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BFCSA: Soapy Political Queen Pauline Hanson: James Ashby, accused of "intimidation."

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Knives out for Hanson staffer Ashby, accused of profiting off candidates

Australian Financial ReviewDec 20 2016 11:45 PM

Primrose Riordan

 

Pauline Hanson's right-hand man, James Ashby, is being accused of "intimidating" One Nation candidates into using two signage business controlled by him in order to make a profit.

The accusations, from former One Nation treasurer Ian Nelson, claim Mr Ashby improperly profited by using his influence as Senator Hanson's key adviser to direct business to the Sunshine Coast businesses, Coastal Signs & Printing and Black Bull.

The revelations come as Mr Ashby, a former staffer to disgraced former Speaker Peter Slipper and now Senator Hanson's chief of staff, is seen as an increasingly powerful force by the party "old guard", which fears it is being marginalised by the man who now sits on the party's national executive.

Mr Nelson said candidates feared they would be disendorsed if they did not use Mr Ashby's company's signage package and accused his company of charging candidates more than the going rate for printing their advertising.

"[Mr] Ashby needs to stay right away from the candidates because he's intimidating them, he's insisting that they buy his product, which is much dearer than anything else, when these candidates should be able to buy their own from the local constituency," he said..

"In other words if you don't do it this way well you know what you're not going to get endorsed. I've heard it from the mouths of the candidates."

A One Nation candidate who did not wish to be named told The Australian Financial Review they believed Mr Ashby was attempting to profit from the arrangement and they feared they might be stopped from looking elsewhere for printing services.

In a leaked email, the party's 35 candidates for the Queensland state election are told to purchase a $3500 starter pack, which Mr Nelson said would be done through Mr Ashby's businesses.

"PHON (Pauline Hanson One Nation) will be providing a campaign "package" for your use...Cost is $3500," the email states.

Mr Ashby fired back at Mr Nelson suggesting he was lying and said he was "bitter" because he was not given a staffer job. "[The claims are] massively wrong," he told the Financial Review. "They were more than welcome to go and find a cheaper sign writer," he said.

He would not rule out being the supplier for the Queensland election candidate printing package, however.

"I'm not saying I won't but I'm not saying that I will. The reality of it is, my business is always a one man band. There are some things that my machines can print at better prices than anything else," Mr Ashby said.

Aside from what was paid by candidates, One Nation paid Mr Ashby's companies at least $17,200 for printing and advertising in the first half of this year, according to records from the Electoral Commission of Queensland.

But Mr Ashby said all the printing was done at cost price. "If you want to have a look at the cost my signage was provided it was all at cost and that was very evident. I used trade suppliers," he said.

One Nation's former Currumbin candidate, Andy Semple, who quit the party on Monday night over a dispute with the party's executive over a tweet, said he thought being asked to pay $3500 for flyers straight away was "a bit upfront".

"There was a $3500 package for your corflutes, business cards, flyers... a whole bunch of things," he said. "I questioned why they wanted to print 10,000 pamphlets when in my opinion you get more bang for your back from those info magnets.

"They did state this is our preferred package of how we're going to do things. I get they need some sort of quality control going through the one printer but I thought it was a bit upfront, straight out that we want [the money] straight up."

Twenty-seven-year-old welder Brad Trussell, who is running for One Nation in Ipswich West, said he was planning to pay for the package but declined to go into other details of his agreement with the party because it was confidential.

The row is set to escalate further. Former One Nation national secretary Saraya Beric, who runs a marketing business, is set to send out an alternative starter pack to candidates for about $1000 less than what One Nation offering.

ASIC records show Mr Ashby is the director of Black Bull and his other company, Coastal Signs & Printing, an iteration of which used to be in his name, is owned by the Black Bull Business Trust.

Mr Ashby said he had a "good strong working relation with the candidates" and was just trying to protect the One Nation brand.

"I created the brand for One Nation. Yes I'm protective of our brand just as any business operator is. I won't let people use the old logo, but I've never had a stoush with anyone over it," he said.

 

He said Mr Nelson was not with One Nation anymore as he was incompetent and couldn't keep up with his executive duties.

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