Secret recording leaves One Nation scrambling to explain

A secret recording, published by The Courier Mail newspaper in Brisbane, suggests One Nation chief of staff James Ashby floated a plan to profit off of the Queensland election.

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“I’ve said this once before, there’s an opportunity for us to make some money out of this — if we play this smart. And I know they say you can’t make money out of state elections, but you can. And I’ll deny I ever said this, but what stops us from getting a middleman?”

He goes on to explain election signs could be sold to One Nation candidates for more than they are worth.

Then One Nation could claim the inflated cost with the Queensland electoral commission.

The party has now gone into damage control following the leaked recording.

Mr Ashby says he regrets his choice of words.

“Oh, it’s embarrassing. There’s no doubt about that. Poor choice of words on my behalf, no doubt about that. But let’s not forget these were secretly recorded conversations in what we thought was an environment where we could safely put any idea on the table and it wouldn’t go any further. We have never implemented this idea that was put forward, and it’s regretful that, obviously, a poor choice of words on my behalf had to be aired in such a public manner.”

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson was also in the room.

She says the party was never going to act on the idea.

“Don’t forget I was at that meeting as well. You do not have the full recording of that meeting, so you have no idea what was said at the rest of that meeting. We knocked it on the head* at the meeting. It didn’t go ahead. That’s why. It was an issue that was raised, and it was knocked on the head there and then.”

The Courier Mail reports that, several weeks after the recording was made, One Nation asked its Queensland candidates to pay $3,500 for campaign material.

Labor senator Murray Watt says One Nation’s claim that it never acted on the plan to overcharge candidates needs to be tested.

He has written a letter to the Queensland police and the state electoral commission, asking them to investigate.

“These are extremely serious allegations, which, if they are true, amount to very serious criminal conduct. They need to be treated that way and need to be properly investigated by police forces.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says he, too, will be seeking advice on the matter.

“I’ll be getting advice from the Federal Police Commissioner and the Minister for Justice and the attorney as we review the media reports in the course of the next day.”