Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones discusses the latest One Nation developments, as Brian Burston teams up with Clive Palmer and allegations of electoral law breaches surface.
BRIAN BURSTON and Clive Palmer, now there is a match made in heaven.
Or the other place.
Clive Palmer is considering a return to Federal politics and has announced One Nation defector Brian Burston will become his new party's Senate leader — and only sitting member.
What’s in it for both men is pretty obvious.
Clive gets an instant political party. The Palmer United Party (PUP) was deregistered after the debacle of its last electoral outing. So until Monday 18 June, Clive did not have a political party, just the registered name, United Australia Party, and a few hundred billboards of a photoshopped Clive urging ‘Make Australia Great’ — whatever that means.
There are only two ways to register a Federal political party in Australia.
One is the hard way.
As News pointed out last May, after the Palmer billboards started springing up across the country:
'To register his party again with the Australian Electoral Commission, Mr Palmer would need to sign up 500 members … '
Seeing the mainstream view of Clive is that he is a miserable political failure who insulted the "Brick With Eyes" (former Senator Glenn Lazarus) and rips off his workers, getting 500 un-bribed signatures would be a big ask
'… or find[ing] an existing MP or Senator to join him.'
Bingo. Burston is an absolute gift to Clive — instant political party without the drudgery.
Clive had toyed with this idea five years ago, back in 2013:
'If Clive Palmer wanted to form a recognised political party and be a force to be reckoned with at the September election, he needed to have 500 signed-up members by 5 p.m. on Monday, 13 May 2013. Or, failing that, to have signed up a sitting Federal MP as a member.'
~ Ashbygate: The Plot to Destroy Australia's Speaker, 2015
In 2013, it was Peter Slipper in Clive’s sights. As it turned out, Clive, who was on a well-moneyed popularity roll at the time, got his 500 paid-up members in the nick of time and Slipper cast himself aside.
But this is 2018 and Mr Popularity has lost his pulling power, so an adrift sitting Member must smell a lot like shark prey.
It’s also a pretty good deal for Burston:
'The funds would be provided by his "billionaire mate."'
A letter from Senator Burston’s former chief of staff, Peter Breen, reveals attempts to raise $350,000 to settle an explosive row within Pauline Hanson’s One Nation that led Senator Burston to quit her party.
While the Breen letter alleges Senator Burston planned to contest the coming NSW State election for One Nation in a peace deal that would keep him in the party after he broke ranks over his support for the Government’s company tax cuts.
Sources tell IA the "row" is between Burston and Hanson's Chief of Staff James Ashby, and that Burston is looking to develop a war chest to assert his legal position vis-à-vis Ashby.
That is, Burston actually wants the $350,000 to fight Ashby and One Nation to the death.
Burston has zero chance of being re-elected in 2019, regardless of what party he stands for, but he and Clive have one thing in common — Ashby antipathy.
Clive has been mixed up with Ashby ever since former Treasurer Joe Hockey allegedly put the screws on him to fund Ashby’s legal assault on Slipper.
Clive refused Hockey’s request.
In his valedictory speech, Slipper, who would consider lying to Parliament a mortal sin, told the House:
"I do recall that Mr Palmer mentioned to me at that time that about Easter  ... Mr Brough, accompanied by the member for North Sydney [Joe Hockey], came to see Mr Palmer to ask him to fund James Ashby's legal fees with respect to the litigation, of which most people listening would be aware."
~ Ashbygate: The Plot to Destroy Australia's Speaker, 2015
Clive knocked it back. Not long after, on 23 June 2012, Clive’s Coolum Resort was hit with an extensive and sophisticated graffiti attack.
We don't know if it's just kids being silly or something else. If it was kids, their musical taste was mature. 'What's a man without his wealth?' is a line by the master of mellow himself, Jack Johnson, from his song 'Symbol In My Driveway'. The next lines are 'got a phosphorescent secret but don't you tell nobody else' .
~ Ashbygate: The Plot to Destroy Australia's Speaker, 2015r, 2015.)
Suspicion for the crime fell on – and lingers over – Ashby and his associates. Nothing ever happened, no person or persons ever got pinged for the daubing and IA is not suggesting Ashby was in any way involved, but suspicion is a funny thing. It grows on people. Eats into their mind.
According to the ABC:
'Former One Nation Senator Fraser Anning has attacked Pauline Hanson's controversial chief of staff James Ashby, saying the adviser was behind his removal from the party.'
Back in February, IA met with Fraser in Sydney — confirmed he is not happy with Ashby. Sold him a book.
So now James has two sitting Senators who really don’t like him.
One with info, the other with a brand new war chest.
On top of all that, there are real problems looming for One Nation as it fights allegations that is has breached electoral laws by trying to run the NSW branch out of Federal head office, which is not kosher.
And the NSW books are, apparently, temporarily unlocatable:
One Nation wrote to the NSW Electoral Commission ten days ago to admit doubts over the registration of the party branch in NSW because it did not have local balance sheets and reports to satisfy state disclosure laws.
Now Burston has fled One Nation, responsibility for NSW books falls on president-for-life Pauline.
“Pauline Hanson is the registered officer, so ultimately the onus is on her."
Because she sacked Burston as deputy registered officer, it falls back on her to make sure the party complies with the NSW rules.
And if it falls to Pauline, it falls to James:
Mr Ashby told Fairfax Media the issue would be under control by the deadline.
“On the 22nd of May, this was raised with party members Brian Burston and Peter Breen,” Mr Ashby said.
“The matter is being resolved and the party has until the 30th of June to submit the necessary documents.”
Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones is a licensed private enquiry agent the author of 'Ashbygate: The Plot to Destroy Australia's Speaker'. You can follow Ross on Twitter @RPZJones.
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