The Queensland Senator has broken the law by failing to disclose that she runs a “family trust”. In July it was revealed Hanson owned a 25% stake in a North Queensland recycling company – a stake Hanson “acquired” for $400. Hanson had failed to report to parliament that investment. We reveal that investment was actually held in a trust, which Hanson has also failed to disclose. The revelations raise some serious questions for the One Nation boss on the eve of the Queensland election, where her party is running 90 candidates. Anthony Klan investigates.


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EXCLUSIVE

ANTHONY KLAN

Senator Pauline Hanson runs a secret family trust – according to her own lawyer – which she has never disclosed to parliament and which owns 25 per cent of a North Queensland “recycling” company.

Hanson acquired a one-quarter stake in Mackay company SETA Recycling in December last year, however that holding was not added to the register of senator’s interests until July, following media inquiries.

The Klaxon can now exclusively reveal Hanson has a “family trust”, despite her never having disclosed it to parliament, as required by law, and the fact that she has repeatedly, and explicitly, told the parliament that she does not have any family or business trusts.

It is in that family trust that Hanson holds the 25% stake in SETA Recycling.

The Senate, like the Australian House of Representatives (lower house), has strict rules requiring members to make full and regular disclosures about assets and investments they hold, with those transparency laws aimed at preventing politicians from abusing their positions of power to further their own personal interests.

These latest Hanson revelations raise very serious questions around the One Nation leader on the eve of Queensland’s election, in which One Nation is running about 90 candidates.

They are particularly concerning given her chief-of-staff, James Ashby, was last year exposed seeking $20 million from the US National Rifle Association (NRA) in return for political favours, including weakening Australia’s gun laws.

Hanson’s lawyer and political advisor Don Bundesen – who describes himself as a “lawyer and governance adviser in the Australian Senate” – told The Klaxon that Hanson operated a “family trust” after we approached Hanson regarding SETA Recycling.

Hanson owns 25% of SETA Recycling in the form of 400 shares which she purportedly acquired for a total of $400 when the company was registered, on December 20 last year.

Bundesen is also a co-owner of SETA Recycling, having obtained a 37.5% stake in the company at the same time as Hanson.

It is unclear why Hanson has repeatedly failed to disclose the existence of her family trust, despite being obliged by law to do so.

When we went back to Hanson’s office after learning her family trust had not been disclosed, Hanson’s chief-of-staff James Ashby responded: “Not interested Anthony”.

 

Hanson’s parliamentary disclosure – specifically having any family of business trusts. Source: Australian Senate

 

Hanson’s One Nation is expected to play a significant role in the outcome of tomorrow’s Queensland election amid predictions the party will likely be a king-maker if neither the LNP or ALP gain enough votes to govern in their own right.

Experts closely watching a handful of key regional seats in North Queensland where Hanson’s party has been polling well and which could determine the election’s outcome.

Question marks have been swirling around One Nation’s financial position after it emerged late last month that the party made a mystery $500,000 payment to failing investment company Mayfair Platinum in the first six months of this year.

Mayfair Platinum is part of the Mayfair 101 group, which froze investor redemptions on numerous investments in March and whose director James Mawhinney has been accused by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission of misleading investors.

Separately, Hanson also came under fire mid-last month after she was photographed holding a giant cheque and said she had “secured $23 million from the federal government” that would “green-light” a new stadium in Rockhampton.

 

Hanson’s SETA Industries ownership only appeared in parliamentary register after inquiries from media. Source: Nine

 

However the money was instead a Federal Government grant and One Nation has been accused of misrepresenting it to gain votes, while the ALP has asked the Australian National Audit Office to investigate the Coalition’s awarding of the grant.

Last month The Klaxon revealed Hanson’s trip to Uluru last year to protest the climb ban was a stitch-up and paid for by Channel Nine.

On July 17 Sydney Morning Herald reporter Nick Bonyhady revealed that Hanson had a 25% stake in SETA Industries and that the holding had not been disclosed.

“The shareholding was not added to the register of senator’s interests until Thursday, after The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age asked why it was missing,” Bonyhady wrote at the time.

Representatives from Hanson’s office reportedly said the holding had been not been disclosed due to a series of “administrative issues”.

Senators are legally required to disclose their interests in assets such as shareholdings within 35 days of acquiring them.

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More about Pauline Hanson:

SCOOP: Hanson’s Uluru “climb” a monolithic stitch up

Nine’s papers in major “independence” test: stumble hopelessly

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The Klaxon queried Bundesen about how Hanson held the SETA Recycling shares, because while Hanson is listed as the holder of the shares, ASIC filings show she is not the “beneficial owner” of the shares.

That means that Hanson holds the shares on behalf of some other person or entity.

Bundesen said Hanson did own the shares, however her ownership was recorded as being “non-beneficial” because the shares were held in “the senator’s family trust”.

When we suggested this structure appeared unusual, especially given it ostensibly involved such a small investment, Bundesen responded: “not really, it’s just the easiest way of doing things”.

 

Hanson’s 25% stake in Mackay company SETA Recycling. Source: ASIC

 

There is no way of knowing what investments a person has in a trust and no public register exists in Australia that discloses who the “beneficial owners” of trusts are.

That is despite calls over many years for a beneficial ownership register to be created in order to assist transparency and to clam down on corporate crimes, including tax evasion.

Bundesen said the Senator had acquired the SETA Recycling shares after she was contacted by North Queensland entrepreneur Cory Towner.

The Klaxon’s attempts to reach Towner were unsuccessful.

“We contacted Pauline’s office because she’s quite heavily involved in recycling and she’s all for the Australian farmer, so there were synergies there with our business model,” Towner was quoted as saying in the July Sydney Morning Herald article.

The newspaper reported that SETA had “recovered between 500 and 700 tonnes of plastic waste for recycling” from farms and mines.

When we asked Bundesen how Hanson had come to obtain 25% of SETA Recycling for $400, Bundesen said this was because the company was a start-up with little to no cash flows.

Towner also operates a company called SETA Industries, also registered in Mackay.

His LinkedIn profile states he is “Operations Manager at SETA Industries”.

That company clams to be “engaged in demolition and recycling” for “mining entities” and to have “14 recycling centres across Australia and New Zealand”.

 

SETA Industries – claims to have “14 Recycling Centres”, despite Hanson acquiring 25% of the company for $400. Source: Supplied.

 

It also claims to have developed a “major product” called the Hybrid Fuel Management System.

“This ground breaking technology reduces harmful carbon emissions CO, HC, and NOx up to 98% which in turn protects the environment and reduces impact from fuel usage,” the company claims.

Hanson’s lawyer, Bundesen, said SETA Recycling (which Hanson owns 25% of) and SETA Industries were “two different companies” and that Hanson did not own a stake in SETA Industries.

Bundesen told us that he and Hanson had become involved with SETA Recycling because they wanted to help Corey to raise its profile.

Hanson’s “name goes a long way”, Bundesen said.

“People see a lawyer as a director, a senator as a director, it must be a good company,” he said.

The ownership structure of both SETA Recycling and SETA Industries raise further questions.

Despite Towner ostensibly running both companies, he is not named as a shareholder or a director of either company.

ASIC filings show SETA Recycling has three owners, Ashlee Meredith (37.5%), Hanson (25%) and Claire Bundesen (37.5%).

Bundesen said Claire was his daughter and the shares were held in his family trust.

This was because Clare was the trustee of his family trust, Bundesen said.

The two directors of SETA Recycling are Donald Bundesen and Ashlee Meredith, 28, with both becoming directors on December 20 last year, the day the company was founded.

ASIC records show SETA Industries is fully-owned by Ashlee Meredith, however this holding, like all of the holdings in SETA Recycling, is labelled as being not “beneficially held” by Meredith.

Our attempts to contact Meredith were unsuccessful.

SETA Industries was registered on April 18, 2018.

Ashlee Meredith was appointed a company director on December 20 2018.

ASIC records list Meredith is currently the only director of SETA Industries.

When we interviewed Bundesen he at first said Hanson had not paid any money for the 400 SETA Recycling shares.

Later in the interview Bundesen said Hanson had paid $400 for the shares, which is what is recorded in the ASIC filings.

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