PM denies role in Hanson 'slush fund'*

ABC News

Wednesday August 27, 2003


A dissident former One Nation candidate says he believes Federal Government frontbencher Tony Abbott was acting on behalf of the Prime Minister in his legal pursuit of the One Nation Party.

Mr Abbott set up a trust fund in 1998 to pay for court cases against One Nation. He also offered financial backing for a case pursued by party dissident Terry Sharples.

Mr Sharples believes Mr Abbott was a frontman for Prime Minister John Howard.

"He told me on three occasions that I can definitely remember that he was a great bloke and if anything happened he would fall on his sword to protect those above him and I always assumed he was talking about the executive Government, John Howard," Mr Sharples said.

"Abbott was just a person who was fronting for the executive Government," Mr Sharples added.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister has rejected the allegation.

He says Mr Abbott did not seek Mr Howard's approval for fundraising activities and Mr Abbott has made it clear he was working on his own.

Labor's Craig Emerson says Mr Abbott's admissions about his pursuit of One Nation and what he told the Prime Minister bring into question Mr Howard's reaction to her jailing.

"You've got the Prime Minister saying, 'oh, Pauline Hanson was treated harshly, Pauline Hanson was treated unfairly', when the Prime Minister who said that just on Friday, knew way back to 1998 that Tony Abbott had organised the prosecution of Pauline Hanson and had offered to bankroll those witnesses who would come forward and assist in that prosecution," Mr Emerson said.

In a statement released last night, Mr Abbott said he had never sought the criminal prosecution of One Nation founders Pauline Hanson or David Ettridge.

But he confirmed through a spokesman that he had set up the fund which raised nearly $100,000 to support legal action against One Nation.

The spokesman also said Mr Abbott offered Mr Sharples $10,000 for a case against his former colleagues.

Five years ago during a Four Corners interview, Mr Abbott denied any funds had been given to Mr Sharples.

Mr Sharples says a higher figure was originally offered.

"It was only after [Mr] Abbott offered the $20,000 into the trust account that I agreed to enter into the Supreme Court action," Mr Sharples said.

It has also been revealed that federal Treasurer Peter Costello's father-in-law, Peter Coleman, was one of the trustees for Mr Abbott's fund.

Mr Coleman was once the New South Wales Liberal leader and was then a federal Liberal MP.

He was one of the trustees for the fund Australians for Honest Politics, along with former Labor senator John Weildon and Mr Abbott.


*Hanson nominated for Australian of the Year*

Jailed One Nation founder Pauline Hason has been nominated more than 100 times for Australian of the Year.

National Australia Day Council spokesman Warren Pearson says the office has been swamped with nominations over the past two days.

But he says the number of nominations does not increase the likelihood of Hanson winning the award.

"I suspect that they're being a bit cheeky with the process," Mr Pearson said.

"I think that they're encouraging people not only to nominate her for the awards but to ring talkback radio, to contact local papers, to members of Parliament and so on.

"But we're keen for people to remember that it's up to all Australians [to] nominate for Australian of the Year and if people can think of a better candidate then we'd love to hear from them."


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