News National AEC asked to probe Pauline Hanson financial disclosures over One Nation aircraft

AEC asked to probe Pauline Hanson financial disclosures over One Nation aircraft

one nation aircraft
An aircraft used for One Nation party matters may get its leader Pauline Hanson in hot water. Photo: Getty
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The Australian Electoral Commission has been asked to investigate whether Pauline Hanson’s One Nation has breached financial disclosure laws.

The ABC’s Four Corners on Monday night reported money provided by Victorian property developer Bill McNee was used to buy a light plane which is insured an registered in the name of Pauline Hanson’s chief of staff James Ashby.

The Jabiru aircraft, which bears the party logo and has Senator Hanson’s image emblazoned on the side, has been frequently used by Mr Ashby, a trained pilot, to fly his boss to regional areas.

Former Queensland One Nation treasurer Ian Nelson told the program he urged Senator Hanson and Mr Ashby to declare the plane as a gift, but was told not to worry about it.

The program also raised allegations of candidates being forced to sign contracts which committed them to spend money with Mr Ashby’s printing company and imposed a $250,000 administration fee if they were elected to parliament but later quit the party.

Special Minister of State Scott Ryan has spoken with the AEC commissioner Tom Rogers after the program went to air, AAP has been told.

“They will have a further conversation in coming days,” a spokeswoman said.

However Labor senator Murray Watt has referred a possible breach of electoral laws to the AEC.

“A breach of financial disclosure obligations under the Act may be a criminal offence,” Senator Watt said in the letter to the AEC.

“Furthermore, any attempt to subvert these critical measures, which seek to ensure transparency and accountability in campaign financing, threatens to undermine public confidence in our system of democracy.”

Queensland One Nation state leader Steve Dickson said on Tuesday his party had met its obligations to declare donations.

“I can’t give you all the details on how James has come by his plane – if he’s bought it personally, if it’s been a part of some sort of a donation – but what I can say is we are playing by the rules,” Mr Dickson told Sky News.

Mr Dickson, a former Liberal National Party MP who quit to join Senator Hanson’s party, described the ABC program as a “stitch up” featuring disgruntled former officials and candidates. Asked how influential Mr Ashby was in the party, Mr Dickson said he was “an element of the organisation”.

James Ashby
Mr Ashby flies the plane. Photo: ABC

Greens democracy spokeswoman Lee Rhiannon said there was a strong case for federal and state electoral commissions to investigate the political donations and gifts received by One Nation.

“How Senator Pauline Hanson has had access to a small plane for campaign purposes should have been reported,” she told AAP.

Senator Hanson has declined to comment. But she told Sky News in January she provided fuel for the aircraft out of her own pocket.

“I’ve still got my plane, well the party’s plane, but all the trips I’ve done in that since the election I’ve filled it up myself,” she said.

One Nation declared a payment of $1187 noted as “Jabiru aircraft service” in its Electoral Commission of Queensland party disclosure return for the first half of 2016. The disclosure return was signed by Senator Hanson’s brother-in-law Greg Smith, who the form said was the “party agent”.

Mr Ashby told Sky News in a brief statement on Tuesday his company had bought the plane.

“It’s the second plane I’ve owned. I’m very capable of buying my own planes. The hours used for the party have been declared.”

The aircraft is registered to Mr Ashby through Recreational Aviation Australia.


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