A SECRET phone recording of tense discussions between One Nation leader Pauline Hanson and the party's former senator Rod Culleton has been aired on the ABC's Four Corners.
The network revealed it obtained a series of emails which indicated Ms Hanson was aware of Mr Culleton's legal woes when she selected him to join the party despite later publicly criticising him over it and urging him to stand down.
Mr Culleton secretly recorded a phone conversation with Ms Hanson after his private legal affairs played out across the media and she allegedly withdrew her support of him.
Mr Culleton can be heard telling Ms Hanson: "You're getting angry with me, Pauline".
Ms Hanson said: "You've been in politics for, what, six months? I've been doing it for 20 years. Don't tell me how to run politics and how the system works. I think I know a little bit more than what you do."
Ms Hanson continued the heated exchange: "Go and read your constitution section 44.2 and it states that if you have a criminal conviction, more than 12 months sentence. I haven't done that, Rod. You did it before you were actually standing. Now they've caught up with you over this. That is the facts. Right? Now don't try and blame me."
Mr Culleton replied: "I'm not blaming you. But I don't seem to be getting support from you in a sense now you're wanting me to stand down."
Ms Hanson advised him to "think about it" and get some legal advice.
"I'll leave it up to you. I'll see you at parliament next week," she said.
Mr Culleton told the ABC that when it comes to Ms Hanson's One Nation, "they're persona non grata".
"Yeah, it cuts deep, to be honest, so ... That's it," he said.
"I get better respect from a sheep dog."
The comments came during an explosive investigative piece which claimed Ms Hanson's One Nation party was a "brutal dictatorship". It said the party had a public face that was "very different to the private reality".
'NAZI-STYLE MIND CONTROL'
During the show, journalist Caro Meldrum-Hanna asked One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts to explain why One Nation endorsed candidates that have "said such things as single mums are too lazy to attract and hold a mate, gays should be treated as patients".
"What about the comment that the gay community uses Nazi-style mind control?" Ms Meldrum Hanna asked.
Senator Roberts then rounded on her, accusing the ABC of using "Nazi-style mind control" in relation to reporting on pollution.
"Whenever we talk about carbon dioxide on the ABC, you see on the news broadcast, billowing steam pouring out, giving people the impression that carbon dioxide is both, colourful and it's also huge in volume, when it's less than 0.04 per cent," he said.
ON THE ROAD WITH ONE NATION
The Four Corners crew spent more than a month on the road with One Nation candidates and party dissidents, gathering a "legitimate, real look as to what is going on inside this party at the moment", with fascinating results aired on the program on Monday night.
Ms Meldrum-Hanna, who led the investigation, told news.com.au the story was "both entertaining and revealing".
The explosive episode also showed cranky former candidates sharing scathing sentiments.
"A political party's supposed to be transparent, democratic, inclusive - the party at the moment is not any of those things," one former candidate said.
"If the public knew what went on in the party I don't think they'd have anything to do with One Nation," says another.
The party's former Queensland president and treasurer Ian Nelson presented the most scathing and blunt assessment: "Absolute dictatorship. Brutal."
While putting the story together, Ms Meldrum-Hanna found fans and critics of the party and its leader, but what struck her most was the sense of fearfulness instilled in those that signed up to One Nation.
She said the party insiders and disaffected members had "scathing assessments" of how the party was being managed.
"They say that they feel tricked, or duped, that once they are inside the One Nation tent and they sign up as a candidate, they find that all of the public promises that One Nation and Pauline Hanson gave the country and indeed them, they evaporate," she said.
Ms Meldrum-Hanna said candidates experienced "uncomfortable levels of control" and found themselves being sent directives about who they were and weren't allowed to speak to, with media frequently falling into the latter category.
"They weren't allowed to speak to party dissidents, they're not allowed to speak to anyone who's been disendorsed, they're not allowed to speak to anyone who's quit the party, and particularly when it came to media, super tight controls on who can speak to the media," she said.
"That made people feel very uncomfortable but also really angry, because they signed up to a political party that said we're all about freedom of speech.
"Pauline Hanson says we're not a mainstream political party and I'm not one of those politicians that hides away in my office in Canberra, I get away and I speak to people and I talk to the media. Well that certainly wasn't our experience."
Ms Meldrum-Hanna and her camera crew found themselves subject to One Nation's restrictions. The group noticed doors being closed to them on their travel to regional Queensland while scoping out the state electoral candidates, which all began to make sense when they were leaked a text message from the party's head office saying "do not talk to Four Corners".
The program also exposed questionable financial aspects of One Nation.
"Pauline Hanson has publicly maintained that her party doesn't accept large political donations. We've put to the test her claims and we've obtained material that would suggest otherwise, which is very revealing," Ms Meldrum-Hanna said.
The investigation also brought Ms Hansons's right hand man and chief of staff James Ashby into the spotlight, and allegations of intimidation within the party that comes from the Ashby-Hanson partnership down to the rank and file.
"There are claims that One Nation has turned into a brutal dictatorship, those are the word of the former Queensland president and treasurer Ian Nelson, and they're very strong words," Ms Meldrum-Hanna said.
"The concerns lay in the leadership of Pauline Hanson and James Ashby. He went from being a printer, someone outside of the party, to her chief of staff quite quickly and now they have an extremely close relationship, and there are concerns.
"People tell us how they feel intimidated, they feel pressure by James Ashby to tow the party line and that made them feel extremely uncomfortable, so there are concerns about his role and influence between the party about how he treats people and how he controls the party.
"In terms of a series of broken promises, we shed light on the preference deal that was done between One Nation and the Liberal Party in WA. What Pauline Hanson has told her candidates and what she was actually doing, we found them to be two different things and that was just a lightning rod for disaffection in the party."
Ms Meldrum-Hanna insisted the report was "not a hatchet job". As well as speaking with One Nation critics and disgruntled party members, she said the crew came across their fair share of fans of the party, and particularly of its leader.
The crew spent two days on the road with Queensland Senator Malcolm Roberts - an experience Meldrum-Hanna described as "fantastic".
"Spending time with Malcolm Roberts we saw the genuine adoration and support for the party," she said.
As much as there is overwhelming belief in and support for One Nation in some parts of Australia, the crew quickly came to understand that the party would be nothing without Pauline Hanson.
"When I asked a few One Nation voters in one pub do you support One Nation they said no, do you support Pauline Hanson, yes. She's the absolute star of the party and without Pauline Hanson there really would no One Nation that became very clear," she said.
Neither Ms Hanson nor Mr Ashby agreed to talk to Four Corners.
Caro Meldrum-Hanna spent two days on the road with One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, pictured here preparing a snack for the crew. Picture: Caro Meldrum-Hanna/Twitter
Caro Meldrum-Hanna spent two days on the road with One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, pictured here preparing a snack for the crew. Picture: Caro Meldrum-Hanna/TwitterSource:Twitter
Ms Meldrum-Hanna's award-winning work with Four Corners has been known to make an impact. Her 2015 report on live-baiting in the greyhound racing led to the industry's overhaul and more recently a report on treatment of teenagers in the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre sparked a Royal Commission.
Asked whether her report on One Nation will likely have consequences for the party, particularly when it comes to financial matters and other accusations of misconduct, the reporter said: "Remains to be seen."
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