Abbott Denies Lying

This is the text of a media release from the Minister for Workplace Relations, Tony Abbott.

ONE NATION LITIGATION

Tony AbbottA question has arisen about an answer I gave to Four Corners given that I subsequently established a Trust to fund legal challenges to the validity of the registration of One Nation in Queensland. I should make it clear that the answer I gave to Four Corners preceded the formation of the Trust.

On the Four Corners programme broadcast on August 10 1998, I was asked: “So there was never any question of any party or other funds from any other source being offered to Terry Sharples?”. I replied, in response to the first part of the question: “Absolutely not”. No Liberal Party funds were at any stage offered or involved.

Strictly speaking, no money at all had been offered. The lawyers I organised were acting without charge and the support for costs which I had promised would only become an issue in the event of a costs order being made against Sharples.

Much later, after Sharples had launched legal action against me claiming open-ended damages arising from my promise that he would not be out of pocket, my solicitor offered to settle Sharples’ claim for $10,000. Sharples rejected this and I have never paid him any money.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on March 11 2000: “Challenged about the conflict between this (that is the solicitor’s offer to Sharples) and his denial on Four Corners, Abbott initially replies, ‘Misleading the ABC is not quite the same as misleading the parliament as a political crime’”.

It’s not acceptable to mislead the public. I should not have responded flippantly to the SMH’s question and am sorry that I did so.

On August 24 1998 (that is, after the Four Corners programme), I set up the Australians for Honest Politics Trust. On August 29 1998, the SMH reported: “Prominent Liberal Party parliamentarian Tony Abbott is supporting Pauline Hanson’s former personal secretary Barbara Hazelton in a new legal move to deregister One Nation in Queensland”. On September 3 1998, The Australian reported: “It is understood Australians for Honest Politics – the trust established by Mr Abbott with former MPs Peter Coleman and John Wheeldon – has about $100,000 with donations of up to $20,000 received from individual citizens”.

Most of the money in the Trust was spent preparing the proposed Hazelton case. When she decided not to proceed, the small amount remaining in the Trust was returned to donors in proportion to their contribution.

After the 1998 election, I declared my trusteeship to the Registrar of Member’s Interests. I also disclosed it to the Prime Minister under Ministerial Guidelines. In 1998, the Australian Electoral Commission queried the role of the Trust but after advice from me did not seek disclosure. I was always interstate on official business when meetings with One Nation dissidents took place.

I sought civil legal action to prevent the payment of public money to One Nation and subsequently to have it deregistered because it was a company with three directors not a political party with 500 members. The Supreme Court ultimately vindicated these concerns.

I want to make it clear that I never sought the criminal prosecution of Pauline Hanson or David Ettridge (which was launched by the independent Queensland DPP without any political involvement) and have had no contact with any witnesses in connection with the criminal case.


This is the text of an article written by Tony Abbott and published in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph on August 28, 2003.

I’m sorry that Pauline Hanson is in gaol. I believe that the sentence she received was too severe. But I’m not sorry for trying to expose the fact that One Nation was never a fair dinkum political party. It was a company with three directors, not a party with 500 members.

The Labor Party is now trying to pretend that I am somehow responsible for Pauline Hanson going to gaol.

The truth is no politician in Australia – John Howard, Kim Beazley, Peter Beattie or Tony Abbott – played any role in the criminal prosecution. It was something carried out entirely independent of government at both state and federal level. The Queensland DPP acted independently in pursuing the criminal case against Hanson. No politician can influence the DPP. I never contacted any witnesses in connection with the case and, obviously, had no influence whatsoever over the jury verdict and judge’s sentence.

The Labor Party claims that I misled the ABC in an answer I gave to Four Corners broadcast on August 10, 1998. This interview took place about a fortnight before I established a Trust to fund legal challenges to the validity of the registration of One Nation in Queensland. On the Four Corners programme broadcast prior to the establishment of the Trust, I was asked: “So there was never any question of any party or other funds from any other source being offered to Terry Sharples?”. I replied, in response to the first part of the question: “Absolutely not”. No Liberal Party funds were at any stage offered or involved.

Strictly speaking, no money at all had been offered. The lawyers I organised were acting without charge and the support for costs which I had promised would only become an issue in the event of a costs order being made against Sharples. In my view, there is a difference between promising someone he would not be out of pocket on the one hand and actually offering him money on the other – especially when there was every chance that costs would never arise. Much later, after Sharples had launched legal action against me claiming open-ended damages arising from my promise that he would not be out of pocket, my solicitor offered to settle Sharples’ claim for $10,000. Sharples rejected this and I have never paid him any money.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on March 11 2000: “Challenged about the conflict between this (that is the solicitor’s offer to Sharples) and his denial on Four Corners, Abbott initially replies, ‘Misleading the ABC is not quite the same as misleading the parliament as a political crime’”. It’s not acceptable to mislead the public. I should not have responded flippantly to the SMH’s question and am sorry that I did so.

The Labor Party is claiming that that I set up a “secret slush fund” to fight Hanson. The Australians for Honest Politics Trust (set up on August 24 1998) was so secret that the SMH reported on August 29: “Prominent Liberal Party parliamentarian Tony Abbott is supporting Pauline Hanson’s former personal secretary Barbara Hazelton in a new legal move to deregister One Nation in Queensland”. On September 3 1998, The Australian reported: “It is understood Australians for Honest Politics – the trust established by Mr Abbott with former MPs Peter Coleman and John Wheeldon – has about $100,000 with donations of up to $20,000 received from individual citizens”.

How can the Labor Party say that Australians for Honest Politics was a “Liberal Party fund” when one of the trustees was a Cabinet Minister in the Whitlam Government?

The Labor Party is claiming that Australians for Honest Politics was not properly declared (even though its existence was public knowledge). On November 9 1998, I formally declared my trusteeship to the Registrar of Member’s Interests. I also disclosed it to the Prime Minister under Ministerial Guidelines. In 1998, the Australian Electoral Commission queried the role of the Trust but after advice from me did not seek disclosure. I was always interstate on official business when meetings with One Nation dissidents took place.

I can understand Premier Beattie’s dismay at the public reaction to Hanson’s gaoling but the Labor Party’s attempt to pin the blame on their political opponents is quite shameless. Hanson is now in gaol because the independent DPP launched a criminal prosecution, the jury returned a verdict and the judge handed down a custodial sentence.

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