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Pauline Hanson and David Ettridge have their conviction for electoral fraud overturned.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Department of the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in any other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.

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AM

Friday 7 November 2003

Pauline Hanson and David Ettridge have their conviction for electoral fraud overturned

 

LINDA MOTTRAM: The quashing of Pauline Hanson's conviction has seen outspoken politicians taken to task by one of the three Appeal Court judges. And now there's speculation about a new surge of popularity, and possibly a rekindled political career for Ms Hanson. 

 

Alexandra Kirk reports from Canberra. 

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK: When Pauline Hanson was sentenced to three years jail in August, this was the Prime Minister's reaction. 

 

JOHN HOWARD: Like many other Australians, on the face of it, it does seem a very long, unconditional sentence for what she's alleged to have done.  

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK: In her written judgment, Justice Margaret McMurdo, one of the three judges who freed Pauline Hanson yesterday, singled out Mr Howard's comments, along with those of former Federal minister and senior backbencher, Bronwyn Bishop.  

 

BRONWYN BISHOP: Very simply, for the first time in Australia, we now have a political prisoner and I find that totally unacceptable. What I'm saying is that in this country to date, Alex, we have not had political prisoners. That's something you'd expect in Zimbabwe, not Australia.  

 

PAULINE HANSON: And I would like to send an extra special thank you to Alan Jones and to Bronwyn Bishop for their support and not giving up on me.  

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Justice McMurdo, who is President of the Queensland Court of Appeal says as far as she knows, the politicians haven't retracted, so their comments are concerning, demonstrating at least a lack of understanding that everybody is subject to the same laws and punishment.  

 

She says the comments could reasonably be seen as an attempt to influence and interfere with the independence of the judiciary for cynical political motives. 

 

The Judge urges restraint. She says not to do so will only undermine confidence in the judiciary and democratic government. 

 

But Bronwyn Bishop, for one, is unrepentant.  

 

BRONWYN BISHOP: I think it's very important that freedom of speech is always the most important principle we support in this country and I'm delighted to see that that conviction has been quashed.  

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Will you heed the advice of Judge McMurdo, that legislators should act with restraint? 

 

BRONWYN BISHOP: I will always speak out for freedom of speech. Always. And I think, I recall the Chief Justice of the High Court recently saying that criticism has been around for a long time and I think it is a sign of a healthy, working democracy.  

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK: A little more circumspect, the Prime Minister says now the conviction's been quashed, both Ms Hanson and Mr Ettridge are entitled to put the matter behind them, and all Australians should respect the Court of Appeal's decision.  

 

Federal Minister Tony Abbott, who once set up a trust fund to pursue One Nation in the courts, and then said he felt sorry for Pauline Hanson when she was jailed, is happy now.  

 

TONY ABBOTT: I'm pleased that the Queensland justice system has run its course. Look, I'm happy that justice has been done.  

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK: As to whether Pauline Hanson has a political future, Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie, is worried she could be reborn as a political martyr because of this case.  

 

PETER BEATTIE: Her supporters will be reinvigorated. But all I've tried to do, and my government, is support the independence of the courts and the rule of law, and if we pay a political price for that then so be it.  

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And one-time ally, NSW One Nation MP, David Oldfield, says a political revival is very likely.  

 

DAVID OLDFIELD: Look, I think sooner or later Pauline will be in a position where she just won't be able to help herself. It's not in her nature to do anything but to go on. She won't be as successful as she has been in the past, but I believe that she can do well enough to get herself elected somewhere. The question is where and when?  

 

LINDA MOTTRAM: One Nation MP, David Oldfield. Alexandra Kirk reporting from Canberra.