Politician hits self-destruct on career on election eve
TEN months ahead of the 2017 Queensland state election, Steve Dickson announced he was quitting the LNP to join Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party.
Colleagues were confused by his claim it was because of a lack of action on legalising medical marijuana.
It was universally considered the former Newman Government Minister for National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing had thrown himself on a sword.
The decision cost him a blue-ribbon LNP seat and an indefinite career in state politics.
He stood for re-election under the One Nation colours but was soundly beaten.
Just two years on after the airing on the ABC of the Al Jazeera documentary How to Sell a Massacre, it would appear he had also found a way to throw himself under a bus.
In the 2012 landslide LNP victory, Mr Dickson secured 62.17 per cent of the primary vote in Buderim: a number that collapsed to just 52.62 per cent in the 2015 voter backlash against the Newman regime but still showed the strength of the party brand in that seat.
Then in 2017, standing for One Nation, his primary vote dropped to just 28.57 per cent.
Mr Dickson ignored calls from this newspaper for comment about his behaviour in the United States but told national media in Brisbane before the airing of the second of the two-part series he and One Nation chief-of-staff James Ashby had been victims of a stitch-up and that their comments had been taken out of context.
He has remained at No.2 on the One Nation Queensland Senate ticket with Pauline Hanson standing by her party's state leader.
The rumour mill on the Sunshine Coast, however, was running hot long before the documentary screened on the ABC, that Mr Dickson was putting together a team of "independents" to run in local government elections next year. If he failed in his bid for a place in the Senate, it was believed he would then be a candidate for Sunshine Coast Council.
He dismissed those rumours at the time, saying his focus was on his role with One Nation.
Mr Dickson served as a Maroochy Shire Councillor from 2000 to 2006, the year he entered State Parliament as the Member for Kawana after defeating Labor's Chris Cummins with a 7 per cent swing.
A boundary re-alignment saw him switch to the new seat of Buderim in 2009 where he served until his 2017 defeat after he switched allegiances.
"Everything is money," he is heard at one point in the documentary telling a gathering of the National Rifle Association in the United States last September. "It's the vehicle. I think we've already lit the fuse here for that vehicle to happen."
During sessions "on the sauce" with Aljazeera News Media undercover operator Rodger Muller and in meetings with NRA officials, the need for money to boost One Nation's power in the Australian parliament was raised constantly.
"The bottom line where we are, we've got all the political grunt to make happen what we need to happen," Dickson said.
"It's the cash. We don't have the cash. We get the cash, we change the world."
At another point in the documentary, Mr Dickson bizarrely comments "I'm going to be in one of those drug-dealing mansions on the beach. I'll hire it for a month. You know the ones that are 25 rooms and the chef and everything. We'll drink and shoot the s**t of everything down the water. Machine guns and everything. That's my dream. And we can protect ourselves, just in case."
The truth of the matter is, Mr Dickson said at another point in documentary, "that when you're dealing with the Koch Brothers, they do this s**t all the time in countries all over the world. This ain't the first time. It's impossible to track where the money is coming from because it's like spaghetti. It all goes there, there, here and bounces off this and up this ... Boof, boof, boof like this and it ends up in your glass."
The comments were a far cry from his maiden parliamentary speech as Member for Kawana in 2006 when his focus was climate change and the impact of fossil fuels, preservation of the coastal village amenity of the Sunshine Coast, water security, health and support for those with mental illness.
One of his former LNP colleagues, Member for Caloundra Mark McArdle, would not discuss whether the Steve Dickson he saw in the documentary was the person he knew when they served together in the state parliament.
"What he said identifies his personality with stark reality," Mr McArdle said.
"That doesn't belong in our political system. It's an almighty kick in the guts to families whose lives were lost in Port Arthur and Christchurch.
"It was appalling. One Nation should apologise immediately. I will never forgive him for trying to water down our gun laws that have potentially saved the lives of hundreds of people.
"I won't talk about the time I served with him. But to offer to manipulate the voting system and political system and bring in foreign money to create change in our gun laws was appalling."
Maroochydore MP and former Speaker Fiona Simpson described the comments as "just absolutely stupid".
"I was in Parliament when we brought in the gun laws," she said.
"It was a difficult time with a lot of emotion and the distress of Port Arthur. We worked through the detail and the gun laws were brought in under a State Coalition Government.
"I shake my head at the conversations reported. It's just ridiculous. We went through all that and dealt with the issues around those on the land and sporting shooters.
"We recognised the style of weaponry that no-one wants to see in the community. There's a need for regulation to safeguard the community. Australia has learnt those lessons and thank God we did."
Kawana MP Jarrod Bleijie, who holds a weapon licence and is a gun owner, said he did not want the laws changed or weakened.
"The comments generally were a shock to everyone," he said.
A source who knows both Mr Dickson and One Nation chief-of-staff James Ashby, who was with him on the now infamous trip to the United States, said the pair had begun regularly "playing footsie" at a Kawana cafe for months before the Buderim MP's defection was announced in January 2017.
The former LNP member thought Mr Ashby's connection with the LNP had been forged through his ownership of a doubled-barrelled printing press that produced high-quality election corflutes at a reasonable price.
It was that avenue the source said that led to his appointment to the staff of then LNP federal member for Fisher Peter Slipper.
That did not end well, either.