The eligibility of Nationals federal candidate Matthew Fraser has come under question after sitting MP Justine Elliot (Labor) provided evidence that he has a 50 per cent stake in the South Tweed Hungry Jacks, which could disqualify him from being chosen as a member under Section 44 of the Constitution.
The evidence was independently verified by The Echo.
Section 44 of the Constitution states that, among other things, a candidate must not have ‘a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth’.
In December last year, Sydney franchisees of the US corporation Hungry Jacks were accused of exploiting the taxpayer-funded PaTH program to recruit cheap labour over the summer period.
Workers in the program were paid as little as $4 per hour, reported www.sbs.com.au.
According to documents sighted by The Echo, the franchisee of the South Tweed Hungry Jacks at 116 Minjungbal Drive, South Tweed Heads, is Insigma Pty Ltd.
An ASIC company search shows Insigma Pty Ltd is equally owned by Matthew Fraser and Paula Fraser, with Paula being both director and secretary of the company.
The Nationals responded initially with claims it was a smear. Fraser said in a statement, ‘I am not a director of that company, nor do I have any involvement with it’.
The Echo asked the Nationals’ communication manager, ‘Why would Mr Fraser say he has no involvement in the franchise when the ASIC company extract says he is an equal shareholder?’
The Echo also asked the Nationals to confirm that the Frasers’ Hungry Jacks employs or has employed young people through the government’s PaTH program.
Labor’s Elliot contends that they have.
While neither of The Echo’s questions were answered, a statement was issued by NSW Nationals state director Ross Cadell.
He said, ‘Prior to accepting Mr Fraser’s nomination for preselection, the National Party thoroughly investigated the situation and found Mr Fraser is 100 per cent in the clear and 100 per cent eligible to stand for election to the House of Representatives’.
An Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) spokesperson told The Echo, ‘The Electoral Act 1918 does not provide the AEC with the authority to conduct eligibility checks on potential candidates.’
‘Any disqualification of a candidate owing to the operation of Section 44 of the Constitution can only be determined by the High Court after an election’.