This is the transcript of a doorstop interview given by Craig Emerson, the ALP’s Shadow Minister for Workplace Relations.
Emerson commented on the role played by Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott in the legal action taken against Pauline Hanson and One Nation.
Transcript of doorstop interview by Craig Emerson.
EMERSON: Yet again the Howard Government has thrown the truth overboard. Tony Abbott had denied the existence of any fund to pay for the costs of witnesses who testified against Pauline Hanson. It’s emerged today that such a fund did exist. Not only did it exist, Tony Abbott organised it personally. Tony Abbott needs to answer these questions: where did the money come from, who received the money and who made decisions on who received the money? A $100,000 secret slush fund is a huge amount of money in anybody’s terms. But perhaps not in the Liberal Party’s terms. So Tony Abbott needs to answer those questions and surely John Howard is not going to deny any knowledge of Tony Abbott’s $100,000 slush fund.
Just the other day the Prime Minister was expressing his sympathy for Pauline Hanson saying that she’d been treated severely in the prosecution. Now he knew that Tony Abbott was up to his neck in that prosecution, funding the prosecution. Surely, the Prime Minister doesn’t expect us to believe that Tony Abbott, his right hand man, his senior minister, had never told him that he had raised $100,000 and $100,000 had been dispersed to those who were prepared to testify against Pauline Hanson. The Prime Minister has sought to gain the support of One Nation voters by expressing sympathy for Pauline Hanson and yet his senior minister is up to his neck raising funds and dispersing funds to ensure that she was prosecuted.
JOURNALIST: Has Tony Abbott done anything illegal here?
EMERSON: It’s not clear whether Tony Abbott has done anything illegal at this stage. But, there are so many questions to be answered. Where did the money come from and who are the trustees? Now, I would assume that Tony Abbott was a trustee. Who else made the decisions on who received the $100,000? The public deserves to know that, especially as Tony Abbott denied the existence of such a slush fund. He was not only aware of it, he organised the raising of $100,000. The Australian public deserves to know. Where did the $100,000 come from, who made the decisions on who would benefit from the $100,000 and who in fact did benefit from the $100,000 slush fund that Tony Abbott denied ever existed. Now, it’s ironic that these are exactly the same questions that Tony Abbott was asking of the One Nation Party. Where was the money coming from? Who was making the decisions on where the money was going and who was receiving the money? He was asking those three questions of the One Nation Party and fair enough to ask those questions. He demanded answers. Well I’m demanding answers from Tony Abbott. Where did the money come from? Who was involved making the decisions on where it went? And who in fact received the $100,000?
JOURNALIST: Where do you suspect it’s come from?
EMERSON: Well Tony Abbott says various donors. But as I understand at this point he’s not available to the media to clarify that. He was very clear in his denial that such a fund existed. He was asked by the media, `are you aware of any such fund, have you been involved or are you aware of any funding for Terry Sharples? – the disgruntled One Nation member – and he said absolutely not, he was not aware of any such fund. Then when asked to explain his lie to the Australian people, he said, `I just lied to the Australian people, I didn’t lie in parliament’. Remember, it was Tony Abbott who said you can’t trust politicians. Well I wonder why he would say that because when he was making that statement he knew he had lied to the Australian people about the existence of a $100,000 slush fund.
JOURNALIST: Is it unusual for politicians to not always tell the media the truth?
EMERSON: Well Tony Abbott was not only economical with the truth, he lied. He said, `absolutely not, there was no money going to Terry Sharples’ and he was `unaware’ of any slush fund. Now obviously there were suggestions of a slush fund, he denied it, he lied and then said it was all right to lie to the Australian people. Well it’s not all right to lie to the Australian public. A $100,000 is a lot of money and the Australian people deserve to know where did the money come from, who decided where the money went and who received the money – $100,000.
JOURNALIST: …[inaudible]…ancient history…does it really matter?
EMERSON: This is not ancient history at all. He was yesterday given the opportunity to explain about this trust fund – but he didn’t, he declined that opportunity. This is a contemporary political scandal that has embroiled Tony Abbott and the Prime Minister – truth overboard yet again. Does the Prime Minister of Australia really expect the Australian people to believe that he knew nothing of Tony Abbott raising $100,000 and using it to fund prosecution witnesses against Pauline Hanson – truth overboard yet again. It is part of his pattern of deceit. The truth overboard with the asylum seekers, the allegations that Iraq had been seeking to buy uranium from the country of Niger, the Prime Minister denied that he had met with his friend Dick Honan on ethanol, only to have it revealed that in fact he had met him because there was a record of the conversation that was obtained by Labor under the Freedom of Information Act. Only when the truth comes out that the Government then has to admit it was involved in a deception, in a lie. But now Tony Abbott’s saying that that’s okay, I only lied to the Australian people. Of course he would say you can’t trust politicians when he himself has been lying to the Australian people. So I call on Tony Abbott today, outside the Cabinet meeting in Sydney to answer these basic questions: who provided the money, who benefited from the money and who made the decisions? Who were the trustees of the trust fund?
JOURNALIST: When he was travelling to Queensland on these matters are you aware of whether it was on Government business or privately paid?
EMERSON: That’s another important question. Was Tony Abbott’s travel to Queensland in pursuit of witnesses against Pauline Hanson funded from this trust fund or was it funded unwittingly by the Australian taxpayer? Tony Abbott should answer that question. The longer we go with this scandal the more deeply immersed Tony Abbott and John Howard become in it. Why? Because they deliberately sought to mislead the Australian people about the existence of this $100,000 slush fund. John Howard can not surely expect the Australian people to believe that his senior Minister, his right hand man, his manager of Government business never told him that he, Tony Abbott had raised $100,000 and had spent $100,000.
JOURNALIST: Is there any way of getting to the truth of this issue. You don’t expect them to be totally frank and say, ‘look this is how it all happened’. Is there any mechanism for extracting the truth?
EMERSON: We will be exploring options for getting to the bottom of this. Tony Abbott has an opportunity today, he has a unique opportunity to come clean and tell the Australian people who gave him the $100,000, who made the decision on where that $100,000 went and where in fact that $100,000 did go. Was it Tony Abbott as the sole trustee? Was it Tony Abbott and others? If it was others who were they? These are questions that need to be answered and they need to be answered today.
JOURNALIST: Is the Labor Party a total clean skin on these sorts of matters when it comes to political foes who might be taking away votes?
EMERSON: What I can reveal to you is what Tony Abbott reluctantly revealed to you today and that is that he did in fact set up a secret slush fund that, up until yesterday he denied the existence of such a fund. So he has lied to the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: So is the Labor Party clean on all these sorts of matters?
EMERSON: Well I’m not aware of any involvement of the Labor Party in organising $100,000 slush funds to prosecute Pauline Hanson. You see, the hypocrisy of it is this: John Howard has wanted to benefit from his statements that he feels Pauline Hanson was treated unfairly. John Howard wanted to secure One Nation votes for the Liberal Party. But he knew when he was making that statement only three days ago that his right hand man, Tony Abbott, had been in Queensland organising witnesses against Pauline Hanson. The Prime Minister wants to have it both ways: have his senior minister organising for the prosecution of Pauline Hanson and then the Prime Minister saying, ‘I’m very sympathetic towards Pauline Hanson and the severity of her sentence’. It is the hypocrisy of the Prime Minister of Australia that takes your breath away.