Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party (PHON) is running a network of “ghost” candidates in the federal election, many of whom have not been seen or heard of in the seats they are supposed to be contesting.
- Some of One Nation’s candidates are registered on the electoral roll hundreds of kilometres from the seats they are contesting
- The Australian Electoral Commission says candidates are not required to live in the seat or even state or territory of the seat they are contesting
- It says it is looking into the circumstances surrounding the nomination of One Nation’s candidate for the Sydney seat of Hughes, Narelle Seymour
The ABC has counted at least a dozen of these invisible candidates, and while some have stood for One Nation in previous elections, many have no electoral presence in the seats they are contesting and no visible online footprint either.
The candidates are standing in electorates based in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.
Many also live far away from the seats they are vying to represent, including some in Tasmania and Queensland.
Vanessa Atkinson, for instance, the One Nation candidate for the seat of Mallee in Victoria, lives 1,500km away near Bundaberg in Queensland.
One Nation had pledged to contest every one of the 151 seats in the House of Representatives. Some 90 of those candidate nominations were only lodged just before nominations closed on April 22.
The identities of the mystery candidates have emerged in the wake of an ABC report about Narelle Seymour, the One Nation candidate for the southern Sydney seat of Hughes.
Despite attempts to track down the candidate for Hughes, the ABC was not able to confirm her identity with One Nation and until Wednesday, there was no mention of the seat or the candidate on the party’s website.
Two NSW residents on the electoral roll contacted by the ABC also denied being the elusive One Nation candidate.
On Wednesday, an ABC reporter who made inquiries at a residence in the Wagga Wagga suburb listed on the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) nomination form was told by a man answering the front door that Ms Seymour was unwell.
When asked if Ms Seymour was a One Nation candidate, the man told the reporter that he knew nothing about her being a political candidate.
AEC launches review
The AEC said it was looking into the circumstances surrounding Ms Seymour’s nomination.
“There is no law against candidates living outside of the seat or state/territory they are running in,” a spokeperson said. “There is also nothing that requires a candidate to be active in campaigning for election.
“However, clearly that would be advantageous if you’re genuinely seeking election.”
On Wednesday, the One Nation website belatedly added a profile for Narelle Seymour. But the photo of a campaign flier on the web page featured Pauline Hanson and One Nation senate candidate Kate McCulloch.
In fact the photo of Ms McCulloch appears on multiple candidate pages. And there are also photos of what are clearly male candidates on the profile pages of female One Nation candidates.
Ms Seymour is described in her One Nation biography as a former resident of Queensland who now lives in NSW. A mother of four, Ms Seymour is also noted as having been a member of the SES for 13 years and currently working in the aged care sector.
Ms Seymour, however, failed to appear at a candidate forum held in the electorate on Wednesday night.
Forum convenor David Ackroyd introduced five of the seven candidates, including the sitting member and ex-Liberal Craig Kelly.
“We have endeavoured to contact Narelle Seymour from One Nation,” he told the audience. “We have not received any response as yet.”
Linda Seymour (no relation), another candidate attending the forum, made a point of emphasising she was not Narelle Seymour. “A very important distinction,” she quipped to laughter from the room.
One Nation has been asked for comment about these events but did not respond by the deadline given.
Electoral law expert Graeme Orr told the ABC that while there is nothing untoward about One Nation placing candidates from other states in seats, it was unusual.
“I suspect the reason is because the One Nation party is struggling to find a full suite of 150 candidates, not surprising, given its organisation is a bit haphazard.
Confusion about mystery candidates
After publishing the story about Ms Seymour in the seat of Hughes, the ABC was contacted by dozens of confused voters who could not find any sign of the One Nation candidates supposedly running in their local seats.
Bethea Kerr, a voter in Belconnen, said she had not seen a poster or even a pamphlet for Lucia Grant, One Nation’s candidate for Fenner in the ACT.
The ABC was able to establish that Ms Grant is in fact registered to vote in Goodna, Queensland, but was not able to make contact with her.
“My first impression was that it seemed a bit dodgy,” Ms Kerr said.
Another voter in the NSW electorate of Grayndler, Chris, said it seemed dishonest that his local One Nation candidate Paul Henselin actually appeared to live in Queensland.
“These people are meant to be representing our community, and they wouldn’t know the first thing about our community,” he said. “It stinks of pretty grubby politics to me.”
Paul Henselin, One Nation’s candidate for Grayndler said that he is currently in Queensland and directed further queries to One Nation’s media team.
The ABC approached Heather Freeman, One Nation’s candidate for Parramatta, who directed all questions to the One Nation head office. According to the AEC, she is registered in Heathcote, Victoria.
When asked if he lived in the state, the party’s candidate for Aston in Victoria, Craig Ibbotson refused to answer questions and directed the ABC to One Nation’s media team.
Edward Walters, running for One Nation in the Sydney seat of Reid, said he initially wanted to run in Queensland where he lives but was told there was already a more experienced candidate for his seat.
When asked if he would be campaigning in Reid, he said he would soon “go for a motorbike ride and turn up”.
While Mr Walters acknowledged voters in the NSW seat wouldn’t know him “from a bar of soap”, he said he was happy to be running in Reid. “If they want to vote for One Nation, they can vote for me.”
Max Jago, who is registered as living in Launceston, Tasmania, told the ABC he was running for One Nation in the seat of Lindsay in NSW because his seat already had a One Nation candidate. He said he currently would not be campaigning in the electorate at this stage.
Mark Preston, candidate for Calwell in Victoria, is registered to vote in Sylvania, NSW.
Several other candidates in Calwell told the ABC that they had not met or seen Mark Preston in their electorate.
Natalie Abboud, Greens candidate in Calwell said that many of the One Nation candidates are most likely “paper candidates” and described the situation as “a bit disingenuous”.