James Ashby: Pauline Hanson's hand grenade

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A hand grenade is about to enter the House and its name is James Ashby.

On 28 July 2015, ABC Sunshine Coast radio reported:

Pauline Hanson has been ubiquitous of late, attending Reclaim Australia rallies and other political events around the country on a busy schedule, for which she has contracted the services of a pilot named James Ashby...

... Mr Ashby said he also had something to offer Ms Hanson, beyond transporting her safely to a destination.
"I've learnt a lot over the last couple of years and that experience comes in handy," he said.

You bet it will.

Pauline and James are close. As in tight. They have spent much of the last 18 months sitting next to each other in a Jabiru J230 light aircraft — a rented two-seater that carries a few bags, cruises at 120kph and has a cabin 112cm wide. That’s tighter than an Austin 7.

Pauline and James are coy when it comes to just how tight they are, but according to The Australian:

'Hanson has taken to referring to the 37-year-old as her “adopted son”...'

Slipper took Ashby under his wing, too. 

James knew exactly what he was doing when he accused the Speaker and he fully understood the democratic crisis his actions would precipitate. That was the point.

It is easy to imagine James’ motivations were political and financial gain, that he was a honeytrap pawn in a Liberal/LNP concocted plot.

But Ashby was no pawn. He had his own agenda — my take is that it was the sheer fun of destroying lives and creating political chaos. Being centre stage on the great stage of national treachery.

James gives off distinct anarchist vibes, fizzing bomb in hand.

From Ashbygate: The Plot to Destroy Australia's Speaker:

"He was a very interesting character," former colleague told The Sunday Telegraph. "He was actually quite a good radio talent but, unfortunately, I suspect had mental health issues. I thought at the time that it was just a very odd way to behave.

"I've worked with some guys whose judgment can be very poor, but James' judgment was worse than poor. He was not stupid, but he was unhinged."

Now Ashby has contrived to again have access the corridors of Parliament, this time with grunt — AKA Pauline.

Much more fun than a powerless Speaker.

Hanson and Ashby are coy about their exact relationship.

The Australian refers to James as Hanson’s minder, while the Herald Sun describes him as Pauline’s spokesman:

'Her spokesman James Ashby, who is facing an investigation over claims he leaked the diary of former speaker Peter Slipper, said he was working for Ms Hanson for free.'

We don’t know if the free thing is true, because Pauline gets pretty antsy when it comes to money.

A 2015 Buzzfeed interview went like this:

Hanson: James Ashby works closely with me and he’s also my pilot.

BuzzFeed News: Ok so he works as your pilot?

Hanson: He works closely with me and he is also my pilot.

BuzzFeed News: But is he an employee of yours at the One Nation party?

Hanson: It’s none of your business. So you better make sure with what you report on this because it’s not your business or anyone else’s business whether James Ashby is on the payroll or not. I told you he works closely with me. He is my pilot. Now anything past that I am not going to disclose. So if you write anything, you make sure you write the truth because if you put anything there that is not, I have solicitors who are very supportive of me and I’ll have you for defamation.

Chiko Rolls have thicker skin.

TV coverage of the ON after-party saw James pop in and out of shot, a hug for his boss here, a kiss on the cheek there, energetic clapping.

James knows exactly where the Coalition Ashbygate skeletons are hidden.

It’s likely he told Pauline a fair bit about the Slipper saga as the clouds drifted by, but it’s unlikely she got the full story. Ashby would keep some ammo dry and ready for future use. 

As Karen Doane once texted to James:

'Just like you keep all those files on others...'

Whatever, Pauline will enter her Senate negotiations with the very real advantage of knowing a lot more about LNP weak points than the other newbies. 

Pauline is a pretty crisp chip, but her judgement in advisors has been proven disastrous. She cannot pick people.

It was James, for his own ends we are yet to see manifest, who picked her.

Here is a hint of what he might get up to (via the ABC):

When questioned about whether Mr Ashby could have used One Nation preferences in the seat as part of a personal vendetta against him, Mr Roy did not rule out the possibility.

"We've seen One Nation both here [in Longman] and in the seat of Herbert do unique things with their preferences," he said.

"In Herbert they ran a split ticket, here on some how to vote cards they preferenced Labor."

Pull the pin and count …1 …2… 3 …

Ross Jones is the author of 'Ashbygate: The Plot to Destroy Australia's Speaker'. 

You can follow Ross Jones on Twitter @RPZJones.

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