Who is behind Advance Australia and Captain GetUp? Investigations editor Ross Jones reports.
Last Thursday, 18 April 2019, was the deadline for all eligible Australians to have their correct details on record with the Australian Electoral Commission:
The Federal Election has been announced and Australians must act now to ensure they are enrolled before the deadline of 8pm on 18 April 2019.
Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said all Australian citizens aged 18 years and over are required by law to enrol and vote in the 18 May Federal Election.
Naturally, everyone’s enrollment details should be correct. Our guess is the overwhelming majority of IA readers are diligent about this. You can check out your own enrolment details here.
This check is pretty easy to do, so when IA received ASIC’s current and historical company extract for Advance Aus Ltd, the organisational fount of Captain Get Up, also known as Advance Australia (AA), we plugged in the enrollment details of the directors.
Before we get to that, a small digression.
Advance Aus Ltd (AA) is an opaque structure — and deliberately so. It is an unlisted public company. There is nothing I can find on the public record that makes it clear where AA’s money comes from. If AA abides by AEC rules, we probably won’t find out until next February.
The public face of AA, apart from costumed buffoon Captain GetUp, is Gerard Effrem Benedet. You might remember Gerard from such marvellous events as the collapse of Careers Australia, which folded in 2017 leaving a $150 million damage bill plus a lot of eager students — young Australians keen to get ahead, ripped off, stranded and disillusioned. Others were just plain duped.
Benedet was the face of Careers Australia and was, at various times, billed as everything from ‘executive general manager of marketing, government and public affairs’ to just plain 'spokesman'.
Whatever — he was in it up to his neck.
‘Mr Nicholls' chief of staff is Gerard Benedet.’
Then, after that gig, somehow, as if by a puff of fairy dust, Gerard segued into establishing and running Advance Australia — which actually isn’t Advance Australia.
The nomenclature "Advance Australia", is a pretty crowded field, so whoever is behind Gerard’s latest venture had to settle for Advance Aus Ltd.
‘The latest Tweets from Advance Australia (@AdvanceAust). Advanced manufacturing is technologies, processes and practices that businesses & industry ...’
AA is, allegedly, steered by a so-called "Advisory Council".
The organisation’s web site makes no mention of what this council actually does, but lists its members and their credentials as:
- Dr David Adler, .deputy medical secretary of the Australian Medical Association;
- Maurice L Newman former chairman of Deutsche Bank Australia, the Australian Securities Exchange and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation;
- Kerry Wakefield operates the blog, Tip of the Spear, and is the wife of former Coalition minister Nick Minchin; and, last but not least,
- Kennards Self Storage CEO Sam Kennard.
Advance Aus Ltd was registered on 29 October 2018, but that was a name change from Freedom Aus Ltd, which had been registered the previous August.
Clearly, the powers that be thought Advance superior to Freedom.
By November 2018, Gerard was on a roll.
The ABC reported:
Gerard Benedet says he doesn't know exactly how much they've raised so far, but it's in the "tens of thousands" and he says it's come from nearly 1,000 different donors.
The article noted:
‘Membership is free, so money isn't necessarily flowing from new recruits.’
Five months later, in April 2019, Gerard alleged to Fran Kelly on Radio National that his organisation had 30,000 members as at February and had raised over $1 million in small donations of a "couple of thousand" dollars each. Benedet then claimed the money had been raised from 3,100 members who donated.
When Fran asked Gerard if AA had accepted any funds from rich kids Maurice Newman or Sam Kennard, he replied, "No, not to the best of my knowledge".
Sadly, Fran stopped there. Fran did not ask about David Adler, Sean Jacobs or Kerry Wakefield.
Nor did she ask about James Power, member of the wealthy Queensland (former) brewery family — a man with a reputation for spending money wisely:
'James Power, currently fighting to prevent women from becoming members of Brisbane’s Tattersall’s Club.'
Back to ASIC.
IA stumped up $17 and obtained a PDF copy of ASIC’s current and historical company extract for Advance Aus Ltd.
This document shows Freedom Aus Limited was registered as an unlisted public non-profit company on 31 August 2018. The name was changed to Advance Aus Ltd on 29 October 2018. It is Queensland registered to an office in Creek Street Brisbane. This is also the principal business address. According to ASIC, AA has five directors, only one of whom, Benedet, is also on the advisory council.
It would come as a surprise if any IA reader had heard of any of the other three directors — Christina Katelaris, Laura Jean Bradley and Rose Choi.
Christina Katelaris seems to be associated with Dr Phillip Katelaris, a urologist with rooms in Hornsby and Castle Hill NSW.
Laura Jean Bradley probably once had a Twitter account, which has been inactive since 2013 with 14 followers and one "like".
IA has absolutely no idea who Rose Choi is.
What we do know is that it is an AEC requirement that company directors list their correct details exactly as they are on the electoral roll, including residential addresses. The only exemption is for silent electors and the only way you get to become a silent elector is by convincing the AEC your safety, or the safety of your family would be threatened by disclosure.
According to email advice from a nice lady called Jodi at the AEC:
'The addresses are required to be their residential addresses, they can apply to suppress or use alternative address if they meet the criteria. You can find information on the following link: http://www.asic.gov.au/address-supression’
So when IA cross-checked the ASIC director details against the AEC elector rolls, it was a surprise to find only one name matched — James Power.
The other four all came up with "no match found".
Now, it is possible all four directors have moved residences between the time the ASIC register was created in October 2018 and when the AEC enrollment deadline fell on 18 April 2019. It is possible all four just overlooked to update the ASIC register, just an admin snafu.
IA did its own real-time street view of the ASIC addresses provided by Choi and Bradley, and both appear to be relatively recent constructions.
As for Christina Katelaris, the Hornsby address she provided to ASIC matches one of the practice addresses listed on the urologist’s website. IA attended this address and we can confirm it contains multiple medical practices. There is no evidence of any residential facility. It is possible, we suppose, that Christina resides somewhere in this medical complex but, let's face it, it’s not very likely.
Then there is the front man, Gerard Benedet.
IA did not conduct a physical check of the Ormeau Hills, Queensland address recorded with ASIC, but our online check shows Gerard does not seem to be registered to vote at this address.
It’s a puzzle.
Investigations editor 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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