Michael Johnson is being talked about again…
More Khemlani fans! The Labor Estimates tag team seem to be
keeping an eye on the Member for Ryan, Michael Johnson, too.
They’re interesting in his now infamous Ricky Ponting fundraiser that
wasn’t.

They’re not alone. The Golden Tonsils himself, Mr John Laws, had
a go at the boy MP this morning for putting the Australian captain in
such a position.

We cross live to the Senate and discussions with the Electoral Commission:

Senator FAULKNER-Anyway, I am pleased that that one is also now on the
list. You have indicated that two matters are almost concluded and that
they are two Queensland matters. One goes to issues in Ryan and Mr
Michael Johnson. That was one. The other is in relation to the Bowman
organisation for the Liberal Party. Does the Ryan issue include
the fundraiser where the Australian cricket captain, Ricky Ponting, was
a guest speaker?

Ms Mitchell-I cannot remember who was the guest speaker. There was
certainly an issue relating to a fundraiser, but I cannot remember if
it was one that Mr Ponting was a guest speaker at.

Senator FAULKNER-This has received some pretty recent publicity-in fact
in late April this year. So it is quite a recent event. The Australian
cricket captain, Ricky Ponting, thought he was going along to a
community event, and it appears that he was reasonably unhappy when he
found it was actually a Liberal Party fundraiser. He basically did not
know about it.

Ms Mitchell-Was that the fundraiser that was held in the current
financial year and, therefore, we would not have returns for yet?

Senator FAULKNER-I think it was held in April, so I think this might be
a different matter. That is what I am trying to establish.

Ms Mitchell-Yes, it is. It is not part of our current consideration because it is not yet due to be disclosed in the return.

Senator FAULKNER-I am looking to my advisers here on the Queensland Liberal Party! They probably were not invited.

Senator BRANDIS-I was not listening very carefully.

Senator FAULKNER-That is very wise, Senator Brandis. What an experienced politician Senator Brandis is.

Senator Abetz-I am sure it is pretty easy to switch off, Senator Faulkner.

Senator FAULKNER-I draw your attention to an article in the Australian
on Thursday, 22 April 2004 entitled ‘Ponting in dark on Libs function’
which, in part, says: “Ponting’s manager, Sam Halvorsen, said the
cricketer was not told the party was a Liberal fundraiser. That
was never spelled out to us-” he said. “It was all portrayed to
us as a community-spirited exercise. Mr Halvorsen said Ponting
would not have accepted Mr Johnson’s invitation if he had known,
because the cricketer did not support any political party.” Has
that article been drawn to your attention? I know that you, in the AEC,
keep a very close eye on these things.

Ms Mitchell-We do, and it is starting to sound familiar. There are so many clips and I have a very bad memory, I am afraid.

Senator FAULKNER-I am a bit worried that this is-

Ms Mitchell-I can check for you. I think I have said to you before that
I actually extract clips that are relevant to the funding and
disclosure section, and disclosure obligations of people, and we
include them in a register of relevant clips that we keep. When it
comes time to review the annual returns that relate to those clips, we
look through the clips to give us some information about whether or not
we feel disclosure returns have been correctly completed.

Senator FAULKNER-The thing is that Mr Johnson’s media release headed
‘Ricky Ponting Keynote Speaker at the 2004 Ryan Youth Leadership and
Development Forum’ does not mention any connection between this event
and Liberal party fundraising. It seems to me that this is the sort of
thing where the AEC ought to be playing a role, don’t you think?

Ms Mitchell-I am not quite sure what the role would be.

Senator FAULKNER-It is pretty dodgy, isn’t it, and outrageous if you get this situation where-

Senator Abetz-The law requires, as I understand it, a disclosure if it
were a fundraiser. If somebody goes along to the wrong function because
communication has not been properly maintained between the organiser of
the function and the person going along, I am not sure that that
necessarily would fall within the ambit of the Electoral Commission.
What they are concerned about are the actual disclosures: how the money
was raised, who raised it and whether it has been declared. But I am
not sure whether, if I accidentally go along, through misinterpretation
or whatever, to a Labor Party fundraiser that is necessarily-

Senator FAULKNER-It depends on whether you call them Labor Party
fundraisers and not pretend they are something else. It is outrageous
to get schools involved in cross-subsidising Liberal Party fundraising.
That is the problem.

Senator Abetz-You are making an assertion that has not been established
and the only requirement under the act is, as I understand it, that
disclosure is made of the funds raised, if there were any funds raised
at all. Whether or not there is a dispute between the organiser
of the function and, be it the band who played, who did not know they
were going to be playing at a Liberal Party function, or the guest
speaker, who did not know that he was going to be at the Liberal Party
function, or if the hotel did not realise that it was going to be a
Liberal branch function that was going to be held there, I am not sure
that is necessarily within the province of the AEC to be considering.
All it is concerned about is to ensure that proper financial disclosure
is made.

Senator ROBERT RAY-I think Mr Johnson himself in a press release tells
us that over 140 local secondary school students took part in the local
community’s first Ryan Youth Leadership and Development Forum. But
elsewhere we learn that the cheques to the value of $150 a head were
payable to the Ryan Liberal Members Fund. I would have thought that
that starts to bring it within the ambit.

Senator Abetz-The financial side, clearly so-there is no problem with
that. But whether there has been a misunderstanding between organisers
or whatever-

Senator FAULKNER-It is not a misunderstanding; it is deception. That is what it is.

Senator Abetz-That needs to be withdrawn, Mr Chairman.

Senator FAULKNER-Have you seen these documents, Mr Chairman? I think you would be appalled!

Senator Abetz-Mr Chairman, that needs to be withdrawn. That is a reflection on a member of the parliament.

CHAIR-That is for the AEC to determine.

Senator FAULKNER-I am not withdrawing. It is a deception.

CHAIR-It is for the AEC to determine that, Senator Faulkner.

Senator Abetz-That is a reflection on the member for Ryan and it needs to be withdrawn.

Senator FAULKNER-It is not a reflection on the member for Ryan; it is a fact.

Senator Abetz-To accuse somebody of deception-

Senator FAULKNER-It is a fact.

Senator Abetz-No, it is not a fact. It is a matter still to be determined.

CHAIR-It is an allegation, Senator Faulkner.

Senator Abetz-It is an allegation. Are we going to require it to be withdrawn or not?

Senator FAULKNER-It only has to be withdrawn if it is unparliamentary.
I have not been informed that it is unparliamentary. It is a fact. I am
not withdrawing it unless it is unparliamentary. In fact, I am being
very generous describing it as a deception-‘fraudulent’ would be better.

Senator BRANDIS-On a point of order, Mr Chairman: I draw your attention
to standing order 193(3), which governs these proceedings. It states:
“A senator shall not use offensive words against either House of
Parliament or of a House of a state or territory parliament, or any
member of such House … and all imputations of improper motives and
all personal reflections … shall be considered highly disorderly.”

Senator FAULKNER-On the point of order, Mr Chairman: no doubt you will
rule in favour of Senator Brandis’s point of order. You always do.

Senator BRANDIS-My points of order are always well taken, Senator Faulkner.

Senator FAULKNER-You always do, Mr Chairman. You have a perfect record. You have agreed with Senator Brandis on everything.

Senator BRANDIS-Now you are reflecting on the chair, Senator Faulkner. It is disgraceful.

Senator FAULKNER-Let me say that I am calling this function deceptive.
It is a deception and I am calling it fraudulent. It is a fraud. I am
not saying that the member is a fraud; I am saying that the function is
a fraud.

Senator Abetz-It was a function that was organised by the member for Ryan.

Senator BRANDIS-Have you ruled on my point of order, Mr Chairman?

Senator Abetz-He is defying your ruling, Mr Chairman. Are you going to uphold the standing orders or not?

Senator FAULKNER-You always rule in favour of George.

Senator Abetz-If you do not, it will be coming from this side of the table as well.

CHAIR-I do rule in favour of Senator Brandis’s point of order.

Senator ROBERT RAY-I was going to speak on the point of order.

Senator BRANDIS-Too late; it has been ruled on.

CHAIR-Senator Faulkner, you will withdraw an imputation against-

Senator FAULKNER-I think you should hear my colleague before you rule.

CHAIR-Sorry, Senator Ray, I missed you.

Senator ROBERT RAY-Firstly, I object to Senator Abetz in the middle of this issuing threats, but we will leave that aside.

Senator BRANDIS-He never issued any threats at all.

Senator ROBERT RAY-If Senator Faulkner were to accuse the member for
Ryan of deceptive behaviour or fraudulent behaviour you would rule that
out of order under that standing order.

CHAIR-Correct.

Senator ROBERT RAY-If Senator Faulkner were to describe the function
that occurred as deceptive or fraudulent you could not rule it out.

CHAIR-I agree with that, but my understanding of what Senator Faulkner
said was that he saw that the member’s conduct was deceptive and
fraudulent.

Senator ROBERT RAY-So he can withdraw that.

Senator Abetz-So Senator Bolkus’s raffle was a fraud-

Senator FAULKNER-I do not believe I did that, Mr Chairman, but, if I
did, I withdraw it. In speaking to Senator Brandis’s point of order,
which you have ruled in favour of, I made absolutely clear that I am
talking about the function being a deception and a fraud.

CHAIR-And you would withdraw any imputation against-

Senator FAULKNER-But if you believe-incorrectly-that I have described
the member for Ryan as deceptive and a fraud, I would withdraw that,
because it was unparliamentary. I do not think I need to, because I did
not say it. So I think we have worked that out. That is a great relief.

CHAIR-You have the call, Senator Faulkner.

Senator FAULKNER-So it is win-win, really. The function stands as
deceptive and a fraud, and you have ruled in favour of Senator
Brandis’s point of order. Everyone is a winner!

Senator ROBERT RAY-Senator Abetz has just laughed at his own joke. Can we have that noted in his reference.

Senator Abetz-To call the Bolkus raffle a fraud is therefore allowed, is it?

Senator ROBERT RAY-Of course; it is not unparliamentary.

Senator Abetz-Of course it is. There is a clear imputation on Senator Bolkus.

CHAIR-Yes, there is.

Senator Abetz-I would have thought that all sides of politics-

Senator ROBERT RAY-Well, in that case, you will withdraw.

Senator Abetz-would agree that that sort of language being used against each other is not appropriate.

Senator ROBERT RAY-Come on, George: point of order. Be consistent. You will win again.

CHAIR-Senator Faulkner, you have the call.

Senator FAULKNER-I have told you that I have withdrawn.

CHAIR-You have the call, Senator Faulkner, to ask questions.

Senator FAULKNER-I was waiting for you to ask the minister at the table to withdraw.

CHAIR-No, Senator Faulkner. You have the call to ask more questions, and that is where we are it.

Senator FAULKNER-Oh, I see. I am sorry. So is this matter under active investigation by the AEC?

Ms Mitchell-If you mean the fundraising dinner that we were just discussing, no.

Senator FAULKNER-Ms Mitchell, the reason I am asking this is that you
have indicated that the matter relating to Mr Michael Johnson, the
member for Ryan, is nearing conclusion.

Ms Mitchell-Yes.

Senator ROBERT RAY-He is not a branch stacker…

(Continues ad nauseam until the electors of Ryan wake up from their stupor…)


Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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