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One Nation claims against ‘vengeful and political’ Abbott acts

Fifteen years after it began, Tony Abbott’s secret pact to destroy One Nation will be examined in open court. Crikey has obtained the statement of claim by One Nation co-founder David Ettridge.

One Nation co-founder David Ettridge’s bombshell $1.5 million legal action against Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is looming as unwanted distraction as the prime minister-in-waiting presses home his electoral advantage against the Gillard government.

Ettridge, alongside former Abbott staffer David Oldfield, was the other half of the “two Davids” that set up One Nation in 1997 as a vehicle for Pauline Hanson’s dubious political ambitions.

But Abbott had his own fightback forum — Australians for Honest Politics — convened soon after to destroy Hanson and her party through legal action focused on its dubious Australian Electoral Commission registration. The $100,000 fund aimed to protect the Coalition’s vote at the 1998 federal election from a devastating right-flank assault.

Ettrdige is claiming damages relating to lost employment, legal fees, loss of freedom and the forced sale of his house, accusing Abbott of unlawfully assisting civil action for which he was ultimately found not guilty.

The question that’s always hung over Abbott — outlined by former Sydney Morning Herald webdiarist Margo Kingston almost a decade ago  —  is that he avoided disclosing donors to Australians for Honest Politics to the AEC and fibbed about a pledge to cover lay civil litigant (and disaffected One Nation member) Terry Sharples’ legal fees. Kingston wrote the apparent deception had ended any dreams Abbott ever had of becoming prime minister.

This helpful timeline sketched out by Kingston in her 2007 book Still Not Happy, John and republished on New Matilda in December remains the best top-down primer.

The second defendents are listed as “known contributors” to the slush fund and include former Liberal MP and trustee Peter Coleman, Packer lieutenant and Graham Richardson associate Trevor Kennedy and mining rich-lister, Lavoisier Group chairman and Institute of Public Affairs board member Harold Clough.

On morning radio today, Abbott dismissed the suit as “just a bit of payback” over the tumultuous wheeling and dealing of the late 1990s as Hanson fever took the country by storm. “It was a campaign that I was very much a part of all those years ago, and I guess some of the former One Nation types have never really forgiven me for it,” he said, admitting he had tried to expose the “dodgy” nature of the party.

In the full statement of claim obtained by Crikey Ettridge alleges:

[My] character was under assault on a number of fronts as a result of the defendant’s actions during a heightened period of media and political prejudice against the One Nation Party … Such a breach of the law is made especially more unacceptable when the person doing it is a Member of Parliament and a legislator who acts with no respect for the very law he has sworn as a Member of Parliament to uphold. The 1st defendant acted above the law…

Abbott’s motivation was vengeful and political and he wanted to destroy the lawfully registered Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party in order that the Liberal Party to which he belonged, would not lose votes and consequent electoral funding at the October 1998 Federal election to the new One Nation Party.”

Ettridge and Hanson were sentenced to three years jail in 2003 after a court found the duo guilty of fraud over the status of the 500 members listed on One Nation’s registration form. But the sentence was overturned on appeal later that year and they were immediately released.

In the statement of claim, Ettridge maintains his “complete innocence” over all the charges ever levelled against him.

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  • 1
    mikehilliard
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    It’s one thing to go abut tearing down a political party with lies & half truths, that’s exactly what Abbott’s doing now. It’s another thing altogether to be a minister involved in the litigation and jailing of innocent people (no matter who they are).

    Always comforting to know that 15 years on we still have the same old Abbott.

  • 2
    The Pav
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    If succesful would the damages claim bankrupt Abbott?

    Even the legal fees could cause this since he so recently said he was doing it tough financially.

    If he receives funding for his legal fees by donations will this have to be declared?

  • 3
    Saugoof
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    it’s the sort of lawsuit where you wish both parties would lose…

    That said, I’m sure Abbott is right that there is an element of payback in there, but I also have little doubt that there was a lot on both sides that wasn’t exactly ethical, to put it mildly. If there’s one good thing coming out of this law suit, it’s that there’s a chance that what happened behind the scenes at the times may end up getting revealed now.

  • 4
    John Bennetts
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Not “now”, Saugoof.

    Later.

    If the case proceeds, there’s Buckley’s chance of the details coming out before Sept 12, let alone now.

  • 5
    Mark from Melbourne
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m with Saugoof, a pox on both their houses. Politics can be a dirty business - doesn’t need to be but often is. And it’s not just the current crop - if you read your history it has always been thus. Was very interested to hear about what the loss of some of Menzies cabinet in that plane crash triggered all those years ago - fascinating stuff. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1940_Canberra_air_disaster

  • 6
    Kevin
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Please do not refer to Abbott as “the prime minister-in-waiting”…. We do have a democratic system of voting that decides these thing…… It called an election……

  • 7
    zut alors
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I agree with John Bennetts.

    The last I heard Ramjan vs Kroger and The Oz is being delayed until next year. Hence, no light will be shone on Abbott’s behaviour from that quarter prior to the election. Ditto with the Ettridge lawsuit.

    Lady Luck seems to be favouring Abbott at the moment - but she has a habit of being unpredictable and turning.

  • 8
    Achmed
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure Abbotts legal team will ensure the proceedings do not take place before the election and they will apply for a “gag” on proceedings

  • 9
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me the only dodgy person here was and is Abbott.

  • 10
    dazza
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Australians for honest politics.. And Abbot?? That just doesn’t sound right!

  • 11
    Peter Wildblood
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I seem to recall another court case in which Abbott [and Costello] were involved. They apparently took exception to an obscure two paragraphs reference (to their respective spouses before marriage)at p 200+ in a totally unreadable book by Bob Ellis. They won as I recall something in excess of $150,000 each in the resulting defamation case with all remaining unsold/distributed books being pulped.

    I still recall the look on Abbott’s face when he was asked after the announcement of the judgement whether he was to donate the money to charity. To do so might have seemed reasonable in all the circumstances of the case. However, the look of total incomprehension on Abbott’s face remains with me to this day. It well informs me about the man who might be our next prime minister and I shudder at the thought.

  • 12
    Malcolm Harrison
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    lots of people including myself did not take too kindly to Pauline Hanson’s foray into politics, but i viewed even less kindly the attempts by those who i regarded as my political peers to muzzle and mock. for me this was the end of a journey that began in the fifties and flowered in the sixties to frustrate the old patriarchy and open up politics to the reforms implied by the counter culture - women’s rights, gay rights etc.
    for me this ended when the political group with which i identified proved unable to accomodate or even treat with respect political ideas and reactions that it found distasteful.
    for you to describe Hansons political ambitions as ‘dubious’ suggest to me that you are a fascist of some kind, certainly it says a lot about your prejudices.
    for me One Nation was distasteful but quite legitimate. it was certainly appealing to enough people to put the wind up most of the people I mixed with, most of whom indulged in unseemly displays of hate accompanied by tantrums and dummy spits.
    It left me with a bad taste in my mouth and permanently disillusioned about the political nous of people whom until then I had regarded as allies.

  • 13
    The Pav
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Kevin

    I don’t mind Misty Rabbit being PM in waiting……..as long as that is where he stays

  • 14
    klewso
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Australians for Honest Politics” - from a member of Howard’s government (non-core promises, Iraq and Children overboard for a thing or three)?
    Ohhhh, the irony.

  • 15
    klewso
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Peter Coleman”? Whose father-in-law is he?

  • 16
    klewso
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Abbott’s motivation was vengeful and political….”? Like he is now?

  • 17
    drmick
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    The deafening silence on this matter, where he has already been found with tell tale guilty type shite up to his elbows compared to the chinese whispering campaign that became a noisy hurricane for the still innocent prime minister in the MSM is a perfect example of why the system, as well as the country is rooted.
    Do not pi$s on my leg and tell me its raining.

  • 18
    Honest Johnny
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    I suspect it will not be difficult for Abbott to come up with the $1.5m + legal fees when or if he needs to. He will have access more than ever to some pretty wealthy people eagre to see him stay put doing his bit for them.

  • 19
    Liz45
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    @Kevin - I agree!

    @John Bennetts - Well, the first court hearing is set down for next month. Bring it on I say! Perfect timing, although it may have been better last year?(I urge you to read the article on yesterday’s Country Hour re the health dangers of people living in the Hunter Region! You may remember that you scoffed at my comments of some time ago!)

    Why has Abbott always been loathe to disclose who funded his ‘campaign’ and how much! I hope this is the catalyst for his demise! I live in hope!

    @Saugoof - If I’d spent time in jail or lost my home etc I’d be taking legal action too. I suggest they must have some evidence otherwise it would be pretty stupid to do this! I’d allege that the truth is grotty and grimy and would show just how ruthless Abbott (allegedly) is and why he was Howard’s ‘headkicker’ in NSW! Who can recall the threats allegedly given by Abbott to an Independent in the Council or State election a couple of years back! Nasty little man, still too gutless to face a Q&A audience, and the electorate at large!

  • 20
    malcolm
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    I love it. The right eating the right. I couldn’t care less about the truth or what really happened “behind the scenes”. I just hope they destroy both their reputations in the process.

  • 21
    AR
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    And of course he will not try to poo-poo the charges coz they are ancient history, a whole 15yrs ago. I forget how long ago he claims impropriety occurred re the AWU…

  • 22
    Andybob
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Might be an interesting case if there was a cause of action.

  • 23
    CML
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Just what we need. — a dodgy alternative PM! Much as I disagree with everything One Nation stands for, maybe Ettridge has a case here, especially as the conviction was overturned on appeal.
    Hope this whole affair makes some people think twice about voting for Abbott.

  • 24
    Steve777
    Posted Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    David Ettridge has alleged that Tony Abbott has broken the law. According to the standards that Tony Abbott has applied to others, he cannot accept his own vote when Parliament resumes next month. When a division is called, he’ll have to dash for the doors.

    I expect to see this plastered all over the Daily telegraph tomorrow.

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