There has been speculation about the whereabouts of One Nation leader Pauline Hanson in recent days after it was revealed that she had jetted off on a UK cruise, despite the upcoming Super Saturday of by-elections.
The Queensland Senator confirmed she was enjoying a trip overseas on Monday, which led to speculation about whether she would be present in Longman alongside One Nation candidate Matthew Stephen when the polling stations open on Saturday.
However, Hanson’s Chief of Staff, James Ashby, has now revealed the 64-year-old has a “big surprise up her sleeve” for the day, despite refusing to confirm whether she would be present when the votes roll in.
Ashby exclusively told Starts at 60: “Pauline has organised a big surprise for Saturday. All of this was organised prior to her going away.
“This trip was organised back in February, there was no by-election at that stage. We weren’t to know and Pauline wasn’t to know.”
Ashby also confirmed that his boss was “exhausted” and justified her time-off, which has raised eyebrows due its clash with the by-election, by crediting her hard work in the electorate in the run-up to the by-election.
“She was exhausted and needed some time off, after the year she’s had,” he added. “She has worked hard though. For the first week after parliament finished she worked in the electorate. She got around a lot of the electorate, going to clubs, BBQs, parks, nothing less than 12 hour days.”
Hanson’s absence came under fire during Monday night’s episode of The Big Guns on 2GB. Former pollie Graham ‘Richo’ Richardson said: “It would be extraordinary if she was overseas at the moment. This week is an incredibly important week for her.
“If her party doesn’t perform well, doesn’t get a big vote in a by-election in the home state, the heartland of Hanson voters, then she’s in all sorts of trouble. I would have thought that would have been the main thing she would be considering at the moment.
“It is her political party, even in name. How can the person who actually owns the party lock, stock and barrel be overseas for two weeks, for the last two weeks of a campaign as important as this?”
Hanson also called in to 2GB Sydney on Monday and told host Steve Price: “I work long hours, long weeks, long days. I did campaign quite extensively before I left the country. They were long days – 12 to 13 hour days.”
One Nation candidate Matthew Stephen is up against Liberal candidate Trevor Ruthenburg and Susan Lamb of the Australian Labor Party, who was forced to resign because the renunciation of her British citizenship had not been finalised by the close of nominations for the 2016 Federal election.