One Nation leader Pauline Hanson.
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson. Patrick Woods

One Nation ditches plan for $250,000 'exit fee' for new MPs

PAULINE Hanson told her candidates that if they were elected at next month's WA election and then quit One Nation they must pay her party $250,000.

One Nation's 45 candidates at the March 11 poll were this week told they must sign an agreement that binds them to the $250,000 "administration fee".

But after a rebellion by some candidates, and questions from The Sunday Times, One Nation last night said the extraordinary demand had been scrapped "on legal advice".

Believed to be unprecedented in Australian politics, the quarter of a million dollars exit penalty would have effectively shackled One Nation MPs to Ms Hanson's party.

The fee was detailed in a letter sent on Monday to candidates standing in the State election by One Nation's headquarters in Queensland.

Obtained by The Sunday Times, it states: "Any candidate endorsed by the Party, who then successfully becomes sworn in as an Elected Member of Parliament undertakes to remain a member of the Party for the entirety of their sitting term.

"If the Member (you) resigns from the Party in a sitting term a $250,000 administration fee will become due and payable immediately upon resignation."

One Nation sources said Ms Hanson was wary of candidates being elected to parliament on the back of her popularity and then resigning from the party. In December, former WA senator Rod Culleton quit One Nation less than six months after the Federal election.

After being contacted by The Sunday Times yesterday, a One Nation spokesman said there had been a rethink on the six-figure defection clause.

"The One Nation administration had put a precautionary agreement to new candidates after the defection of Rod Culleton last year. Upon final legal advice Friday, the party has since removed the need for candidates to agree to defection terms," the spokesman said.

"That decision occurred late Friday afternoon on a conference call with admin staff and Senator Hanson. The direction not to proceed with the defection clause as part of the agreement came directly from Senator Hanson."

A One Nation source said several candidates had refused to sign the agreement and conveyed their anger at a candidates meeting on Friday attended by WA party leader Colin Tincknell.

The source said some candidates, desperate to become MPs, had already signed up. One Nation yesterday said it was unclear whether its candidates had been told the exit penalty had been dumped.

It can also be revealed candidates were told that they must "agree to a quarterly donation" to the party of $1250 for running and campaign costs, payable within seven days of the seat being declared.

The hopeful politicians also have to stump up a $250 nomination fee, $150 to "cover our interviewing and endorsement process" and $100 for a professional photograph.

"I wouldn't say there was another instance of this anywhere in the Western world," political analyst Dr Harry Phillips said of the $250,000 exit penalty. "This is beyond a reasonable expectation."

Sources in the big three parties poked fun at One Nation.

"I can't see how that $250,000 exit fee is even enforceable," one said. "I have to assume that One Nation is banking on their candidates having no idea of the law."

Liberal, Labor and National Party MPs pay annual fees to their party, of 4 to 7 per cent of their annual salaries.

But there was no requirement for MPs to hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars if they jump ship.

News Corp Australia

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