09 June 2016
by Michael Koziol
Coalition MP George Christensen referred to AFP over turtle 'bribery' allegationGeorge Christensen campaigning with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop this week.
Controversial Nationals MP George Christensen has been referred to the Australian Federal Police over allegations he may have breached anti-bribery provisions.
Mr Christensen earlier this week pledged to personally donate $12,000 to a turtle sanctuary in the Whitsundays - if he is re-elected on July 2.
Left-wing activist group GetUp! complained to the Australian Electoral Commission, arguing the promise could be tantamount to bribery. The AEC referred the complaint to the AFP on Tuesday evening.
An AEC spokesman told Fairfax Media it was not simply a procedural matter and that the commission only referred complaints when it believed they warranted investigation.
"The AEC reviews any matters referred to them. If there is a cause to refer it then we do. That's what has occurred," the spokesman said.
An AFP spokeswoman confirmed the organisation is assessing the referral but has not yet committed to investigating the claims.
Mr Christensen, who holds his north Queensland seat of Dawson on a margin of 7.6 per cent, has since withdrawn his pledge to Eco Barge Clean Seas, a non-profit group, which rescues turtles and removes marine debris.
But he ridiculed the implication it amounted to bribery and called on GetUp! to stump up $12,000 from its own coffers.
"How is it bribery? The centre doesn't vote, the turtles don't vote," Mr Christensen said previously, before the matter was referred to the AFP. "They [GetUp!] wouldn't have done it if it was a left-wing MP. They've done it because it's a conservative MP."
GetUp! has been running targeted, public campaigns against conservative MPs such as Mr Christensen and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. In a subsequent interview with Buzzfeed News, Mr Christensen described GetUp! as "bastards".
The Nationals MP is a bête noire of the Left, well-known for his socially conservative views on same-sex marriage and the Safe Schools program, which he fought hard against in the Coalition party room.
He has also sought assurances from the government that Syrian refugees would not be resettled in his electorate, citing concerns about the availability of jobs. Labor has expressed hope of picking up the seat, but the party has only held it once in the past 40 years.
Mr Christensen did not attend a scheduled announcement in the neighbouring electorate of Capricornia on Wednesday morning, citing illness.
GetUp! national director Paul Oosting welcomed the referral to the AFP, and said it indicated the MP had "questions to answer" about his pledge.
"Mr Christensen's claims that he is being targeted because of his extreme right-wing views fail to acknowledge that he is now the subject of a Federal Police investigation," Mr Oosting said.
"If members of Parliament want to make donations, that's all well and good, but they shouldn't be contingent on people voting for them."