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Monday, 26 March 2018
Page: 2133

Senator WATT (Queensland) (16:20): I really couldn't believe it today when One Nation requested that we have an urgent debate today about cheating in politics and sport. I note that this matter was so urgent to them that they walked out of the debate as soon as Senator Burston concluded his extremely unfunny presentation, which was rather like the jokes you pull out of Christmas bonbons; it was so urgent they had to be somewhere else. I couldn't believe that they wanted to talk about cheating in politics and cheating in sport. Everyone in Australia is appalled at the actions of the leadership of the Australian cricket team—it's all that anyone has been talking about for 24 hours—and I think we all expect Cricket Australia to take strong action as this matter is investigated. But for One Nation, of all parties, to want a debate about cheating in politics is really something I never thought I would see.

The only conclusion I can reach is that the reason Senator Burston said he wanted to have a debate about cheating in politics is that it is the only way he can get the attention of the person whom we all know is running One Nation, and that is James Ashby. It's known widely that there is immense turmoil behind the scenes in One Nation with Senator Burston, Senator Georgiou and other leading members of One Nation having had a gutful of the control that James Ashby is exerting over their party. But obviously they're so in fear of him they don't think they can have a private conversation with him about his incredibly untrustworthy, duplicitous approach to politics. They can't talk to him about it privately so they have to use up the Senate's time to have a public argument about cheating in politics. That's the only way they can air their concerns.

The reason I'm so astonished that One Nation want to have a debate about cheating in politics is that anyone who has watched politics in Australia over the last 20 years knows that if there is one group that has turned political cheating into an art form it is One Nation themselves. Forget about what Senator Hanson was up to 20 years ago when she was exposed for her approach to politics. Let's look at the way they have carried on since they have come back into this parliament. We had the infamous audio tapes where James Ashby, the person who really runs One Nation, was caught on tape conspiring to rip off taxpayers' money with a scheme. The quote from him was: 'We can make a lot of money out of this.' This is the approach from the person pulling the strings in One Nation. He's all about cheating taxpayers out of funding by manipulating electoral returns and claims for public funding.

We know that it's always been about the money for Senator Hanson and everyone who surrounds her. Over the last 20 years, Senator Hanson and her party have generated about $6 million in public funding to support their activities. And no-one ever knows where the money ends up. There are always these opaque company structures to disguise where the money ends up. In just this term James Ashby himself has generated over $10,000 in taxpayer funding that's gone to his private printing businesses to reimburse him for printing that he has done for One Nation candidates. And who can forget the donation of the plane. That is still under investigation from the Australian Electoral Commission. So if we want to talk about cheats in politics we don't need to look any further than One Nation themselves.

For One Nation, it's not just about the tactics they adopt and it's not about the way they rip off taxpayer funding to support their political activities; they also spend every waking moment they are in Canberra cheating the voters that actually support them. These are the people who get around regional Queensland saying that they're in this for battlers, and every time they come down to Canberra they line up with the Liberals, line up with Malcolm Turnbull, to sell out the very people who support them. They've done it on penalty rates—not once, but twice. Twice they came into this chamber and supported the Liberals and supported cuts to workers' penalty rates, despite saying that they care about battlers.

Last week we had the embarrassing fiasco where they were shamed into coming back into this chamber to reverse one of their earlier votes, which cut the bereavement allowance, and then spent the entire day lying to cover their tracks. They've voted with the Liberals to make it easier for construction companies to bring in temporary overseas workers. They've voted with the government to reduce apprenticeship funding. And of course this very week they've done a deal with the government to support company tax cuts. One Nation are the greatest cheats Australian politics has ever seen.