A voice from on high speaks about out mate – and he offers some explanations.
Sealed section readers will know about our pal Khemlani and his
function that wasn’t with Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting.

John Laws knows all about it, too. He called it “deception of the
worst form” yesterday. You can hear the Tonsils’ full opinions here.

Khemlani made a personal explanation on the matter in the House in the
wake of questions on the function in Estimates and has been out talking
about things on the ABC today.

We’ll make one little point at the end of everything – but first here’s
an e-mail allegedly from the lad that offers some fascinating insights
into the whole matter:

—–Original Message—–

From: Johnson, Michael (MP)
Sent: Sunday, 1 February 2004 10:49 PM
To: (Names have been removed to protect the innocent)
Cc: Johnson, Michael (MP)

Subject: RICKY PONTING FUNCTION

Importance: High

As per my telephone call to each of you, I have approached Ricky
Ponting to do a function for me in the Ryan electorate. He is very
receptive to doing this, but of course at a major cost of almost
$20,000 including airfares. The date of Friday, 16th April has been
suggested. How does this sound to each of you?

If each school was in a position to make a relatively small financial
contribution to the event of $4000, I would look after the balance of
his expenses. For your support, I would have in mind that each school
would bring its First XI squad, including coaches etc….the kids’
parents, and of course your good selves and spouses. All photographs
with the team would be taken prior to Ricky Ponting mixing and mingling
with the other guests so pics are guaranteed.

If you are able to give me a firmer indication of your school’s interest and commitment, I can start to get things moving.

All the schools involved will of course be mentioned in the invitations
that go out to potential paying guests from Corporate Brisbane in order
to offset costs. If any school wants to give a heavier commitment, I am
happy to discuss this privately. But I think, this is a good way to
make the event possible with all of us chipping in. It is of course,
also a great PR opportunity in terms of future school brochures and
marketing material!

In addition, I will try to get Matt Hayden as a guest at the same
function and have his time covered by another sponsor. If this could be
achieved, I am sure the moment will be treasured by the boys and their
parents. As I say, I will try my best, but no promises here.

Kind Regards

Michael.

Ends

Here’s the extract from Hansard for your elucidation:

PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS

Mr JOHNSON (Ryan) (3.32 p.m.)-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

The SPEAKER-Does the member for Ryan claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr JOHNSON-You bet.

The SPEAKER-The member for Ryan may proceed.

Mr JOHNSON-Yesterday in Senate estimates, Labor senator John Faulkner
made certain allegations regarding the nature of a community function
that I hosted last month with the Australian cricket captain, Ricky
Ponting, and General Peter Leahy, Chief of Army. These need to be
corrected. The forum was a community event for students to encourage
and inspire them-

Mr Melham-Where was he misrepresented?

The SPEAKER-Order, member for Banks! The member for Ryan will come to the point of his misrepresentation.

Mr JOHNSON-The community forum was indeed that: a community forum for
students, to encourage and inspire them through the achievements and
successes of the guest speakers. There was no charge-

Mr Melham-Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There is a protocol
to be followed for personal explanations. The House has yet to hear
where the member was misrepresented. He cannot go into the nature of
the forum and put the cart before the horse. I would ask you to call
him to order, as you have already done once. You should not have to do
it twice.

The SPEAKER-This is a matter that I have addressed on two occasions
this week. I have required members giving personal explanations to be
much more succinct. I do invite the member for Ryan to come quickly to
the point of the misrepresentation. As was indicated to the member for
Solomon, a great deal of detail is not needed, but we do need to
indicate the misrepresentation so it can be corrected for the record.

Mr JOHNSON-I am happy to enlighten the member for Banks.

The SPEAKER-You will also be enlightening the chair.

Mr JOHNSON-Senator Faulkner’s suggestion that Ryan schools were
involved in cross-subsidising Liberal Party fundraising is totally
inaccurate, false and malicious. No Ryan schools contributed to any
expense associated with the forum or made any donation to the Liberal
Party to participate. The forum was not in any way a fundraiser for
either the Ryan campaign or the Queensland Liberal Party.

Ends

There’s a lot to plough through here, folks, but this is the last
item. It’s vital – some of our mate’s comments on the matter on
the ABC with Steve Austin in Brissie this morning:

AUSTIN: Michael Johnson, did any schools pay?

KHEMLANI: No, not at all, not a single penny and I think that Barry
needs to get his facts right and do a bit of homework and if he had the
courtesy of actually calling my office and having a chat about his
concerns he would have (inaudible) very different story.

AUSTIN: I’m sorry, he’s a talkback listener, I mean, give the guy
a break. He was responding to media reports or news reports.

KHEMLANI: I’m not sure about that, Steve. I think he was being very assertive and speaking with presumed authority.

AUSTIN: What, you think he was a stooge, he was a set-up, do you?

KHEMLANI: I’m not saying he was a stooge but I’m saying he certainly didn’t have the facts.

AUSTIN: C’mon, the guy is a voter, a taxpayer. Perhaps you’d better clarify the facts for me – did any schools pay?

KHEMLANI: As I said when I first came on, not a single penny was paid by a school.

AUSTIN: What was the nature of the Youth Leadership Forum and then the cocktail party attached to it?

KHEMLANI: Steve, I’m very happy to explain everything.

AUSTIN: Just forgive me, Michael, are you on a speakerphone?

KHEMLANI: Yes, I am, yes.

AUSTIN: Would you mind taking it off speakerphone – it’s a very
distracting echo when being broadcast across the south east corner of
Queensland, if you don’t mind.

KHEMLANI: Sure, not a worry. Hello, is that better?

AUSTIN: Much better, thank you.

KHEMLANI: Makes it easier for me. I’m happy to explain it
totally. In April I had the opportunity of hosting this Youth
Leadership Forum and we had as a special guest the Australian cricket
captain, Ricky Ponting and, of course, General Peter Leahy, Chief of
the Army, who very kindly opened the Forum for us, and it was an
opportunity to bring about 150 kids from the Ryan Electorate to come
along and, I guess, be encouraged and be inspired by some of the people
that came along. It was entirely a community event, Steve.
There was not a single penny asked from the schools or from the
students and I think what Senator Faulkner raised in Senate Estimates
is quite deceptive and an act of fraud on his part, not my part.

AUSTIN: So the Youth Leadership Forum wasn’t a fundraiser?

KHEMLANI: Absolutely not.

AUSTIN: What about the cocktail party? Was that a fundraiser?

KHEMLANI: No, the cocktail party was held to assist with off-setting the costs of Ricky Ponting’s appearance fee.

AUSTIN: So that was a fundraiser?

KHEMLANI: It wasn’t a fundraiser – the implication is that it was a fundraiser for my campaign and that was not the case.

AUSTIN: That wasn’t what I said. It was a fundraiser, you raised funds?

KHEMLANI: Oh, I wouldn’t put it in those words at all, Steve.

AUSTIN: You raised funds to pay for Ricky Ponting?

KHEMLANI: There was a function held and this was made very clear
to Ricky that because of his substantial appearance fee, we had to
recover those costs and that came in a combination of sponsors helping
out as well as the invited guests.

AUSTIN: Did you make any profit on the function?

KHEMLANI: No. In fact, we’re in deficit, so any allegations
that the Ryan campaign or that the Liberal Party made a benefit out of
it, is entirely inaccurate.

AUSTIN: I haven’t said that at all.

KHEMLANI: No, no, I’m saying any allegations made and that was, I
think, the clear implication by your caller, Barry, and certainly by
Senator Faulkner, I think it’s a smear on some good working being
done. People who, the companies that made a contribution and
those who came along to meet Ricky, they, in fact, through their
contribution subsidised the Forum. They gave the opportunity of
Ryan kids to meet people like Ricky Ponting and to meet people like
Steve Bradbury, the Olympic Gold Medallist, all those sort of people.

AUSTIN: Who did people have to make their cheques payable to?

KHEMLANI: Well, the cheques are made payable either to,
directly to, catering companies, they were made payable directly to the
schools. I mean, we were charged by Centenary State High School
for use of the venue so we had to recover costs for that sort of thing.

AUSTIN: That wasn’t what I asked. For the cocktail party,
when people signed cheques, who did they make their cheques payable to?

KHEMLANI: Cheques were made payable to me, to the Ryan Liberal campaign, and that’s because I had to pay Ricky Ponting.

AUSTIN: To the Ryan Liberal campaign?

KHEMLANI: Yes, that’s right.

AUSTIN: But you’ve just told me that they weren’t for the Ryan campaign?

KHEMLANI: Well, the funds – I mean, Steve, I think it’s quite
simple to explain. Ricky Ponting asked for an appearance fee to
appear. He was the only guest of those who very generously gave
their time and to provide the opportunity for Ryan students to be
inspired and to meet someone such as the Australian cricket captain –

AUSTIN: You’ve told me that –

KHEMLANI: We had to pay for him and I decided that it was a good
event to bring to the community. The first time that the Ryan
electorate has had the opportunity of a Youth Forum and I think it was
a great day. I think this (inaudible) just muckraking on the part
of the Labor Party to try to smear the integrity of people like General
Leahy. Gen Leahy –

AUSTIN: Hang on, Michael Johnson, I’m not a member of the Labor
Party. I don’t think that that talkback caller is and if you can
find out otherwise, please let me know and we’ll put you straight to
air –

KHEMLANI: I’ll be very happy for him to give me a call. I
obviously don’t have his contact details but the clear imputation,
Steve, is that came out of Senator Faulkner’s comments in Senate
Estimates and his questions, was that there was a profit made from
having the Forum and there was no –

AUSTIN: That might be what’s happening in Canberra but what’s
happening up here, where your electorate is, is completely
different. We haven’t spoken to Senator Faulkner. His
imputations, as you put it, hadn’t even been made on my program.
What is the Ryan Liberal campaign fund for that you’ve just told that
cheques were made payable to – what’s it for?

KHEMLANI: The Ryan – I mean, all Members of Parliament raise
funds for their re-election and that’s part of a re-election account
that is endorsed by the Liberal Party to assist with providing
opportunities for the electorate and I hope – what’s important here is
the fact that I’ve provided the opportunity for young kids for the
first time, as a local representative, to come to a special event to
meet some pretty fascinating people.

AUSTIN: Michael Johnson, you’ve told me that but I need to get
some clarity here. Clearly, then, the cocktail party was a
fundraiser, that those people who paid money did make cheques payable
to Ryan Liberal campaign fund and it is clearly a party-political
campaign fund?

KHEMLANI: That’s not the case, Steve.

AUSTIN: If it’s for Ryan Liberal Campaign fund, the Seat of Ryan,
you’re the Member for Ryan, you’re the Liberal Member for Ryan, it’s
clearly a campaign fund, if they made it out to the Ryan Liberal
Campaign fund.

KHEMLANI: Well, unfortunately I don’t have an equivalent of a
Centenary House account that the Labor Party has, that has $800 sq.
metre, so I don’t have the funds to provide an opportunity – had Ricky
Ponting been able to give his time for free, there wouldn’t have been
any requirement to ask people to make a contribution (inaudible).
The important thing in all this is there were no funds raised for my
re-election. The funds raised were to pay Ricky Ponting’s costs –
simple as that.

AUSTIN: At the head of this interview, you told me that cocktail party wasn’t a fundraiser?

KHEMLANI: And I maintain that position.

AUSTIN: But people are making their cheques out to the Ryan Liberal Campaign fund?

KHEMLANI: I think the distinction is between fundraiser for my
re-election account, for my re-election, for a political purpose as
opposed for a specific reason. The specific reason was to pay
Ricky Ponting’s appearance fee and I think those who actually attended
the Forum will say that it was a fantastic event, it was worthwhile and
I certainly look forward to having it again next year if I have the
privilege of being re-elected by the Ryan constituency.

AUSTIN: At any time, at any time, has the Ryan Liberal Campaign fund been used for Party-political purposes?

KHEMLANI: They Ryan Liberal, the Ryan Campaign is an account
endorsed by the Liberal Party for the re-election of the Member, and
that is an entirely different thing. This money that was
recovered by people very kindly making donations and companies
sponsoring the event, it was to help assist the costs of Ricky Ponting
and unfortunately we had to pay him but I thought it was an investment
worthwhile providing a service to the local community and I think, as I
said, everybody who turned up, I think, thoroughly enjoyed it and
that’s what’s the important message to get out and I think Senator.
Faulkner’s Estimates comment impugned my integrity and I think they’re
entirely inaccurate and I reject them totally.

AUSTIN: Michael Johnson, from memory you’ve held a number of
fundraisers in the past, one with Alan Jones at the cost of $100 head;
I think the Springboks Rugby Team, I think, at one point at about $100
head: I think a John Eales one as well, possibly for more money – were
they fundraisers?

KHEMLANI: No. The Springboks one was not a
fundraiser. I was able to, I had the opportunity of hosting that
as Chairman of the Australia-South Africa Parliamentary group and that
was a great opportunity to bring Ryan residents who originally had a
South African heritage to come and meet members of the South African
team.

AUSTIN: So when the ink went on the cheques it wasn’t made out to the Ryan Liberal Campaign fund?

KHEMLANI: No, that was made
out to the caterers that put it on. I mean, I don’t think that
we’re going to put on McDonalds hamburgers & fries for people and
unfortunately, as you know, Steve, nothing’s for free in this
world. You’ve got to pay for things, to host the thing was a
great opportunity. It brought out a whole range of Ryan residents
and I don’t think you’ll get one comment from anybody who turned up
that it wasn’t worthwhile, and there was a lot of complementary
guests. I’m not going –

AUSTIN: I guess I’m increasingly troubled about this, if
nothing’s free in this world, you’ve got a Youth Leadership Forum where
people came along, a cocktail party that wasn’t a fundraiser but people
made their cheques payable to the Ryan Liberal Campaign fund to pay for
the person that appeared at the Youth Leadership Forum – it sounds to
me like you’re playing with words, Michael Johnson?

KHEMLANI: No, no, Steve, Senator Faulkner’s suggestion was that Ryan –

AUSTIN: I’m not talking about Senator Faulkner. I haven’t
interviewed him, I haven’t spoken to him, I’m talking to you.

KHEMLANI: Well, feel free to do so because that’s what’s at the
heart of it. He’s made an allegation in Senate Estimates which
I’m rejecting.

AUSTIN: I’m not putting his allegation to you.

KHEMLANI: Okay.

AUSTIN: I’m asking you independently, I haven’t even spoken with the guy.

KHEMLANI: Whether you’ve spoken or not is irrelevant. I’m clarifying his comments.

AUSTIN: But I’m not asking you about his comments, Michael
Johnson. I’m not asking you about his comments, I’m not asking
you about his comments – I’m asking you to explain how you can say that
it’s not a political fundraiser when what you describe as a Youth
Leadership Forum was attached to a cocktail party where people, the ink
actually went on cheques saying Ryan Liberal Campaign fund, and you’re
saying that those cheques were used to pay back Ricky Ponting who spoke
at the Youth Leadership Forum?

KHEMLANI: That’s absolutely the case. I’ve explained my
position whether you like what I say is an entirely different
thing. I think you should give me the courtesy of accepting my
comments. If you find to the contrary, then, or you believe to
the contrary, that’s fine. My position is this, and I’ll say it
again, Ricky Ponting was asked to be the keynote presenter, speaker, at
the Ryan Youth Leadership Forum. We had to pay him, and so we are

AUSTIN: And the fundraiser paid him the money?

KHEMLANI: There was an event held, there was a cocktail held, at
the home of a Ryan resident who very kindly opened up his home to
guests, and we asked those guests to come to help contribute to Ricky
Ponting’s appearance at the Forum, but no one paid to go to the
Forum. There was not one single dollar paid by any of the
students that came along to the Forum and that’s what’s important.

AUSTIN: No schools, no parents, no one associated with it?

KHEMLANI: No, that’s right. Not one single person who
attended the Forum was asked or expected to pay. It was a
community event, put on by me, as the local Federal Member, for the
young people of Ryan and it was a great success and I think that
something like this shouldn’t be smeared or attempted to be smeared
simply because we’re working hard to try to do something
creative. I mean –

AUSTIN: All the listener-caller, Barry, wanted was clarity.
I have to go, Michael Johnson, but as I asked at the last time we
interviewed, I do need some time to speak with you in some depth about
the way you raise funds in your Seat. Do you think it’s proper to
have people like Ricky Ponting, the Springboks, John Eales, as your
guests as what are political fundraisers, were they all aware that they
were being used to raise money, where the money on the cheques actually
goes to the Ryan Liberal Campaign fund?

KHEMLANI: Well, you know, all these people know who I am.
They’re in the position where they can decline it. People like
Ricky Ponting’s manager, it was made very, very plain to him that he
was coming to a community forum and we had to recover the costs of that
forum. We asked for it to be, for the appearance fee to be
reduced, unfortunately they declined that, so we had to recover the
funds and we were able to do that through companies very generously
sponsoring it. Companies don’t make political donations or
certain companies don’t feel comfortable making political donations and
so certain companies made those directly to the schools, directly to
the venue, directly to the caterers, and certain companies made it
payable to me because I had to pay Ricky Ponting.

AUSTIN: Michael Johnson, I think we do very clearly need to speak
with you again about this and particularly (inaudible) give the
opportunity for members of your electorate to talk to you about it –
will you do that for us on air.

KHEMLANI: Happy to do that.

AUSTIN: We’ll call you when we finish on air and arrange a time. Thank you very much this morning.

KHEMLANI: Pleasure.

Ends

Look at one grab again, folks:

“It was entirely a community event, Steve. There was not a single
penny asked from the schools or from the students and I think what
Senator Faulkner raised in Senate Estimates is quite deceptive and an
act of fraud on his part, not my part.”

Er, hello. If that e-mail is from our friend, doesn’t that mean
he sent a message to the schools asking for money to offset the
cost

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

What a year. Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW