 second recording here.
Ashby is heard saying during discussions about the election that “there is an opportunity for us to make some money on this if we play this smart”.
He says, “I will deny I ever said this but what stops us from getting a middle man” before going on to discuss getting candidates to fund half of a campaign package costing $5000.
“The other $2500 is the profit. It’s the fat. And I’ll write it off.”
Asked how the party makes money, Ashby says “Because when you lodge the receipt at the full price with the Electoral Commission of Queensland you get back the full amount that’s been issued to you as an invoice.”
Giving an example, Ashby says “We buy the corflutes for $5. We sell them to them for $11.”
He rejects any concerns saying “That’s what the Liberal Party do.”
Discussing the candidates, senator Hanson says “They have got to put something forward. They have got to take a hit for this as well.”
The latest controversy surrounding One Nation and Hanson’s adviser follows on from a Four Corners report last month into the use of a light plane used by Hanson during last year’s election campaign.
Earlier this month, senator Hanson revised her position on who owns the plane, saying Ashby bought it from developer Bill McNee.
Earlier this year senator Hanson told Sky News it was “the party’s plane”, but she paid for fuel out of her own pocket since the election.
The Australian Electoral Commission is investigating claims that Pauline Hanson’s One Nation breached electoral disclosure laws by failing to declare the Jabiru aircraft.
The Four Corners program also revealed that candidates in the Western Australian election in March had to sign an agreement seeking a $250,000 “administration fee” if an elected candidate quits the party.
The agreement also required candidates to pay upfront fees, plus a quarterly donation if elected, and capped expense reimbursements at 75%, with One Nation keeping the remaining 25%.
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