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Wagyu beef all the way as Gina fuels Ashby's election bid

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Australia's richest person, Gina Rinehart, has associated herself with the election campaign of One Nation's James Ashby (Screenshots via YouTube)

The grift party might just have hit a rich new vein.

Way safer than the NRA, mining magnate Gina Rinehart also probably has more money.

Just before Christmas, Pauline Hanson's One Nation (PHON) announced James Ashby as its candidate for the Queensland state seat of Keppel.

Just after Christmas, James held a fundraising dinner for his Keppel campaign.

Gina Rinehart turned up to this fundraising with enough of her house-brand, grade-A Wagyu beef to feed a score of hungry guests.

According to reporting, some guests paid $2,500 each, but it must have been a select few. There are 22 people in the fundraising photo taken from the PHON Facebook page. Exclude Gina, Pauline and James, who all presumably got a freebie, that leaves 19.

If everyone had chipped in, that would be $47,500, but The Guardian reported:

‘In the month since he announced his run, Ashby has banked $22,700 in his campaign account, mostly from the Rinehart event. That is more than the party raised in the 12 months before the 2020 State Election.’

Maybe those who didn’t pay were denied a private audience with Australia’s beef queen, who knows?

What we do know from The Guardian report is:

Some of Ashby’s donors at the dinner table included local Liberal National Party figures.’

Gina is apparently smitten with James.

She is prepared to associate herself directly with his election bid. Billionaires don’t do these things lightly.

There’s an obvious upside for James and One Nation in this now-public relationship, but the question is — what’s in it for Rinehart?

In the meantime, PHON continues to be the party without a cause.

According to Dr Paul Williams, associate professor of politics and journalism at Griffith University:

‘...today’s PHON struggles to present any concrete identity. Indeed, in just 25 years the party has morphed from railing against Asian immigration and Indigenous welfare to one hostile to Islam. Then, when it found too few votes in those issues, the party turned to the culture wars with tirades against trans rights and the Safe Schools program.’

Ashby does love a culture war.

A current crusade is railing against the name change of Great Keppel Island to its Indigenous name of Woppa.

James Cook named the Keppel Islands to curry favour with first lord of the admiralty, Augustus Keppel. The name Keppel is about as relevant to the native title holders, the Woppaburra people, as is the admiralty. The last time Great Keppel was any good was when TAA was around. Anyway, Woppa is a tourist winner name welcomed by many locals.

As an issue to beat up, it is a dead horse.

A statewide surge in PHON support sufficient to carry Ashby to victory on a tide of public euphoria is not going to happen.

According to Dr Williams:

In the run-up to this October’s Queensland State Election, a late 2023 uComms poll pegged PHON support at 7.8% — slightly up from 2020.

 

While Ashby is unlikely to win the seat of Keppel at this year’s Queensland Election, don’t be surprised if Ashby – next year or later – succeeds Hanson as senator for Queensland in a casual vacancy should Hanson retire midterm.

Maybe. That has been the conventional wisdom.

The wild card is Gina. And what she wants.

Ross Jones is IA's investigations editor and the author of 'Ashbygate: The Plot to Destroy Australia's Speaker'. You can follow Ross on Twitter @rpzjones_fin.

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