One Nation running candidates in states where they don’t live, as emails reveal scramble to fill seats

One Nation was still scrambling to find people to run for this month’s federal election just hours before the close of nominations, telling one prospective candidate to leave the electorate he was running in “blank” on his form while the party desperately tried to fill seats.

Guardian Australia can also reveal that several of the candidates chosen to run for the party live in other states than the seat they’re standing in, including a husband and wife selected to run in separate seats in New South Wales and Victoria.

Pauline Hanson said last month that One Nation would field candidates in all of the House of Representative seats for the first time thanks to “enormous support” from membership, which she said had “grown exponentially” during the pandemic.

“It’s taken almost 12 months to bed down the team we’re taking to voters at this election,” she said at the time.

But internal emails seen by the Guardian show the party was still trying to find people to run for it just hours before the nominating deadline on 21 April, telling one prospective candidate the party didn’t “require you to do anything or campaign at all”.

Rob Sinclair said after contacting One Nation seeking to run as its candidate in his local electorate of Parramatta, the party had instead asked him to nominate for a range of other seats, including some as far away as Victoria and South Australia.

Sinclair said he had refused and, after some negotiation, believed the party had agreed to let him to stand in Parramatta.

He filled out a nomination form and on 19 April One Nation contacted him to say the form had been “lodged with the AEC”.

But two days later, on 21 April, the date that final nominations closed, the party again contacted Sinclair, this time telling him One Nation had “received advice from the AEC that they have not accepted your nomination form”.

“Something about the form being illegible,” the party stated in an email.

“Could I urgently get you to complete the attached form again and resend ASAP? We have a midday cutoff.”

The party also instructed Sinclair to “leave the Division blank and leave your email blank”.

At about this time, Sinclair noticed the subject line on the emails had changed from “candidate opportunity” to “Banks”.

“I note you have BANKS in the subject title; we had agreed on PARRAMATTA,” he replied. “Could you please rectify this?”

Eight minutes later, at 10.18am, less than two hours before nominations closed, the party replied saying One Nation already had a candidate in Parramatta but still had to fill other seats.

“Can we please put you in a seat where we don’t have a candidate?” the party said in an email. “Please let me know urgently.”

Sinclair refused, writing in an email: “As your goal is to simply put a name on a seat, you can choose someone else’s name.”

Last week Guardian Australia revealed the candidate One Nation did eventually nominate to run in Banks claimed he had “no idea” he was running in the NSW seat.

Malcolm Heffernan, who has been referred to the Australian federal police for allegedly nominating in two separate seats on other sides of the country, claimed he did not know he was a candidate for One Nation.

Heffernan told Guardian Australia he had originally agreed to run for the party in Banks, despite thinking it was “weird” because he lives in Western Australia. He filled out a nomination form but said he had later been told his “services were no longer required”.

Believing One Nation no longer wanted him to run, he said he instead nominated for the little-known Australian Federation party in WA. Last week he said he was “massively annoyed” at being referred to the AFP for potential breaches of the Electoral Act.

“It’s 100% not my fault,” he said.

One Nation said on Friday that it would “fully cooperate with the AFP’s investigation” and would undertake its own internal investigation.

Banks is not the only electorate in which the party appears to have waited until late in the nomination process to field a candidate.

Ben Raue, who runs the Tally Room election site, noted that 10 days before the close of nominations, only 57 One Nation candidates appeared to have registered to run. By the close of nominations they had filled 149 seats, two short of their initial goal.

The emails to Sinclair also suggest the party was not concerned about fielding active candidates in seats such as Parramatta or Banks. When he submitted his nomination form for Parramatta, One Nation told Sinclair there was “nothing more you need to do other than vote for One Nation on May 21”.

When Sinclair asked what he should do if he was “asked by anyone for an opinion on anything policy related”, the party replied that he should read the party’s website. He was given an email address to send any media responses for approval.

As the party tried to convince Sinclair to run in Banks on 21 April, he was told: “We don’t require you to do anything or campaign at all.”

While Hanson boasted in April that the party’s membership had soared due to Covid lockdowns, many of its candidates are running in seats thousands of kilometres from where they will vote on election day. There is no requirement in Australia that candidates live in their electorate.

The party’s eventual candidate in Parramatta, Heather Freeman, for example, runs a business offering counselling, hypnotherapy and “equine assisted growth and learning”, with an address in Heathcote in Victoria.

When the Guardian contacted her this week Freeman confirmed she was the party’s candidate but would not answer questions about where she lived. The AEC confirmed Freeman had nominated from a Heathcote address.

In another example, Darrin Marr is running in the seat of Kingsford-Smith, about 950km from the Victorian seat of Flinders where his wife, Cynthia, is One Nation’s candidate.

Asic filings list the couple’s address as the seaside Victorian town of Rosebud, within Flinders, where they run a real estate agency on the Mornington Peninsula. The AEC confirmed Darrin Marr had also nominated from Rosebud.

In the inner-west Sydney seat held of Grayndler, held by the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, One Nation’s candidate is Paul Henselin, who has previously run for the party in the Queensland state seat of Scenic Rim.

In a video posted to One Nation senator Malcolm Robert’s Facebook in 2020, Henselin described himself as a “fifth generation” resident of south-east Queensland.

“There’s even a street named after us,” he said.

The Guardian attempted to contact Darrin and Cynthia Marr and Henselin.

One Nation did not respond to a series of detailed questions.

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