Nobody would listen!

 

I came across this article written by Mike Seccombe on June 22nd 2012. I publish it here because it was written on August 30, 2003. A few days later I was interviewed by Michael Vincent of the ABC. The great irony was that when I went to the papers I was brushed aside ...they simply did not want to know. These article go someway toward verifying what I was talking about and not just rambling on. The great pity is that we did not have intrepid journalists like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein ...nor for that matter a newspaper like the Washington post who supported them.

Bruce Whiteside, 25/06/2012

READ THESE IN CONJUNCTION WITH CHAPTER 18

 

This program went to air on the ABC's World Today. Readers can draw their own conclusions.

Allegations that Liberals once sought Hanson alliance

   

PM - Tuesday, 2 September , 2003  18:18:00

Reporter: Michael Vincent

MARK COLVIN: Back to Australia now, and after the last fortnight's revelations about Tony Abbott's efforts to sink One Nation, it may seem doubly surprising to hear about a time when senior Liberal figures thought of quietly backing Pauline Hanson.

But claims being aired for the first time today suggest that approaches may have been made by Liberals who saw One Nation as a possible way to break Senate log jams, and even get rid of the Australian Democrats.

The former Liberal Party President, John Elliott, has confirmed to the ABC that he did have talks in 1996 with the founder and former Convenor of the Pauline Hanson Support Movement.

The Movement's founder, Bruce Whiteside, claims that Mr Elliott told him that Ms Hanson was being set up to "clear the blockage in the Senate" and that they wanted the "removal of the Democrats".

Mr Elliott denies he ever made such comments, and says his contact with Mr Whiteside "came to nothing". But he confirms that he and Mr Whiteside did talk, as he puts it, as a "possible conduit into (the) Liberal Party".

Michael Vincent of the ABC's Investigative Unit reports.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Back in late 1996, in the first few months of the Howard Government, One Nation was in the first flush of national media attention. Bruce Whiteside had recently founded the Pauline Hanson Support Movement in Queensland and was developing contacts around the country. That's when he Perth political activist, John Samuel, rang him.

BRUCE WHITESIDE: Mr John Samuel first made contact with me on December 5th 1996. His reason for contacting me was to see if Pauline Hanson would run in the state elections West Australia 1996. He became a regular caller and in fact ended up being the man who controlled the Pauline Hanson Support Movement of West Australia and for myself.

MICHAEL VINCENT: We have documentation of Mr Samuel and Mr Whiteside's relationship and we've contacted Mr Samuel several times to give his recollection of events, but he has declined the offer.

Bruce Whiteside says it was John Samuel who just prior to Christmas 1996 told him about two senior Liberal Party supporters were interested in helping Ms Hanson.

BRUCE WHITESIDE: At that stage, Mr Samuel, along with two friends that he was only too keen to tell me about and that was Mr Harold Clough in West Australia and Mr John Elliott in Melbourne.

He more or less alluded to the fact that they were both predisposed to much of what Pauline was saying, and that's about as far as it went, until I had reason to ring Mr Elliott one day, and purely on a basis of trying to get some money to help us with the Support Movement.

MICHAEL VINCENT: This was the point at which Bruce Whiteside, representing Pauline Hanson's Support Movement, made direct contact with the former Liberal President.

BRUCE WHITESIDE: Actually in the first place he returned the call later in the afternoon, and we never actually mentioned any money except that he spoke for half an hour on the phone to me, and during the course of the conversation he said that there were actually a couple of financiers in Melbourne whom he was working with and obviously couldn't be publicly identified with it, and towards the end of the conversation he said to me:

"Bruce, I'd like you to understand that the money would not be there to help Pauline Hanson as such, but will be used to clear the blockage in the Senate" and this really threw me back on my heels and he said "You understand what I'm saying." He said, "this is about the removal of the Australian Democrats".

MICHAEL VINCENT: We've asked Mr Elliott's office if he'd ever made such comments his assistant's reply, "I've passed your message through to Mr Elliott. The answer to all your questions is no".

In response to further questions however, Mr Elliott's office says he did have contact with Mr Whiteside, but that it was "as a possible conduit into (the) Liberal Party when One Nation was riding high," but that it "came to nothing".

To the question: Did Mr Elliott ever give any money to any organisation or individual in support or opposition to Pauline Hanson's One Nation? The reply was again blunt no.

Mr Whiteside however, is now not surprised by what he sees as the tactics of the Liberal Party and people like Mr Samuel in late 1996 and the subsequent manoeuvring to bring Pauline Hanson down.

BRUCE WHITESIDE: Now they're going after One Nation. In those days they were, I believe, seconding One Nation for the purposes of controlling the Senate.

MICHAEL VINCENT: We approached the other alleged backer named by Bruce Whiteside, Harold Clough, who's since been named as one of the contributors to Tony Abbott's anti-Hanson fund.

We wanted to ask if it was true that he had once been involved in approaches to Pauline Hanson's supporters with a view to backing them. But a family member says Mr Clough, who's recovering from an operation, is too ill to field any questions.

MARK COLVIN: Michael Vincent of the ABC's Investigative Unit.

 

 

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Tricks of the trade

August 30, 2003

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extract from the SMH
 

There's nothing new about political chicanery, but the jailing of Pauline Hanson brought new focus on the methods used to bring down her party. Now there are calls for tougher controls over funds used for political purposes. Mike Seccombe reports.

For Andrew Murray, the Australian Democrats' straight-shooter senator for Western Australia, there was a big element of deja vu in some of the names associated with Tony Abbott's efforts to wreck One Nation.

John Samuel, the bagman for Abbott's ironically named trust, Australians for Honest Politics, is one such name. Another is Harold Clough, the WA magnate who has admitted kicking in funds to help Abbott fund court cases against One Nation.

You see, back in the early '90s, Samuel and Clough, along with a Perth stockbroker, John Poynton, were among a group who set out to hijack the WA Democrats.

Samuel was the inside man, and for close to a decade managed to tie the Dems up in legal action over who was entitled to the party name. They tried, literally, to litigate the Democrats out of existence.

Clough, one of WA's wealthiest businessmen, is a long-time backer of and activist within the Liberal Party and bankrolled much of the action against the Democrats.
 

   
   
   

"He donated money to the splinter group - which was trying to implode the Dems - for the simple purpose of assisting their court case," says Murray.

And now, as more details of the efforts of the Liberal Party to litigate One Nation out of existence appear, up pop Samuel and Clough again (Poynton denies having kicked in to the Abbott trust).

"What's going on here?" asks Murray. "We appear to be talking here about something which has happened repeatedly over 15 or 16 years. If this is standard behaviour, where else is it going on? Who else is getting dirt dug on them, and court cases funded that we never know about?

"This [One Nation] one has come to the surface, and the Dems one has come to the surface, then what about all the ones that haven't come to the surface?

"That's why you need disclosure and transparency. That's why people need to drive the connections hard."

But establishing the connections is made difficult by the Australian Electoral Commission, the body charged with overseeing political funding, which appears not to have done its job in this case.

Abbott himself said, in the interview with this paper which kindled the current debate, that he wrote to the AEC "saying the entire purpose of Australians for Honest Politics was to fund legal actions against One Nation".

"And they wrote back to me and said, 'Fine, under those circumstances there's no need for disclosure'," he said.

Mind you, Abbott has not released the correspondence, and we only have his word for it. The AEC may have been more equivocal.

In either case it was an extraordinary decision by the AEC, says Joo-Cheong Tham, associate lecturer in law at La Trobe University, co-author of a forthcoming book Realising Democracy and a specialist in electoral funding.

He says Abbott should have had to reveal the identities of the donors to the trust under the existing electoral laws, had the AEC been doing its job.

"He should have been caught. A trust fund whose activities were aimed solely at Hanson, for the clear benefit of the Liberal Party - as statements by Peter Coleman [another Liberal Party heavy and co-trustee of AHP] and others attest - in my view should have been caught.

"I wonder about the commission's actions. They appear not to have chased it up. It's quite extraordinary. I think the commission made an error of judgement, not a loophole in the law."

John Ure, political scientist at the Australian National University, agrees.

"It looks very much like an associated entity to me," he says. "I would very much like to see the release of the legal advice the commission has obtained on this."

The electoral act is clear. It says: "If a person makes a gift to any person with the intention of benefiting a particular registered political party or state branch of a registered political party the person is taken ... to have made that gift directly to that registered political party or branch."

This section of the act was cited by the Opposition spokesman on electoral matters, Senator John Faulkner, in his representations to the AEC this week about the Abbott business. But it is far from the first time Faulkner has brought this part of the act to the attention of the electoral commissioner, Andy Becker.

Faulkner did it, too, in May 2002, after another of the Government's covert muck-raking operations came to light. That time, the controversy was about the alleged payment of $18,000 for privileged Supreme Court documents relating to the former Prime Minister Paul Keating's piggery.

The ABC's Four Corners program revealed links between the Liberal headkicker Senator Bill Heffernan, the party president, Tony Staley, and a Liberal Party operative named John Seyffer, who procured the documents from a disgruntled Sydney developer.

Seyffer, who also sometimes went by the name "John Walker" (a reference to the alias of the comic strip character, the Phantom), was a mysterious character with no formal political function, yet he reputedly had his own key to the office of both Heffernan and Senator Helen Coonan, now the federal Assistant Treasurer. He also was known to both John Howard and, of course, Tony Abbott.

Faulkner asked the electoral commissioner to examine where the money came from. "There is prima facie evidence that the donations were actually donations to the Liberal Party," he said. "Mr Seyffer's work was clearly research for the Liberal Party on Paul Keating." Nothing came of it.

Once again, many experts agreed with Faulkner that the AEC should have acted. There are those within the Opposition who believe the commission, like much of the rest of the federal bureaucracy, has been captured by the Government.

Andrew Murray sees it a little differently. "The AEC is not a classic regulator, and yet in these matters it's required to be a regulator. It's far too reactive and not proactive. The AEC needs to be far more active in its regulatory role and not just its election management role."

But the Opposition view is supported by the fact that when the matter of Abbott's funding of people to take legal action against One Nation was raised in a Senate Committee by Faulkner in May last year, the AEC said such funds were not something it had considered.

Yet, it had clearly considered it, and given Abbott the go-ahead. And in a formal response to a question on notice arising from the hearing, the AEC said it considered "it would be worthwhile seeking formal legal advice on the matter".

Yet it has not released any advice. To the cynical, this might look like a cover up.

Certainly, the Government did not want Abbott's activities publicised. Howard's first response, when the issue came up last Friday, was denial. When it was put to the Prime Minister at a doorstop press conference in Adelaide that day that the Liberal Party might have "bankrolled the campaign against Pauline Hanson" Howard said he was "not aware of the basis of that allegation".

He went on, as though perplexed: "The Liberal Party, to my knowledge, and bear in mind there's a lot of people in the Liberal Party, but I'm not aware of anything of that kind."

Yet just six days later, Howard went on the ABC's AM program with a rather different story, which was: "Everybody knew about it".

When he gave his first answer, the details of the AHP trust were not all over the front pages. So Howard might have forgotten the minor media stir five years previously, when Abbott and his trust briefly made news. More likely, he was playing semantics.

Senior Liberal figures were involved, but the Liberal Party as an entity had not bankrolled any legal action against Hanson.

At that stage, various Liberal Party figures - and a number of Labor ones too - were busy expressing their sympathy for Hanson over the three-year jail term imposed on her for obtaining $500,000 in taxpayer funds after her party was fraudulently registered. The most extreme was Bronwyn Bishop, who suggested the Queensland Labor Government had somehow contrived the court result and made Hanson a "political prisoner".

Howard himself was more cautious. He said he found the sentence "very long and very severe", particularly because Hanson and co-accused David Ettridge had committed a "breach of the law which is not based on something that is naturally a crime". He went on to say he had "always had reservations" about the party registration provisions of the Electoral Act.

Prime Minister Howard had just as many reasons as Premiers Bob Carr or Steve Bracks to soft-pedal the Hanson issue; a million or more of them. Pauline Hanson might have been in the slammer, but her political constituency was still out there - a constituency already alienated from the major parties, and apparently re-energised by the fate of Pauline. The last thing any politician would want to do, if he or she was hoping to reap some of that vote, was further alienate them.

Someone once said that politics is the art of saying "nice doggie" while you cast about for a rock. And that, it now is clear, is what the Howard Government was doing with One Nation back in 1998, and was still trying to do until this week - seeking to woo them publicly, while clandestinely trying to legally destroy them.

Alas for the Government, this time the rock only further enraged the dog.

Tony Abbott and his fellow travellers now have driven a wedge between the Government and a million One Nation sympathisers. And possibly, if the electoral commission ever finds its nerve, exposed their secret donors to public scrutiny.

 

Note: This story went to air once never to be heard of again. It is very similar to Alex Mitchell's story.

 

There is an interesting reply by John Elliott to Michael Vincent when asked to confirm my statement about the 'clearing of the blockage in the Senate', which it appears he emphatically denied. Given that he (JE) pre-empted what he was about to tell me that he could not be seen to behind this support, I'd have been surprised if he was about to confirm that to a journalist. What amazed me was the fabricated answer that he offered. Whilst John Elliott is correct in saying that our conversation 'came to nothing', his comment that I was investigating a 'possible conduit into the Liberal Party', was not only an off the cuff comment of the moment, but plainly invented. Never in all my years have I ever had a conceivable notion of becoming a Liberal or ever voted that way.

The question that must be asked here is why would a non-entity old age pensioner on the Gold Coast ring  the formidable John Elliott sitting in his office in Little Collins Street Melbourne to seek membership into a political party?

No the truth is that the founder of the PHSM rang John Elliott to seek a donation for Movement. What occurred on the phone developed as outlined in the book.

Given the extraordinary factors in 2010 that saw a hung parliament, should we ever be surprised at the tactics employed when the Nation witnessed a fortnight of 'horse-trading' and the Greens and independents became  poker chips? Never has the 'grasp for power at any cost ' been so patently obvious. As the above story illustrates the means will always justify the ends where politicians are concerned.

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