A commission of inquiry must be held into the financial affairs of One Nation from the party’s earliest days to lift the lid on the political movement spearheaded by Senator Pauline Hanson, according to the founder of the Pauline Hanson Support Movement (PHSM).

PHSM founder Bruce Whiteside has been calling for a commission of inquiry for some time, given his concerns over a long period about the party’s treatment of candidates and members when it came to transparency of its financial dealings.

The renewed call for a formal investigation into Hanson’s political movement — which is also supported by Lyn Vickery, former president of One Nation WA Inc, and former WA candidate Sandy Baraiolo — follows last night’s episode of Four Corners, which revealed:

  • Party supporters in regional Queensland see a need for a party like One Nation because they feel the major parties have been neglecting the issues and concerns in the bush, including immigration;
  • Former treasurer Ian Nelson confesses he did not do research into Hanson’s senior adviser James Ashby before allowing him to meet with her. Ashby met Hanson after offering to print material for the party at cost price;
  • Former marketing manager and national secretary Saraya Beric is disappointed in the way in which Pauline Hanson treated her;
  • Emails sent by property developer Bill McNee on several occasions prove he was keen to meet with Hanson and provide the party with funding. McNee ended up meeting Hanson, Nelson and other associates on April 11, 2015;
  • Allegations that Bill McNee paid for the airplane, which is flown by Ashby to ferry Hanson around, via a direct payment to Ashby rather than to the party despite Hanson stating to Nelson that the plane was hers. Nelson told Four Corners Hanson had been told she needed to declare the plane if, in fact, it was the party’s plane. According to Nelson, Hanson told him to not worry about it;
  • Allegations that Ashby pressured Nelson to breach electoral laws by not naming Bill McNee as a donor in disclosure to the electoral commission for donations totalling almost $70,000 on the basis the amounts were confidential. Nelson insisted the donations had to be disclosed with the donating party named if the sum involved was over $1000. Nelson also told the program that Hanson called him an obstructionist for wanting to comply with the law; and
  • Candidates in the WA election were asked to sign onerous contracts that contained a $250,000 administration charge if they were to resign from the party during a parliamentary term; and
  • Candidates also told Four Corners that they were pressured into using Ashby’s printing company for election material.

Bruce Whiteside established a support movement for Hanson in the mid-1990s, which was a precursor to One Nation, because he saw a need for an alternative voice in the political scene. He says there are events described in the Four Corners investigation into One Nation that are similar — if not the same — as those that have occurred in the past.

“I’m saddened that Pauline did not end up realising that she could be the difference between the two major parties,” Whiteside told Crikey.

[How One Nation disendorsed WA candidates who didn’t strictly toe the party line]

Vickery told Crikey that ONWA had been “on the warpath” for years against the absence of financial disclosure, and the failure to maintain proper records of election and membership finances for all divisions across Australia.

Vickery and his Western Australian ONWA colleague Brian McRae told Crikey last month that One Nation’s Queensland headquarters had been trying to shut ONWA down since 2002, including attempts to close the association’s bank account without its knowledge.

Former candidate Sandy Baraiolo told Crikey after the program aired in Western Australia that the party and its leader must be held to account for the way in which they had run party affairs.

While Australians digest the details from the Four Corners program, Crikey can reveal that over the past month that One Nation has changed its governance status and added another business name to its collection.

The business name “Pauline Hanson’s One Nation — Tasmania” was registered with the corporate regulator, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, on March 29, 2017. It joins Pauline Hanson’s One Nation as a business name that is registered “One Nation” and linked with the ABN 53 975 273 862.

One Nation incorporated had been run for many years as an unincorporated association, which is a structure that exposes all members to legal risks, but it was incorporated with the Office of Fair Trading in Queensland on November 16, 2016.

The incorporated body is called One Nation Queensland Division Incorporated.

[One Nation divided over WA election backroom dealing]

An extract obtain by Crikey reveals that Hanson is listed as the president and that her senior adviser and occasional pilot Ashby holds the powerful position as secretary of the association. This means that Ashby is responsible for the maintenance of the member registers, the calling of meetings of members including the preparation of agendas, the keeping of minutes of each meeting of the incorporated body and maintaining a file of all correspondence and other documents related to the association. That role can be expanded if rules or articles of association provide for a broader remit.

The law also requires the party to hold an annual general meeting of the incorporated association’s members within six months after the end of the incorporated body’s financial year. Members of One Nation have not had the opportunity to attend an AGM to hear about the body’s financial performance for several years.

Peter Fray

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