Chapter 20 ...piecing together the jig-saw
Did Prime Minister John Howard have any knowledge of the formation of One Nation? Has it ever occurred to any member of the Support Movement, to any one of the multitude of journalists, or to any other politician, that John Howard might have known more about Hanson’s One Nation, than any of us know?. I guess this question will take most readers by surprise, may even offend some and shock others that any one in this country might go so far as to suggest it. Well, my gut feeling tells me that he did. I also know that several journalists in Australia believe that the Liberal Party played a duplicitous role in the rise and then fall of Pauline Hanson. Whilst there was always going to be rumour and innuendo about a highly ostracised and controversial group like One Nation, there was also some incontrovertible incidents that a more aggressive and investigative media might have pursued. This however is Australia, a small country with vested interests. This is a country where the media has a very large influence on governments and from time to time the pendulum swings and the two mainstream parties are careful not to ‘rock the boat’. Both Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch, call the shots. In a country that has something of a reputation for cutting down tall poppies, calling certain elements to account goes unchallenged. This is also a country where people like me are treated with sufficient scepticism to be conveniently side-lined. The maxim 'don’t take him too seriously' is a safeguard to put what might be awkward material, in the too-hard basket. Yes it happened to me in 1988 so why not revisit the same upon Pauline Hanson. This is the Editorial in the GC Bulletin 26 May 1988.
often thought of Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward, and the Washington Post. I
admired their tenacity that gave the world Watergate and brought down a
President. I longed for such men and a Washington Post, that might reveal our
own version Manlygate, and the screwing of a people’s politician.
Here is my story, my reading of the drama that was played out behind drawn stage
curtains. You be the judge.
was a shock victory that greeted readers to the Sunday papers on the morning of
February 3 1996. A novice, although not without some notoriety locally had taken
the former seat of one of Labor’s favourite sons and current Governor General
Bill Hayden, with a initial swing of 23%. Pauline Hanson was not only the talk
of the town but she had become something of an instant darling. This was not
your average election turnaround, this was a land slide. This was Ipswich or to
endorse the mindset of the rest of Australia ...Queensland
In the days after this routing of the Keating Government, questions were beginning to be asked as to why this ‘fish and chip’ proprietor had caused such an aberration. It is interesting too in retrospect to note how the media seized on the fact that she was a ‘fish and chip’ throw-up; patronising as if this was another aberration, where today’s graduates were expected to be academics, lawyers or some other facet of the white-collar fraternity. Ben Chifley was an engine driver, but that was in the days when the country was growing up. History seems to have treated him well enough.
Hanson had gone into the election as an endorsed Liberal; had blotted her copy-book, by being innocent enough not to understand certain rudimentary protocols. She set the alarm bells ringing for John Howard by daring to draw attention to the fact that politicians equivocate on the issue of equal justice for both white and black Australia. This was a fire-brand that honest John could do without if he was going to realise his lifelong ambition to ‘serve the nation’; Hanson had to go.
In the ensuing weeks Hanson’s persona began to win the plaudits associated with the David and Goliath syndrome. Hanson was rapidly building a reputation for ‘sticking it up the establishment’. It was not long before the possibilities of harnessing this popular person began to interest other political factions. Hanson however made it clear enough that she had a job handed to her by the people of Oxley and she meant to do it After the initial wave of shock and acceptance had found its level Hanson’s main attention prior to her maiden speech centred around the man who many dubbed ‘Kojak’ ...John Pasquarelli.
Pasquarelli, one time Liberal candidate for Jagga Jagga, was a very good friend
of Minister for Education, David Kemp’s under-secretary, Tony Abbott. It is my
understanding that Abbott had often dropped in to Storey St in Yarraville, for a
friendly chat. Whether they ever met in this capacity before Hanson’s maiden
speech I could not say, but one thing I have experienced is John’s ‘crankiness’
at the suggestion that his friend was part of any ‘plan’. For my money John
simply protests too much. I have a clip in my library of television footage of
a scene in 1995, with John Howard, John Hewson and David Oldfield on stage at an
election meeting. There was no evidence here of a reticent candidate, but rather
of Oldfield being ‘one of them’. Assured, confident and definitely an up and
coming in the ranks. I was asked one day, could I pinpoint the time that
Ettridge's office of was set up on the Corso at Manly. As near as I was able I
put it at November 6th or 7th. (1996)This was interesting because Pasquarelli
put the Commonwealth funded mobile calls to Hanson from Oldfield as early as the
8th. Since these calls were taxpayer funded we have to accept that they were
about Abbott's office business. These were gleaned I am told from phone records
that 'fell of the back of a delivery van' or was it perhaps a ministerial car? I
was not aware of this until much later when I read John’s book Pauline Hanson
by the Man Who Knows; so the two independent assessments
establish this as early November.
Oldfield contested the Manly seat in the 1995 NSW elections. For the most part the high profile leaders of the party, among them Howard and Hewson led the charge, leaving Oldfield to little more than spectator role. This was a seat that the Liberals desperately wanted to regain and in doing so spent considerable money and high profile talent to that end. For reasons that had to do with Oldfield’s chagrin at playing second fiddle, the party decided to ‘give him his head’. The result as I understand it saw Dr Peter McDonald an Independent re-elected on Labor Party preferences by 200 votes. Considerable angst at this loss drew recriminations with allegedly Oldfield blaming everyone but himself (something that became the duo-Davids trademark). There was much dissention within the local Liberal Party branch and in order to quell the situation Oldfield was given a job in Tony Abbott’s Warringah office at 17 Sydney Road Manly. It was here that he was given the role of Research Officer, which kind of tallies with what Oldfield calls his Abstudy and Austudy duties. It is interesting to observe that this work was carried out in Abbott's office, out of his parliamentary expenses, presumably for the benefit of himself and the Liberal Party, yet a whole chapter in Hanson's The Truth occupies seventeen pages! It is headed Pauline Hanson MP, Independent for Oxley. Results of Research into comparative aboriginal and non-aboriginal benefits in the area of: Education, Legal Services ...and so on. This was the preamble to a comprehensive set of tables: Comparisons of Austudy and Abstudy Living Allowances in 1996.
It is worthwhile remembering that the compilation of that book took place between October 1996 and March 1997. Hanson disclaims all within it, outside Part One. The information above is part of Hanson's contribution. Oldfield did not take leave of Abbott until late April that year. So who provided Abbott's Electoral office material to the Hanson publication? In all Oldfield worked for Abbott for 14 months according to my reckoning. This puts the time at March 1996, just after the election and the arrival of Pauline Hanson. These tables were released to the media on June 14, 1996. The question must be asked here, who did this research?
Students of politics will recall that the new Howard Government was beginning
to feel the frustrations of legislation being either impeded or as in the case
of major bills blocked in the Senate. Whilst the Senate is essentially a house
of review the fact remains that it is a political weapon that exhibits ideology.
As we have seen for some considerable time now, minor parties can control the
flow or rejection of vital legislation. A case in point Meg Lees, accommodating
the Goods and Services Tax that the government had sworn never to
introduce. Governments believe that they have the right to formulate policy and
implement it in the term in which they are elected. This is fine if the general
thrust of what is proposed is generally in accordance with the wishes of the
electorate as a whole. Problem is and Howard has voiced this himself, that
governments by virtue of their election wins believe they have an open mandate.
This is not and never has been the case. For this reason most electors not
withstanding the limitations of the Senate system, go along with it. So why
wouldn’t a government opt to shape the composition of the Senate? In my view
this is exactly what they did. The number-crunchers in the Liberal Party came to
the conclusion that Hanson had made serious inroads to Labor’s electoral base.
What if Hanson was to run candidates under her banner? What if?
I have noted in Helen Dodd’s book Pauline the Hanson Phenomenon, that she claims that both John Pasquarelli and I advocated that Hanson form a ‘loose alliance of Independents’. This is wrong. This suggestion was never Pasquarelli’s and in fact like Oldfield he debunked the idea. This was what I believed should happen, and had Hanson been interested in listening I had it already detailed material for her to study. It was a suggestion only and in no way attempted to forcibly direct her political direction. For the scheme to provide suitable candidates, I suggested a three years period, allied to the burgeoning Support Movement. This was thinking outside the political square; innovative and workable.
It is generally accepted that One Nation was founded by Hanson and Ettridge. In fact it was the brainchild of David Oldfield, created by Ettridge and given to Hanson.
I am of the opinion that a small group, very close to the Prime Minister moved to adopt a strategy to control the Senate. Whilst I speculate on the composition of that group I believe that it consisted of possibly John Hewson, the then State Director of the Liberal Party, Tony Nutt, Bronwyn Bishop and Tony Abbott. Abbott was the heir apparent and protégé of Prime Minister John Howard. He more than any other would promote and advance the cause that would see the Liberals control the Senate. He would do this as a favour to his old boss; he would see it as an obtainable goal and he would do it because he had the guts to carry it out. I believe he would have seconded others as being both loyal and trustworthy.
Initially I don’t believe that Oldfield was part of the scheme. Thinking about
it, it had much to commend it from a Liberal perspective. It was a solution that
could prevent the oft threatened ‘double dissolution’. To me, it made good
politics even if it was a little covert. The success or otherwise, would be the
winning over of Pauline Hanson. Was this possible? Would she accommodate the
idea of forming a ‘coalition’, but with her own autonomy? For the moment no one
knew the answer to that.
The first indications that a move had been made showed up in a report of an incident at the Le Grange Restaurant in Canberra, only an hour or so after Hanson’s maiden speech in the Federal Parliament on September 10th 1996. Hanson and Hazelton were being hassled by a couple of loud-mouths and the story goes that David Oldfield intervened and sent them packing. Sir Galahad to the rescue; noble and gallant?
Absolute rubbish! This was theatre
"I met Pauline the night she gave her maiden speech and we became friends’ said Oldfield. This bland, innocuous statement does not answer one vital question: Why was he there?
Pasquarelli had primed the media about her speech. He wanted to make sure that ‘his speech’ received the sort of notoriety that he expected. There was ego here and why not? It would be hard to believe that he did not also advise his mate Tony Abbott, that she would be on show. After-all hadn’t he claimed to have written the speech for her. Abbott would have been well aware of the state of play. I theorise here that once the plan was finalised the means of implementing it was crucial. The answer was in Abbott’s office...the single, articulate and confident David Oldfield. Oldfield was now a cog in the machinery. He was specifically at the Le Grange to ‘cut her off at the pass’. Hanson was malleable. Abbott would have seen his staffer as competent enough to make the approach to Hanson. He would not have entertained the idea that the plan would not go accordingly, so he commissioned him to approach her in Canberra. This I believe was a deliberate and planned scheme to broach Hanson and I have no doubt that up until the moment of contact Oldfield was 'there for his boss’. "Pauline, you are being badly advised. You have to get rid of Pasquarelli". (conveyed to me by M/s Hazelton) This was his first salvo, sharp and to the point. Indicative, one would have thought of a man on a mission. Buddies …Abbott and Pasquarelli ? Pasquarelli had set out to dine with the girls. So why was he not there to ‘protect’ his charge? Was this a pre-arranged idea on the part of Abbott to give Oldfield ‘space to work in’? Don’t forget that Pasquarelli did not know of Oldfield until after the launch some seven months later. I have questioned John about this and as I said he gets decidedly cranky.
After the greetings and convivial salutations, Hanson Hazelton and Oldfield left
the establishment and blended into the darkness of the evening. Hazelton went
back to her room ...alone.
‘All I ever wanted in a man’. ‘David Oldfield is the most brilliant man in his field’.
These remarks have been credited to Hanson. I have read them like everybody else
but I have also been told of the former by a credible source who was the
recipient of the original comment. What Hanson’s emotional state was at the time
is really irrelevent, other than to illustrate how vulnerable she was. She was
pliable and she was putty in Oldfield hands. As a painter of fifty years I can
assure readers that putty suitable treated with oil is beautifully malleable.
Some months later Abbott and Oldfield parted company with acrimony, with allegations of treachery and disloyalty. Why?
I speculate the cause and let you be the judge.
Oldfield could not have contemplated that Hanson would be a push-over, let alone project a none to subtle suggestion that she might have been smitten by him. Armed with this he began to plot a different course and that did not take into account loyalty to his boss Tony Abbott. Back in the office Abbott would be versed on what the prognosis for success was and it would have been suitably tailored to convince him that it would take time. "we’ll have to take it a little at a time Tony, she’s not exactly a push-over".
Now the ball game would take a new twist and this brought into play another ‘buddy’; fund-raiser and World Vision operative David Ettridge. Very quickly Oldfield seconded his diving mate to join the Hanson stable. The manipulators of the pieces on the chessboard now began to plan and position each move. In retaining his position in Tony Abbott’s office Oldfield now had to protect not only his job, but also prevent Hanson from innocently blowing the new plans apart. If Abbott knew of Hanson’s involvement with the office and I don’t see how he could not have, then her calls would most likely be seen as friendly and encouraged. This however was a risk to Oldfield and a risk that had to be resolved quickly. A small dingy office above an adult sex shop, proved to be ideal because it largely concealed the operations of Oldfield and David Ettridge. It was also strategically convenient being just around the corner from Sydney Road, on the Corso, where Oldfield was employed; a matter of a few metres.
was shortly after this that I received a call from a Sydney caller asking how he
could form a Support Movement. In fact this was the very first approach that had
been made to us. Steve Menagh's first contact was for the purpose of finding out
how he could purchase one of the tee-shirts that he had seen on Channel Nine’s
coverage of our initial meeting. These featured ‘I’m a Pauline Hanson Supporter,
blazoned across the chest in a defiant statement that left no room for doubt.
These were the brilliant idea, and creation of John Clodd, whose family worked
like beavers to get them finished on time for the first PHSM meeting. Hundreds
of these were printed and the money fed directly into promoting Hanson. The
biggest problem was finding enough supply of shirts to keep up with demand.
I have a letter, one of the few, of a thousand that was illegally removed from my office; it came from Steve Menagh . Dated the 14 November 1996 he says in part : (see documents)
I desperately would be more than willing to help with the organising of the
meeting. (This was the interest that Stan Zamanek had shown in the PHSM on 2GB)
I would also like to help out if you decide to open a Sydney office. I want to
get on the front line in the fight against this immigration madness. I am glad
there’s a movement like yours busting there (sic) guts doing something about
The disjointed letter carries on in similar vein and he actually boasts about parading down the main street of Hurstville flaunting his new shirt. Included is his phone number, his contact address in Bond's Road Riverwood and a post script: I will be sending the $24 for the tee shirt tomorrow. At thirty-two he seemed keen enough, but it must be remembered that support for Hanson was not that easy to come-by at the time. Menagh was constantly on the phone and whilst I don’t recall a great deal about him, I do know that I organised the mail-box account at the local post-office. Before the end of the month Menagh had every document, registration books, contract papers and advertising paraphernalia that the movement owned. Two days after the registered parcel had been sent I contacted him. The phone had been disconnected. Telstra informed me that it had occurred that day. I then contacted his address, only to be informed that he had left with no forwarding address. Menagh had either done a runner or used a mate's house as a point of contact and receipt. Either way it typified the sort of people who gravitated successfully to the One Nation code of ethics. We were never contacted again. Our property simply vanished into thin air. Yes we were concerned, but there was nothing that we could do about it.
Early in February after Ettridge had visited us, on his hi-jacking mission to
the Gold Coast, the Sydney Morning Herald broke the story of his newly acquired
position, that of National Director to Pauline Hanson. It was here that the
mystery of the missing Menagh showed up. He was Mr Ettridge’s right-hand man.
All the material to which Ettridge claimed was his own had in fact been the work
of the man that he had recently run foul of him face to face on the Gold Coast;
me. Menagh was rewarded with a non-voting Directorship of One Nation Limited,
along with Andrew Carne from Victoria. This made up the Board of Directors that
included Hanson, Ettridge and Oldfield; the last three having voting rights. If
I had not been aware of Menagh, then Hanson, Carne and Menagh did not wake up to
the fact that Ettridge and Oldfield had complete control of everything. Carne
and Menagh enabled One Nation to be registered as a limited company, whilst
Hanson either co-operated or was simply outvoted. Simple as that.
Looking back now, seven years later, I grimace when I think of all those dedicated to the cause who slated me for having had the effrontery of telling Ettridge to his face quote: 'You are nothing but a bloody con-man. Now bugger off back to Sydney and forget all about us’.
It was two days after Menagh disappeared with our property that I received this frenzied phone call from a Steven Love. Love, who was at the time the President of the Young Liberals in Wakehurst, had run foul of the hierarchy of the party, about his pending changing of loyalties. In a report by Greg Roberts of the Sydney Morning Herald, there were indications of what the various party executives across the board might be expected to do, if anything at all. (see documents). This might have gone through to the keeper had John Pasquarelli not alerted Hanson to the article that saw him call on me with what amounted to a stern warning to be careful to whom I spoke with. This was cute to say the least. Hanson had no control over us, recognised in the letter but she was not sufficiently interested either to build up any kind of rapport or line of communication. Hanson states that these people, Love and company were her supporters and that here they were being attacked by the Liberal Party hierarchy. They were in fact in the process of joining not Hanson’s legion, but the Support Movement. It is true that by doing that they hoped to reinforce Hanson’s grip on the Australian political scene, which is why the support movement came about. She draws the inference that Love and company were receiving the unwanted attention of the party heavyweights. This was not the case at the time.
What caused Love to be ‘heavied’ (his words, not mine) by State Director of the Liberal Party was the report in the paper. You cannot put the cart before the horse as Hanson was doing here. That information was not in the newspaper article, so it had to come from somewhere else. As I indicated earlier Bronwyn Bishop also tendered a bit of ‘friendly advise’ to Love. This sudden magnetism to draw the heavy-weights reinforced my belief that Love was called into the Federal office of Tony Abbott and rudely acquainted with the dangerous precedence that he was contemplating. I rather suspect that some of the heavy-weights attended that briefing. I would not have thought that Abbott himself would have been involved with this admonishment. To me, this response to the Love incident highlighted just how touchy and sensitive the Liberal Party was to the growing possibility of mass defections.
Many readers will recall when One Nation as it was to become decided to ‘milk the goodwill of the Hanson supporters in Queensland’ to boost the war-chest for the forth-coming Federal election; how the Liberal-National coalition branches were in utter chaos as to know how to deal with the onslaught of Hanson. There is no doubt that they were worried, but they need not have been for Hanson’s future was now in the hands of two total and destructive incompetents, Ettridge and Oldfield. Yet Pasquarelli had failed to understand the implication of what he later said he drafted. He failed to query Hanson as to where she had obtained the information that she had used to lambaste me in this letter. She had indicated that ‘her supporters’ were being reprimanded because of my ‘talking to the media’. But how did she know that the party heavies had been at work. The answer was simple, but only Hanson would have known that. She would have been fed this through the conduit that was her new political adviser operating out of Abbott’s office. The bow waves of this disturbance would have been enough for Oldfield to have instructed Hanson to ‘close that bastard down’. The extreme irony in all this is that Pasquarelli was doing Oldfield’s dirty work at a time when he only had hours to remain as Hanson’s advisor.
the meantime Abbott was waiting in the wings for the liaison between Pauline
Hanson and David Oldfield to produce results. Into this current climate the
Packer stable political mouth-piece the Bulletin cast its own net. In an
article the Power of One by Kerry-Anne Walsh this appeared.
A Pauline Hanson Led Party that fielded candidates for the Senate would command 18% of the national vote and sweep the Australian Democrats aside to decisively hold the balance of power in the upper house according to an exclusive Bulletin Morgan poll conducted last week.
The publication came out on November 5th 1996. This observation is interesting for it exposes the so called political skills of David Oldfield, and to some extent his echo David Ettridge.
The Bulletin was echoing what ordinary people like myself believed, stripped of all the political humbug and opportunistic rhetoric that carpetbaggers Ettridge and Oldfield were destined to peddle; that a Hanson team of like-minded candidates would create havoc. No mention here of a necessity for a One Nation limpet-clad shell to carry a battery of parasites. No, all it needed was ordinary people with commitment and integrity to carry off the day.
This was Oldfield:
"The concept that Pauline could have all of these Independent candidates that
were Pauline Hanson endorsed is impossible".
Was it?. Who was this political colossus that Hanson had run aground on? He was certainly not blessed with common sense. His was a world of politics and political chicanery. He was incapable of thinking logically that is why he constituted a danger. Oldfield convinced himself that Hanson had to be identified for the voters to recognise her candidates. In other words he gave the voters no credit for thinking for themselves. In New Zealand it is not necessary to coerce and spell out how they should vote. They have used their own intelligence to think for themselves for well over 100 years. The Bulletin suggested that this team of Hanson followers could win "AT LEAST SEVEN SENATE SEATS’. To muddy the waters surrounding Hanson at that time was another operator whose interest in Hanson was specious to say the least; David Ettridge. He wrote of me in justification of the hi-jacking of the movement;
He started this and I wanted him to be one of us. We wanted him as the elder statesman, the person with the vision. I was sad that he chose not to come to the launch of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. I was extremely tolerant and patient with Bruce and had a genuine compassion for him when I realised that he was unable to be part of the picture.
These were empty words. You will note that David wanted. This was not an approach to come aboard; this was a demand to meet the prerequisites of their agenda. I considered within an hour of meeting Ettridge that his agenda had nothing to do with the welfare of the people’s politician, Pauline Hanson. How the idea ever entered Ettridge’s head that I would become ‘one of them’ bewilders me. His partners in this affair Oldfield, Menagh and Hanson may have been slack with the grip they held on integrity, but I valued mine.
was just before Christmas 1996 that we were run off our feet satisfying the
hundreds of requests for membership, for ideas on how to broaden the support
base and to establish new branches.
Helen Dodd in her book Pauline, the Hanson Phenomenon says : "He
(Whiteside) was very passionate about the movement he had created but it was
never well managed’.
This was uninformed diatribe. In a little over six weeks with no resources this ‘poorly managed movement’ had established some twenty-eight branches, in spite of the interference and spoiling tactic of Hanson through Oldfield. She goes on and seven years on it makes for interesting reading:
Whiteside never believed that a well, organised political party was needed to
achieve this vision. He convinced himself that an Alliance of Independents was
the way to go and wanted Pauline to remain Independent. It became impossible to
run the two independent organisations in tandem. …thus before Pauline Hanson’s
One Nation came into being Ettridge had some work to do.
Today I deeply lament the fact that the concept of the Alliance of Independents was debunked. The fact is evident now that the 'wisdom wonder-kids', Hanson’s two trusted lieutenants, allowed arrogance and ineptitude to deprive the battlers of their 'Beacon of Hope'. All that was needed was common sense and the collective support of the ordinary people. The Bulletin recognised that, I recognised that, but the two who now set up their office a hundred yards around the corner from Abbott’s electoral office in the Corso, would with Hanson’s imprimatur reign for time to come, with disastrous results.
It was at this time that I received a call from the West, from a man who I had never heard of; a John Samuel. Samuel was to play almost a daily role in our affairs until Ettridge implemented the hi-jacking. From that day forth he never contacted me again. He did however make frequent visits to the Gold Coast, liaising and working with Terry Sharples. The connection here indicated to me that he was pursuing and protecting Tony Abbott’s interest. Although very few people have either heard or know of Samuel, his interest in the aftermath of the fallout of Oldfield with Abbott that saw Abbott ‘go after One Nation’ was intriguing to say the least.
Before all this Samuel who ran the PHSM in the West for a time was, I considered, a good friend. He was however a very secretive character and given that security was his occupation, this was understandable. He was he always maintained very close to both Harold Clough, a building magnate in the West, and Fosters and IXL chief ex Liberal Party President John Elliott in the East. Oddly enough at the time all this meant very little to me. All I was interested in was getting the movement up and running. Samuel and I were seldom off the phone. I remember one time ringing at 5.00am, only to wake up a none to impressed Joan. We can laugh now, but sometimes we simply forgot the two hour difference. It was Samuel who alerted me to the secretive meeting between Noel Crichton-Browne and Pauline Hanson that received much publicity. Samuel's spies were working, as he told me they would. I trusted him.
There was little time left before the 1996 State elections in West Australia.
Samuel wanted me to entice Hanson to run candidates. Hanson as she had avowed,
was not having a bar of it. He then tried to arrange a meeting with Hanson, but
he only met up with Hazelton. In the wash-up John was disappointed but as
compensation his wife, along with Chris Burke who was also administering
the PHSM and Huw and Mark Grossmith ran on a PHSM ticket. To this day I
do not know how they fared.
Samuel had told me his part in the West Australia Inc. affair and what it had done to destroy Brian Burke. It came as no surprise then, that a little while later he rounded off on Cheryl Kernot. He told me ...but remained wary of relating any details of a Court case that would involve Kernot, that would he said, destroy her. I never did understand the mechanics of what this was all about and in fact I wasn’t particularly interested. Later this comment was to have a harmonic ring with another of Samuel's alleged friends.
For a small group the logistics of what we had embarked on had snowballed. I then set out naively I have to admit now, to seek sponsorship. I wrote to a number of firms and even went as far as trying to get Mitsubishi Motors in Adelaide to furnish us with a car. Heady stuff, when I look back, but they were tools that we needed and I at least was none too worried about whom I approached. Others much more conservative actually put a damper on that enthusiasm. So it came as a shock to the committee to find out that I had rung a certain John Elliott; a man whose very name put the fear of hell into many. "Not THE John Elliott, they mused. Through the grapevine, which for the most part was fairly reliable, I gleaned that John Elliott was predisposed toward much of what Hanson was saying. Elliott like myself, possibly admired people who were prepared to have a go…and to hell with what the pundits thought. I put a call through to his office in Little Collins Street Melbourne. The time 1.29pm December 23rd 1996. The call was answered by Mr Elliott’s secretary and she told me that she would have him return the call later. I promptly forgot the call and continued with the mountain of work in front of me. In all honesty I did not expect to hear from him, but I did. The phone rang at 4.35pm and I was completely wrong-footed. "Bruce Whiteside? Elliott here; what can I do for you?’.
I have to say that my first reaction to his voice was akin to a kid who was momentarily distracted and had then run slap bang into a brick wall. I was initially apologetic, cognisant to the fact that as a business mogul that he probably had more to do with his time than speak with’ minnows who were dabbling in politics’; my words not his.
‘I’m sorry to take up your valuable time Mr Elliott, because you in all probability have never heard of me’. His reply stunned me. "Mr Whiteside, I know PRECISELY who you are".
It was a funny feeling, almost as if I had been accepted to the very rooms of 'port and cigars' to which I had a natural aversion. From that point on I certainly relaxed and John and I spoke as if we both understood each other perfectly. In fact what I had hoped for was something in the order of a thousand dollars or possibly a benevolent fifteen hundred, to help us keep up with the impost of keeping up with the demands that were being placed upon us. In the event the idea of a specific sponsorship was never mentioned. The call was terminated at a couple of minutes to five, but not before my eyes had been fully opened. Elliott told me that my idea of funds had already begun to surface in Melbourne, with a couple of financiers working to that end. He was in contact with these two who were in the process of building a fighting fund to assist Hanson … indirectly. It was then that the truth of what I believed was happening was about to hit me.
"Bruce I want you to understand that this money will not be there to help Hanson as such but to clear the blockage in the Senate".
John paused; I was momentarily stunned.
"You understand what I am saying; the money will not be used to help Hanson as such but to clear the blockage in the Senate. In other words to get rid of the Australian Democrats".
"I understand fully”.
Balson in his book Inside One Nation, speculates that Elliott might have mistaken me for a Liberal Party ‘apparatchiki’. This is not born out by Elliott’s initial comment of knowing who his caller was. Whether Balson’s summation was right or wrong the fact remains that although I sent Elliott a synopsis of who I was and where I had come from …a mere courtesy on my part, I never heard from him again. In the light of what I was trying to piece together, this comment was political dynamite.
Did I say dynamite? Forget it.
"I went to the Courier-Mail, the Sydney Morning Herald and the members of the Canberra Press gallery.
THEY DID NOT WANT TO KNOW!
I felt for all the world like a leper. They simply did not want to poke the fires of Elliott the National Securities slayer; more soberly though the machinations of politics played by the media could see no useful benefit of running it.
So here we had Elliott openly admitting to me that the Democrats had to go. We had Samuel, a self-confessed close friend of Elliott’s targeting Kernot, we had the Liberals angling to circumnavigate the protocols of controlling the Senate, we had Oldfield and Ettridge now working as a team to use Hanson as the catalyst to build a Senate team …and what must be presumed yet borne out by later developments Oldfield obtaining the number one spot on the One Nation senate ticket so that ultimately he and not Hanson would control the balance of power! Two operations, working for a common goal, but each with its own hidden agenda. The Liberals Government to control the Senate with Hanson and independently insulated from each other two operatives working to use Hanson as the catalyst so that Oldfield would be the man in the bargaining seat. This would be the man who would curry favour with Prime Minister John Howard, thus side-lining his old boss Tony Abbott. This would be the man that would call the shots and thus fulfil his political ambitions ...on the skirt of a woman, Pauline Hanson!
Little wonder that the wrath of his office in Manly was vented upon me, when I foreshadowed Oldfield’s ultimate intentions, in a letter to the Courier-Mail, dated April,13th 1998.
It said in part: As Hanson's adviser, Oldfield should put her political survival first. I suggest he has advised her to run for the house of Representatives, knowing she cannot win. Unless Hanson runs for the Senate, it will be Oldfield and not Hanson leading One Nation'.
Seven years on I still hear the dripping invective of his;
'You were never going to be allowed in the Movement. You would only stand in the way of our agenda. We are going to destroy you’.
Oh yes, Oldfield was all charm, all ambition. When One Nation was finally launched at Ipswich, Abbott could no longer deny the fact that Oldfield had ‘done the dirty’. What is interesting about all this is that Abbott then set about destroying …not Hanson …not Oldfield but One Nation . Why? Certainly not because of ideological differences or socially alienating policies. No …by destroying One Nation he killed two birds with one stone. I speculate here and expect you the reader to draw similar conclusions that he established an alibi by destroying One Nation, therefore there was absolutely no possibility that John Howard could be seen to know of any suggested 'plot' to control the Senate, if at all he was aware of the possibility. By going after One Nation very publicly, Abbott was able to play the 'wronged party', thus negating any suggestion he and the inner sanctum of the Liberal Party might have been part of a grander plan.
In targeting One Nation and NOT Oldfield he reduced the risk that Oldfield might
squeal. There may be no love lost between either man, but as both were
head-kickers, they were pragmatic enough to see that there was no future for
either in a 'public stoush that could only hurt the government. So the buck
stopped with Abbott.
History went on to record that Oldfield narrowly missed his Senate dream, but it must also be remembered that had he and Ettridge not opted to use the goodwill of Queensland’s supporters of Hanson, to help build an illusionary '$15,000,000 war-chest', and had remained out of State politics as Hanson has always avowed she would, the land-slide that saw One Nation grab eleven seats, in Queensland may well have replicated itself federally. Oldfield had help sow the seeds of his now diminished dreams.
I well remember the local Gold Coast Bulletin ringing me the following morning asking for my comments.
‘This is the high water mark for One Nation. From hereon in it is all down hill’, and so it proved.
So, was John Howard an innocent bystander in all this? How would he have reacted to Oldfield’s defection and chicanery, that saw not only Abbott abandoned, but the principles of loyalty to the Liberal party? But wait a minute perhaps this was not disloyalty to the party. If Oldfield was to hold the balance of power in the Senate, then surely a ‘brilliant and dynamic young Liberal’ as Ettridge had informed me was preferable to a ‘fish and chip’ lady? Savour and ponder these observation recorded in Helen Dodd’s book Pauline, the Hanson Phenomenon:
Hanson, Oldfield and Dodds, at launch of book. Photo courtesy Scott Balson
Other politicians were hoping that John Howard’s rebuttal of her ‘simplistic
answers to complex issues, such as foreign investment’ would keep her on the
back foot and show her up to be an uneducated and ill-advised politician. Howard
was under intense pressure by members of his own party, members of the
Opposition, the media, business people, and many ethnic groups to speak up and
condemn Hanson as ‘a racist’, ‘an uneducated woman’ and ‘a divisive influence in
Australia’. However, Howard has made very few comments about Hanson.
Perhaps my ‘bits of the jigsaw’ might supply some of the reasons for that. Today One Nation is no more than a wispy remnant of a dream gone wrong; the smouldering embers dampened by the watershed from the burst dam within. Terry Sharples embroiled Abbott in bringing One Nation unstuck. I saw the evidence for I personally sighted an indemnity for $20,000 sent to Sharples and signed by Tony Abbott, to help him prosecute his case. Both will deny it, but I cannot deny what I saw. Sharples showed it to me in this very room I work from. It is my understanding that that indemnity, the original, was retained by a former barrister acting for Sharples, Tony Morris. This after having impressed upon Sharples never to allow the original to pass out of his hands.
after-shocks are still being felt and both One Nation and Hanson herself have
yet to have their cases heard in court. As I finalise this account, the drama is
being played out in the courts. If I had my time over again, with the knowledge
I have gained over the past few years I would have given Hanson the widest of
wide berths. Witnessing what is coming out of the few reports, in our dailies, I
am reminded of the classic one liner that came out of the out of the Royal
Commission into the Air New Zealand crash on Mt Erubus, at the South Pole in
1977. The Commissioner summed it up thus 'a litany of lies'. It
would have been so much easier not to have known.
John Samuel finally fell out with Sharples whilst on Abbott connected business
during the earlier committal Court proceedings in Brisbane. Sharples personally
expressed a fear of Samuel after this set-to. What was of such import that
brought Samuel over from Perth time and time again?
Pauline Hanson was once reported and subsequently hounded for saying her treatment of boat people, trying to short-circuit the system, was to ‘give them food and medicine and turn them around’. Today Minister Ruddick does that in a more deceptive way. Being of the established order of controlled politics respectability is given to Hanson's sentiment delivered by the system. Ruddick the statesman Hanson the racist ...how shallow we are! Howard, by playing shrewd politics has ended up wearing the mantle that Hanson created. In spite of all the media clips, all the heart-rending radio stories, does the average Australian really care a fig. I doubt it. Hanson essentially got it right but grubby men, dirty politics and a hypocritical, gutless people, who find it easier to ‘go with the flow’ by echoing the doomsayers and fearful of standing up to be counted, allowed a comparative innocent to be mauled and devoured in the system.
A pox therefore on those who call Australia the greatest place on earth because it is they more than any other that have contributed nothing toward making it so!
I rest my case.