Ghosts of the past keep on popping up for Senator Pauline Hanson even as she dug in her heels over the latest public debate regarding the eligibility of Senator Malcolm Roberts to hang out in the red chamber. She’s in the national spotlight now for her burqa stunt, but maybe she should think twice about inviting intense scrutiny. 

The One Nation leader spent part of last week batting away media questions related to her Senate colleague. Roberts has been referred to the High Court by his own leader to get clarity over his citizenship, dual or otherwise.

She must have been too busy doing that, opining once more on Muslim immigration and making very odd sartorial choices, as she did not answer an email sent to her and other party officers by Crikey inquiring about the party’s practices of managing finances. One Nation was scrutinised not so long ago by the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) as a part of a review of party records over 2014 and 2015.

Hanson is the party’s registered officer in Queensland, while her brother-in-law, Greg Smith, is the party treasurer and party agent for the political disruptor.

One Nation has been the subject of a range of other claims related to either electoral or internal party affairs over the past six months, including:

  • Senator Murray Watt — the “shadow minister for chasing One Nation” — has this week sent another missive requesting that the ECQ review the 2015 electoral return and public funding received by the party. He is alleging that the party may have lodged false claims for services in order to maximise public funding;
  • Former One Nation heavyweight David Ettridge has made public his disappointment about the party not having paid a $150,000 indemnity for his court costs dating back to 2003. The party wrote back to Ettridge via Pauline Hanson’s lawyer, Danny Eid, earlier this year stating that he had no claim; and
  • Bruce Whiteside, the founder of Pauline Hanson’s Support Movement, has continued his almost two-decade quest to have a commission of inquiry into Hanson’s political operations on his personal website. Whiteside recently stated he believed One Nation Queensland leader Steve Dickson was a better leader than Hanson.

Papers released by the ECQ revealed that Hanson’s party had some problems throwing numbers together for the ECQ when it came time to present the commission with proof of payment for a range of transactions.

Rookie accounting and record keeping errors were made by the party officials. Somebody forgot that an invoice is not a proof of payment, for example, and invoices addressed to James Ashby and his business trust were not invoices addressed to the political party. The ECQ was expecting a tax invoice from Coastal Signs & Printing for a $1,399.84, which was the cost of the insurance for the famous Jabiru two-seater aircraft but “was supplied instead with an invoice from QBE Insurance (Australia) Limited, which identified James Ashby & Black Bull Business Trust as the recipient, not PHON”. 

There were problems accessing accounting records at One Nation when former secretary Rod Evans moved on from the role. The ECQ demanded data from the party, but Greg Smith told the electoral authority that they could not get into the computers because Evans had passwords he did not hand over.

How much time will be spent talking with members about the ECQ’s findings on August 24 at the party’s first annual general meeting for some years is unclear. The meeting agenda sent to party members last week does state that a treasurer’s report will be tendered to the meeting.  That email, which was signed by party secretary Rod Miles, provides no indication whether members are being given access to the financial statements of the party before that August 24 meeting.

The transactions were subject to ECQ scrutiny date back to the 2014-15 financial year, which coincides with the time Hanson consolidated her hold over the party organisation again. This was partly achieved, according to an e-mail seen by Crikey dated April 18, 2015, with Hanson threatening to resign from the party if the national executive failed to have her back.

“Let me make it quite clear Jim. I went through all this crap years ago and I have no intention of going through it again. For the first time the party has a big financial backer and will only back me as the leader, not the figurehead but the leader,” Hanson told Savage at the time. “I have till the next election to pull this together if I can. If my hands are tied and members are not prepared to work with me I will walk away from the party. This is not a threat but a reality.”

Hanson told Savage that a person called “Bill” — later to be revealed as property developer Bill McNee — was offering to pay the rent for the first year of the office upfront. Office arrangements were being co-ordinated at that time by Saraya Beric. Beric was the national secretary at that time but she is now on the outer with Hanson and One Nation following her participation in a Four Corners report earlier this year that raised allegations related to the absence of appropriate disclosure about the Jabiru to electoral authorities.

The April 18 email was sent exactly a week after McNee met with Hanson and others at Hanson’s property to discuss McNee’s involvement in providing assistance to the party.

Speaking of the plane — nobody is saying anything about the plane at the present time. Crikey is still waiting for a response from the Australian Electoral Commission on whether the investigation has actually been concluded on the much debated transaction. We’ll give you the latest on the plane when we are able.