Pauline Hanson’s barrister believes the mysterious Michael Rattner — or the hoaxer pretending to be him — will soon be tracked down and held accountable for his extraordinary allegations of a vote-rigging cover up by the NSW Electoral Commission.

The mastermind behind what appears to be one of the greatest political hoaxes in Australian history may even face criminal charges.

“I doubt whether he can hide,” Peter Lowe, Hanson’s barrister, told Crikey this morning.

But Crikey‘s conversation with Lowe was cut prematurely short when he asked: “Who are you? You could be Michael Rattner. The question is: who are you?”

After checking that the person on the phone was in fact a journalist — and not “Michael Rattner” — the interview resumed.

“I’m sorry I got upset with you,” Lowe said.

Lowe continued: “There will be sufficient evidence to track somebody down. There are developments underfoot I can’t tell you about…You’d be amazed at what people in law enforcement can do when they put their minds to something.”

High level sources within the NSW Electoral Commission also told Crikey that they are confident the “mysterious people” behind the allegation will soon be revealed.

Lowe said it was still unclear whether Michael Rattner exists or not.

“I’ve never met him [Rattner] so I wouldn’t know if he is authentic. But there is a person presenting themselves as Michael Rattner. My instructing solicitors have spoken to him at length. Pauline has spoken to him. I haven’t personally spoken to him….It’s a very odd person to do all of this as a hoax.”

But he admitted that, in the eyes of the judge, “we have what seems to be a fatal problem. If Michael Rattner is not found we will have a proving where the email came from.”

As outlined in Crikey yesterday, Hanson’s legal challenge rests on alleged email exchanges between the NSW Electoral Commission’s chief information officer and communications manager suggesting counting by “dodgy staff” may have cost her up to 1200 votes. Both men emphatically deny sending the emails.

Lowe said that Rattner had presented himself as authentic person and had been making very serious allegations that needed to be tested in court.

“The court understands this even if the media does not…No one force a recount but the court of returns.”

A senior source within the NSW Electoral Commission, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Crikey that the media’s reporting of the scandal had been “disgusting and extraordinary”.

The source said Crikey‘s report yesterday was the first to point out that the two electoral commission officers alleged to have been involved in the cover-up had both signed affadavits denying the emails in question were authentic.

“We’re just gobsmacked here at the way it’s been reported…It’s what’s not being told.”

The source singled out The Australian‘s Leo Shanahan for failing to give the defendants’ side of the story in his reports.

Shanahan told Crikey he stood by his reporting. He said he had noted the fact the officers had denied the allegations in all but one — “or at most two” — of his reports. “I think I’ve done four or five,” he said.

Shanahan said Ian Brightwell — the commission’s chief information officer who is alleged to have been involved in covering up vote rigging  — hung up on him when he first tried to contact him.”He could have told me, on or off the record that the allegations were bullsh-t…it did raise suspicions”

Yesterday afternoon the plot thickened even further when Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham revealed he had been repeatedly contacted by a fake Daily Telegraph journalist named Michael Wilson since the March 26 election. Another fake Tele journalist, Sean Castle, had requested vote count figures from the NSW Electoral Commission.

Sean Castle does appear to be a real person — but is a former high school history teacher from Sydney, not a journalist.

Shanahan said that he had spoken to both Rattner and Castle and that he believed, judging by their voices, that they were one and the same person. Shanahan last spoke to “Michael Rattner” a week and a half ago.”It’s pretty clear it’s been a hoax,” he said.

Hanson’s lawyer Peter Lowe said to expect more drama in coming days. “It’s as strange as it comes. It’s a very odd case believe me.” Couldn’t have said it better ourselves Pete.

Peter Fray

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