Chapter 12...two sick lieutenants
As I stated at the beginning of this book, I am not a recognised author, nor a writer. Like Pauline Hanson I spent only one year at high school. That was in a little place called Whakatane in my native New Zealand. My worst subject was English, my favourites were essay writing or what they used to call in those days 'compositions'. I loved science as well. Most of my working life I spent painting and paperhanging until I found my niche. For four years before coming to Australia from Christchurch, I was a painting company's estimator. Sandwiched on either side of my generation was a father, who was also a painter and paperhanger, who at the age of 50 resumed the career that he had first been apprenticed to in 1915, that of newspaper man. When he retired at the age of 74 he had become Editor of a provincial daily. My son has no penchant for writing yet he is today, at 42, the publisher of four community newspapers. He was blessed with business skills that I could never hope to emulate. All power to him.
I mentioned that when I was at school I had a passion for writing compositions. The downside to this was that usually the best stories were selected to be read out to the class by their authors. I hated this. I would do anything to avoid standing before the class and having to read what I had written. These were the first lessons on a Monday morning and as a result I was habitually late.
I have written a lot over the years, some of it provocative but mostly passionate.
On two occasions that I have given full vent to passion issues, I have been forced as a result of what I had written, to take it into the public arena. One of those was the Foreign Land Ownership meeting in 1988 that drew 1500 people and nine years later when I had dared to stand up and publicly defend and support Pauline Hanson. On both of these occasions I had to do the thing I dreaded most ...speaking to a live audience. I am the first to admit, that I am no public speaker, but what I lack in presentation and natural ability is apparently negated by what the Gold Coast Bulletin Editorial once described as 'sincerity and dedication to the cause.'
Whiteside’s meeting at the Miami Great Hall, May 24 1988. Here is living proof. Cadet journalist Louise Pemble of the Gold Coast Bulletin front row at right. How did I manage this
Now these were no classrooms. These were potential cauldrons of hostile public opinion. In the first instance I had touched on an issue, foreign land ownership that even our paid representatives were running for cover on. Not only was the Miami Great Hall packed but it was a veritable wash of national and international media. That meeting sent shockwaves around the world and echoed in the parliaments of some of this country's major trading partners. It was to bring condemnation from the Hawke Government, the whole gamut of business, to say nothing of those who were dining on the property naivety of the Japanese.
Nine years later the same individual, just a ordinary battler, convened another controversial meeting that packed 850 people into another Gold Coast hall. This too created a first for Australia. Never had a spontaneous uprising of people gathered behind ...of all people ...a politician. This individual was hailed as a hero, a 'great bloke' a real dinky-di Australian. In fact I was none of these things, I simply believed passionately about what I felt and converted the perception of the people into a movement. Unlike other Australians I had the courage of my conviction on these specific issues and did something about it. As fellow country man the late Fred Hollows once said: Bugger your committees, lets get on with the job': my sentiments exactly.
So it was, with these credentials behind me that I received before the ink had dried from David Ettridge's first fax, another.
To fully understand my frame of mind before reading what he wrote, it is instructive to the reader to put him or herself in my position.
In what was more or less a single-handed effort, I had created a mass movement. It was no more than a non-political-party group of people who wanted to show to Pauline Hanson that she was not alone. It was not hers or anyone else's to do what they liked with; it essentially belonged to the people. I did not invite Hanson to join nor would I have allowed her. I always believed that the movement would retain integrity if Hanson remained outside. This was not to imply that she could not be trusted but simply to avoid any attempt to use her as a catalyst to create a launching platform for a political party ...something that she originally held in complete contempt. As I pointed out at the time, had it been Pauline's movement, the name would have been Pauline Hanson's Support Movement, with the apostrophe ’s’.
My worst fears were in fact realised. First it was Pasquarelli who was telling her to 'get rid of it.' No sooner had he been sacked than Oldfield was 'mind-bending' her. Only he had to use a foil to hide his identity because he still was being paid from the taxpayer’s purse whilst in the employ of junior minister of the crown, Tony Abbott. His foil was partner David Ettridge. These two, never having done more than muscle in on the skirt of an innocent young woman, had now taken over the movement that I had started.
It may well be argued as Gerard Henderson once told me, 'that you should have been politically awake as to what was happening.' In other words I should have watched my back. I responded. "We were in the simple business of supporting Hanson; had we been educated in the sordid game of party politics, we might have stooped to their level. We weren't and we didn't.”
So now this individual had the temerity to write the following:
April Fools day 1997
Today you lost the respect and admiration of many people who only ever knew who you were because you were part of a popular and important movement for change.
You destroyed the position you created for yourself as one of the initiators of an organisation that was never yours to own and certainly never yours to destroy.
Pauline Hanson represents the only hope many Australians have for change in this country and you attempted today to destroy her reputation and her credibility; all because she and others in the organisation will not allow you to assert your opinions and will over Pauline's political direction.
Pauline had aroused the hopes of millions of Australians before she had ever heard of you. You tapped into this phenomenon and started to believe that you owned it. You audaciously came to believe that you and John Pasquarelli were the only ones who had the ability to guide Pauline's success.
As in so many of your incorrect assumptions of recent times you are also wrong about Pauline's future success, she will succeed without you and your advice. Your decision to sabotage and betray the most sincere efforts of Pauline's supporters- something you had no right to do has shocked people who respected you. I believe that today you destroyed yourself in a pitiful display of spite.
Instead of accepting a role of being the elder statesman of the organisation and being respected and appreciated for your efforts for your lifetime, you have isolated yourself to a position where you will be remembered as being foolish and destructive.
If you have any dignity you will now withdraw and have nothing more to do with our organisation and we will have nothing more to do with you. We will move confidently forward as any fallout from today’s incident will last for only a day. The media will have other stories tomorrow, however your day of media notoriety will harm you and your reputation for years.
signed David Ettridge.
A year on as I write this story it is interesting to note how this mind of Ettridge worked. First of all the letter was received at 9.30am on the morning of April the 2nd. Even before he had begun to compose this vitriol his mind was beset with venom. Ettridge wrongly asserts in the first paragraph that I was part of a popular and important movement for change.
If I recall correctly there was NO movement for change. A MOOD for change there certainly was, but Hanson was only an aberration who had been in the parliament for six months and had hardly opened her mouth. She had found herself elected by a quirky set of circumstances and her only media grabbing contributions were Pasquarelli driven and inspired.
Ettridge claims I 'created a position for myself' and that I destroyed it.
It is marvellous how one's mind works when one is guilty of the things one accuses others of. I think it can be reasonably proved that I created the movement ...any idea of creating it for other than the stated reason defies logic. I never sought to 'hijack' a movement and then have myself forcibly installed as its President and vice president as Hanson and Ettridge had done. As for destroying the movement, let me repeat what Hanson told Hazelton and me. 'If anybody is going to destroy One Nation, I will do it.' The propensity for destruction was not driven by revenge by her opponents or hostile media but rather the machinations of the trio's self-evaluated political nous, which did not stand the test ...in others words pure arrogance.
I am I admit bemused by my apparent failure to 'exercise my will and opinion' over Pauline. First of all in order to be able to do either of these things, it requires contact, one would imagine prolonged contact. John Pasquarelli had that in abundance. John was a politician, street smart and knew what was wanted. Hanson was blinkered. Once she had given vent to her pet opinions in her maiden speech her run was virtually over. Pasquarelli knew this and realised that he could mould certain aspects of her game. If she was to survive he had to. Hanson's mind is a political void, in order for it to rattle there had to something put in it. Pasquarelli fulfilled that duty.
The day before Pasquarelli sacking came I claimed that Hanson was a pawn in a scheme hatched by Senator Noel-Crichton Browne, to take control of the Senate. The article that appeared in the Sun-Herald of Sunday December 8, went on:
Describing Mr Pasquarelli as a 'mind-bender instead of a minder' Mr Whiteside went on to say that 'Ms Hanson was no longer able to think on her own.'
Now there was nothing new about this. Anyone with eye on Hanson could see that she was being influenced. Paul Trewartha said in a rare display of political honesty, that 'His (Bruce's) dismissal was brought about by a request from Pauline Hanson, because Bruce would not stop giving stories to the media.' ( see Hanson: stylish second coming by journalist Fia Coming, Sun-Herald 21/11/1999) This was an example of those ‘stories’.
The fact that they were pertinent and unacceptable to Hanson and her minders was reason enough for them to contact me. If damaging comments were coming from her support, then this surely was a signal to go back to the grassroots and find out their concerns. No such contact was ever made. As founder of the movement they had trouble with my incapacity to accept less than the truth. And so it was to be.
And what angered Hanson was what I went on to say that day in the Sun-Herald.
'Pauline doesn't listen to anyone anymore and is not treating the people who are loyal to her with any respect. ...Pauline's great appeal was that she was naive and didn't know anything about politics, but that seems to be changing for the worse.'
Pasquarelli was reported as being 'totally unconcerned' by the remarks yet went on to say; 'It's a pity he doesn't speak to people before he goes and talks with the press. All this man is doing is causing Pauline Hanson a great deal of damage.'
He may have been 'totally unconcerned' but that did not prevent him from sitting down and advising Hanson to 'instigate a court injunction' to have me silenced. This was on her desk the following day; she read it and then later in the day she sacked him.
Far from 'trying to exercise my will and opinion' over Hanson as claimed by Ettridge, the above remarks indicate that I was calling for her to be left alone. At that time I was acutely aware that Pauline was being pushed and pulled from all sides, particularly by Pasquarelli and to a lesser extent Hazelton. We know now that these two people played a minor role as Hanson was now taking her orders from Oldfield.
If ever the fertile ground for exercising will and opinion existed for influencing Hanson then few in this country would deny that Ettridge and Oldfield held it. It took nearly four years and a substantial erosion of her loyal support base before she woke to what was patently obvious to many, that she was used like a dirty rag.
By December she was riding high; she could say what she liked, do what she liked and began to believe that she was by now invincible. It was heady stuff, but it was also dangerous. She was like a runaway train, careering out of control but nobody was taking any notice. It seemed that there were two camps ...those of the 'establishment', who to use a Hansonism, 'out to get her' and those who thought that she could do no wrong. It was not politically astute of me to publicly criticise ‘my hero’, or so the rules of the political game decree. It would have been better to have done this behind closed doors, but that was the trouble ...closed doors. Hanson's support movement was her greatest ally, but it was something that she was advised very early on to dump. Pasquarelli admits this in his book. His motives were questionable. Anything that distracted media attention from Hanson, lessened his control. The result was that Judy Smith her sister told me,
"Pauline doesn't need support; she can do it on her own."
In fact those prophetic words that I had publicly uttered were regarded as sacrilege by the Hanson camp and as Ettridge correctly states 'ammunition for the media.' What of course was lost in all this was the potent message, tragically so accurate, was ignored. At a time when Hanson was untouchable, the darling of the masses, a damning indictment came from not her opponents, but tellingly from her loyalist supporters. This was a wake up call, cold water in the face, an earnest cry to come down to earth because she had a 'compact' with her people and the way she was heading she was going to lose it.
It is often said that sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. Few around that I know of would have dared to have criticised her as I did that day, but I guess in hindsight I had every right to. Nobody had dared to stand up for her and publicly call for an army of support, not even the voluble Ettridge or skirt-clinging political parasite David Oldfield, ...that criticism, damningly accurate as it turned out, was just as passionate as was the call for her original support base. You can’t have it both ways.
'Pauline had aroused the hopes of millions of Australians before she had ever heard of you.' Ettridge lurched on like a drunken boxer and accused me of 'tapping into the Hanson phenomenon' and believing that John Pasquarelli and I were the only ones who believed that we had the ability to guide Hanson's success. It may come as a surprise to Mr Ettridge, that a very astute Senator John Stone, one time head of the treasury, believed that Hanson would have been better served had that been the case. I was flattered, when Hazelton related this to me, but never did it cross my mind. Unlike Pasquarelli who was suitably qualified, I don’t believe I could have done the job, even if I had wanted to. This of course put me at opposite ends of the spectrum with both Ettridge and Oldfield, neither was qualified, but they had to go out and prove it. Still, the financial and political rewards were well worth the ignominy of destroying Hanson in the process.
Hanson did not know who Paul Hasluck was, who Arthur Caldwell was, she didn't understand what a 'xenophobe' was, so why would she avail herself as to who I was for goodness sake. She might, after she had found out that someone down on the Gold Coast was organising a support movement for her, have made it her business to find out instead of relying on rumour and hearsay. Oh yes, I heard about Brian McDermott, who advised Hanson that I was a 'racist' ...'a Jap basher.' What Hanson was not told was that he had been ordered out of my home eight years previously when he had tried to seize another movement, Heart of a Nation. McDermott was an ideological recruit of the Citizen's Electoral Council later commandeered by the La Rouche organisation, as I indicated earlier.
Gerard Henderson, sometime contributor to the SMH and Australian, one time adviser to John Howard and CEO of the Sydney Institute, scoffed at Ettridge's idea that I had 'jumped on the Hanson bandwagon.' In a phone call I had with him on one occasion, he told me that
'You started all this nonsense, when you took the foreign land ownership fight up to the government in the streets of Surfers Paradise. Hanson has merely tagged along on something you started years ago'. Perhaps Margo Kingston was correct when she said at the time 'a mass movement was born, back in May 1988.
I don't know. I am not able to objectively assess the merits of that or otherwise. All I know is that someone had to do it and for better or worse, I chose against the alternative ...apathy!
Ettridge's letter sickens me. In the light of what has happened, the question must now be asked ...why did he accuse others of trying to control Hanson yet destroy her doing precisely that. Ettridge is a self-confessed fund-raiser ...that is all he ever was, yet he suckered in trusting, honest, but gullible people to establish a war chest, not for the perpetuation of the hope that Hanson had inspired but simply to provide a conduit and lever to facilitate a pathetic, self-confessed National Socialist into ‘a parliament’. This man stands condemned!
The public saw what the media fed them. It was comic opera and 'mana from heaven', but to those working at the coalface of Hanson support the treachery was a growing concern as this cartoon illustrates. In hindsight this was not too far removed from what eventuated. The cartoon came out of Chinchilla
Enough already has been written in this chapter to condemn Ettridge. If readers believe that I am sour on this man, then be reassured that if I was predisposed toward writing about the 'seedier and sordid’, I would not have to pay a $1000 as one journalist did.
In a detailed article spread over two pages of a week-end southern newspaper, this is written :
One Nation Director David Ettridge attacked the files as 'stolen goods', but confirmed they did originate from the national office.
When asked to confirm or deny the electronically written letters, bearing his, (Ettridge's) salutations, the reporter wrote thus: Mr Ettridge said the letters were fabrications, part of the dirty tricks campaign against his party.
This is an illuminating comment about being 'fabrications.' Why would such a question produce that immediate response? Surely a clear conscience would first proffer surprise, indignation or simply 'what letters?' No, here it is loud and clear in the sort of double-speak that permeated everything to do with Hanson from Ettridge's inception ...the nauseatingly, repetitive accusation of people setting out to destroy. Every-time their integrity was questioned, their accountability challenged the response was to attack, accuse, denigrate or lapse into paranoiac diatribe.
How did he know they were fabrications? How did he know there were any letters at all, how did he know that the journalist concerned was not baiting him? . What he knew was that there were letters...and they had the ability to hurt him.
What I saw among 452 separate files, were many such letters. How did I come by them? I was asked by Terry Sharples to peruse them whilst I was assisting him in his court case against One Nation. It was an interesting exercise and I am sure one that gives One Nation no joy whatsoever, particularly Mr Ettridge. One letter in isolation, may well have been a fleeting aberration, but when a whole raft of them are viewed, a picture emerges dot by dot ...close up, it is hard to make out, but stand back and like a newspaper print, a picture emerges. It was not a pretty picture. And THIS was the man who told Television One in New Zealand that I was mentally sick and psychotic! Mirror, mirror on the wall!
Here I am reminded of a similar sick mind. The Courier-Mail of Aug 8th, 1998, carried a stunning photo of Sandra and David in a pose that would leave most people disgusted. Men who respect women do not thrust their hands into their date's inner thigh in a public display of thoroughly bad taste. But then this was the other side of Hanson's David duo. Less than a month after the launch of One Nation Oldfield rang me. His message was simple. It was cold steel stuff, carried out with a brutality that somehow does not sit with the Australian ethos of a fair go. It would have done justice to any lieutenant of the SS.
'You were never going to be allowed to stay in the PHSM. You would have only stand in the way of our agenda. We are going to destroy you.'
Cold, clinical and chillingly callous. That was David Oldfield. …and these …these were the people who got away with it. These were the trusted and entrusted lieutenants of Pauline Hanson. These were the men that she placed ahead of those who had given their all.