Margo Kingston: For people interested in the details of the One Nation court saga, the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission published a report in 2004. Here we publish its findings on Abbott’s involvement, then my 2003 Webdiary piece on the possibilities for legal action by Hanson and Ettridge and an explanation of champerty and maintenance.
CMC Report into the prosecution of Mr Ettridge and Ms Hanson
Source: CMC Report
First publisheed January 2004
Turning to Mr Abbott’s involvement, the Commission wrote to Mr Abbott and asked for
a submission. Having initially informed us that his part in the Hanson litigation was on
the public record, Mr Abbott replied by a letter dated 25 November 2003, which
attached published material relating to his connection with the matter. The
Commission has proceeded on the assumption that the material, in so far it attributes
statements or actions to Mr Abbott, is believed by him to be substantially correct. It
follows that Mr Abbott appears to accept that he established a trust to deal with One
Nation, with funds donated by a number of people whom he named, as well as a
number whom he did not name.
Mr Abbott indicated he would not provide details of the others who made donations
to the trust without an instruction from the Australian Electoral Commission, in
accordance with a provision of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. The CMC has
no authority to pursue this aspect further.
On 3 September 1998 the Australian newspaper published that the trust had about
$100,000 in funds. Mr Abbott has said, in effect, that the trust was not a Liberal Party
organisation and that his purpose was to expose One Nation as a fraud. He also
explained to the media that he had, with the funds raised, supported two separate
legal attempts to shut down One Nation, one being an application made by a Ms
Barbara Hazelton and the other proceedings brought by Mr Sharples. Mr Abbott
appears to have admitted, on one occasion, that he had given a misleading answer to
an interviewer in relation to the matter, to the effect that he had not promised Mr
Sharples money at the outset, to be paid into a solicitor’s trust account; Mr Abbott later
explained that he had taken the interviewer’s question to relate solely to Liberal Party
funds. Mr Abbott said that he had once told Mr Sharples that he had organised pro
bono lawyers that he had organised pro bono lawyers for him and that he had
‘someone’ to cover the costs should they be awarded against him.
As to the criminal proceedings, Mr Abbott denies that he had any connection
whatsoever with them.
Mr Abbott’s activities gave financial support to Mr Sharples’s successful attempt to
establish that the registration of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation was procured by fraud.
The Commission has not been supplied with any evidence to contradict the substance
of Mr Abbott’s account of these events.
It seems clear that eventually Messrs Abbott and Sharples fell out, but the Commission
does not think it necessary to discuss the details of that disagreement. Nor is any
opinion here expressed as to whether, as has been suggested, what Mr Abbott did by
promoting litigation against Ms Hanson amounted to one or both of the two civil
wrongs called maintenance and champerty. That assertion, whether or not it is legally
correct, has no connection with the question whether Ms Hanson was accorded due
process — that depends on the nature of the court proceedings in which she was
involved and whether they were instituted and conducted fairly and with due regard
to her rights. Clearly, Mr Abbott’s conduct could not amount to misconduct within the
meaning of the Crime and Misconduct Act 2001. Read the rest of this entry »