'Just another Elliot smear'
NATIONALS candidate for Richmond Matthew Fraser has hit back after Federal Labor MP Justine Elliot raised questions over his eligibility to run for government.
Just a week out from the election, Mrs Elliot said Mr Fraser was in breach of the Australian constitution by incorrectly filling out his nomination form.
A copy of Mr Fraser's qualification checklist, filled out prior to his nomination, was obtained by the Tweed Daily News.
Mr Fraser ticked 'no' to question 15 on the form, which relates to Section 44 of the Constitution.
The question asks whether or not the candidate has a direct or indirect financial interest in any contract or agreement with the Commonwealth public service.
Mrs Elliot said she believed the Nationals candidate did have a financial interest through his wife's ownership of a franchised Hungry Jack's in Tweed Heads South.
Through that business, youth workers are employed through the Federal Government's Youth Job Path Program.
"This would appear to be a serious breach of Australia's Constitution and it calls into question Matthew Fraser's eligibility as a candidate for Richmond in this election," Mrs Elliot said.
But Mr Fraser has labelled the comments as a "smear campaign".
"It is completely, 100 per cent clear that I am eligible to be the Member for Richmond," Mr Fraser said.
"This is another disgusting smear campaign from the Labor party who can't face up to questioning about their policies and the direction that they will take this country in if they are elected to government."
"My wife is the franchisee at Hungry Jack's and I tell you what, she has worked damn hard at making that business a success and giving local people a start in employment.
"I am not a director of that company, nor do I have any involvement with it.
"The law is clear, the employment of one's spouse is not an issue when it comes to section 44 of the Australian Constitution."
NSW Nationals state director Ross Cadell said Mr Fraser had been through a "stringent" vetting process.
But according to a document supplied by Mrs Elliot's office, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission website shows Mr Fraser has a 50 per cent share in the business Insigma Pty Ltd, which owns the Hungry Jack's on Minjungbal Drive.
Mrs Elliot questioned Mrs Fraser's decision to omit that he had a 50 per cent share in his wife's business.
"For years, Matthew Fraser has told everyone that he owns the Hungry Jack's at South Tweed and now when it is revealed that his eligibility as a candidate is questioned, he blatantly lies saying he has no involvement in the business," Mrs Elliot said.
An Australian Electoral Commission spokesperson told the Tweed Daily News it was not responsible for determining a candidate's eligibility.
"The AEC's role is limited to collecting and publishing the checklists rather that examining the validity of answers or information provided on checklists," they said.
The spokesperson referred to a document which stated: "Any disqualification of a candidate due to the operation of Section 44 of the Constitution can only be determined by the High Court after an election."