Shan Ju Lin who had last month been endorsed by One Nation as their candidate for the Queensland state seat of Bundamba was revealed this weekend to have made comments about homosexuality which offended The Huffington Post. It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that the Huffington Post, a left wing online news website, didn’t like something a One Nation candidate said. Rather than stand by their candidate after this attempted smear effort, One Nation caved into the leftist media attack machine and suspended Shan Ju Lin as a candidate.
The disendorsement appeared to come from Pauline Hanson herself and she was quoted in statement saying “I will not stand by and allow people to trash the Party or my name so I make no apologies for being tough on candidates’’. But Ms Shan, in a Facebook post, later implied that the decision about her candidacy had been communicated to Hanson by her chief of staff James Ashby. In the post, she communicated her view that her disendorsement was driven by Ashby, ‘I would suggest that the alleged issue was far more important to Mr Ashby than the membership or executive of One Nation’.
James Ashby is emerging as the most powerful person in the latest incarnation of One Nation. It is clear that Pauline Hanson views him as the driving force behind her political comeback after so many attempts at a return to parliament. In her maiden speech last year she said of him ‘’James Ashby is a man I have the utmost respect and admiration for…. Your dedication and hard work beside me added up to the clincher that not only saw me win my seat but also saw the other senators win their seats’’ and has referred to him in the media as her “her adopted son”.
It is a stunning political resurrection for Ashby after his failed sexual harassment lawsuit against his former employer and Speaker of the House Peter Slipper. During this saga Ashby confessed he was offered a position with Christopher Pyne in return for bringing the lawsuit against Slipper and had his home raided by the Australian Federal Police after it was revealed that former MP Mal Brough had made copies of Peter Slipper’s diary.
Now following Ju Lin’s sacking the amount of power that he wields in his new position in One Nation has emerged. It has been revealed that he monitors the diaries of other One Nation senators, is involved in staffing appointments, policing the social media accounts of One Nation candidates and major party decision making. Former Queensland Director and National Treasurer Ian Nelson has now come forward describing how despite all of his work in resurrecting One Nation Ashby decided there would be no major role for him post-election. He says of Ashby ‘’He’s the anti-Christ of politicians.”
It is striking how similar the parallels between the power that Ashby now holds and the power that Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff Peta Credlin wielded during his time as Prime Minister. Abbott was totally dependent on Credlin to keep him disciplined and focused during his time in opposition and then as Prime Minister. Credlin controlled access to Abbott, was involved in the staffing decisions of other ministers and micro-managed various functions of the government.
But because of Abbott’s dependence on her he was deaf to the advice from his friends and colleagues that she was causing massive dysfunction within his government as he thought that he could not be a good Prime Minister without her. It would appear here that Hanson believes that she cannot build the long term success of the new One Nation party without Ashby’s help. This is having the effect of aliening a lot of long term One Nation supporters as Ashby is stamping his authority on the various functions of the party and is controlling members’ access to Hanson.
Shan Ju Lin is not the first candidate to fall foul of Ashby as Andy Semple resigned as a One Nation candidate last month after refusing to take down a social media post that Ashby viewed as too controversial. Ju Lin said on Facebook she has been inundated with support from One Nation members following her disendorsement and still supports the values Hanson stands for.
We all know how Tony Abbott’s toxic relationship with Peta Credlin ended, he lost his job as Prime Minister despite all the advice he received to cut her loose. Hanson would do well to learn the lessons from Abbott’s experience and at least limit the influence of Ashby and not to disenfranchise the ordinary One Nation members who also helped facilitate her political comeback. One Nation fell apart once before and there are warning signs that the same could happen again. If Hanson is wiser in her second incarnation like many commentators are saying then reactionary centralised decision making like the disendorsement of Shan Ju Lin should not be occurring.