Labor Senator to refer secret Ashby recording to police, electoral commission

Queensland Labor Senator Murray Watt is concerned there may be evidence of intent to commit electoral fraud.


He now plans to refer the matter to the electoral commission, Australian Federal Police and Queensland Police.

But there’s no evidence the issues raised by One Nation staff James Ashby were ever acted on. It’s not suggested that any wrongdoing occurred.

Mr Ashby said the comments were part of a brainstorming session and a “poor choice of words”.

“They were quite clearly secret recordings, it captured some off-guard comments, there’s only one thing I regret and that’s a poor choice of words,” he told AAP on Monday.

Listen to the Ashby recording and Hinch’s response

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He claimed the conversation was recorded illegally by a disaffected staff member, saying One Nation would make its own complaint to police.

“This almost has a flavour of blackmail, which has been used over the last 12 months,’ he said.

According to the recording obtained by The Courier-Mail, Mr Ashby is heard suggesting the party could “make some money” at the upcoming state election by charging candidates to cover half the cost of campaign expenses.

Asked to explain, he replies: “Because when you lodge the receipt at the full price with the Electoral Commission of Queensland you get back the full amount that’s been issued to you as an invoice.”

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Mr Ashby said no action was taken and stated the party didn’t profit from its candidate’s electoral expenses.

The recording have attracted attention from all sides of the political spectrum.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was important political parties complied with electoral laws.

“It is vitally important that all of our electoral laws are strictly complied with. They go to the heart of our democracy,” he said in Canberra.

Deputy Queensland Premier Jackie Trad said authorities should investigate.

“Clearly, if there are issues there in relation to whether electoral laws are being circumvented or they are being used in a way that they weren’t intended to be used then that should be looked at,” she told reporters.

Queensland opposition frontbencher Scott Emerson said he “firmly backed” an investigation.

Ms Hanson’s Senate colleague and fellow crossbencher Derryn Hinch said contents of the recording were “shocking”.

Ms Hanson is in Perth on Monday and is expected to make a statement.