Bearing ‘Christian witness’ in the state elections
28 June 2011
Sean Castle is a senior history teacher at Toongabbie Christian School. He holds a BA and a B Teach, lives at Glendenning, has a blond wife and three small kiddies. He’s apparently a fan of boxing (for those under 35 – that’s an atavistic, once popular sport, where men put on padded gloves and try to give each other brain damage). Early last year he featured in the local press when he complained about the high price of stray dogs at the Blacktown pound. He later purchased a cavalier King Charles spaniel for $260 from a private dealer. In October he was a speaker at a School Certificate study day at Macquarie University. He spoke on ‘Migrants: Changing Rights and Freedoms’.
None of which is particularly remarkable, but Castle had another side altogether and shortly after the NSW elections he came to notice for matters rather more serious than the price of pets.
Toongabbie Christian School is an institution of the US-style Baptist persuasion. Download their staff application form and you’ll find that you probably needn’t apply unless you’re an “active” Christian. You’re required to give a written account of your “Christian conversion and experience” (this means that you’re expected to be ‘born again’ rather than just baptised as an infant), expound on your “definition of a Christian” and set down your views on “the authority and historical accuracy of the Bible”. And there’s this: “What do you think about the theory of evolution and its relationship to what the Bible teaches?” That’s the creationist question. It’s designed to weed out folks who don’t believe the world was created in six days around 4004 BC or thereabouts.
In short, Sean Castle worked for a mob of obscurantist, religiously-bigoted, fundamentalist whackos – the perfect milieu to foster what followed.
Shortly after the state election, serial far-right candidate Pauline Hanson launched an action in the Court of Disputed Returns alleging that 1200 valid primary votes for her were not included in the tally and that, therefore, she may have won the Legislative Council seat won by the Greens’ Sarah Johnson.
Hanson’s case hung on the evidence of a certain “Michael Rattner”, a tradie who claimed his girlfriend, an Australian Electoral Commission worker, had obtained an email exchange between two actual AEC officials to the effect that 1200 ballot papers with valid primary votes for Hanson had been put into the blank ballots pile. Copies of these emails were central to Hanson’s case.
But it all fell apart. When “Michael Rattner” presented himself in to police after failing to appear in court, he turned out to be Sean Castle and the AEC emails turned out to be a fraud.
The genesis of Castle’s little scheme seems to have been an email to Hanson’s team from one of her scrutineers to the effect that she had observed an AEC employee find 15 votes for Hanson in the blanks pile. The employee alerted the supervisor who said he would put in an official report. The scrutineer’s account could be read in no other way but that the system had worked and a minor error had been put right.
It would seem that on the basis of this innocent story Castle set about constructing his scam. That suggests a link between him and someone, as yet unknown, on the Hanson team.
Subsequently, Castle rang the AEC, represented himself – using his real name – as a Daily Telegraph journalist and gained access to embargoed information on the ongoing count. Was it from this that he settled on the 1200 stolen votes figure, calculating that this number would be sufficient to push Hanson across the line?
Castle/Rattner first spoke to Hanson and her solicitor on 5 April. It wasn’t until 13 April that he eventually sent them his faked AEC emails, so they didn’t actually have any “hard” proof of electoral fraud until then. And they never laid eyes on “Michael Rattner” until he fronted as Sean Castle.
Mystery surrounds Castle’s motive. Crikey writer Andrew Crook uncovered the fact that Castle believes the Australian electoral system is regularly the subject of ‘vote early, vote often’ fraud. This would suggest that he’s a follower of the HS Chapman Society, a curious group of right-wing obsessives whose gurus are Dr Amy McGrath, an elderly writer of historical romances, and former Liberal MP and now Christian Democrat, Alasdair Webster. The society is linked to organizations like Republic Delusion and Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy.
The HS Chapman Society folk believe, on the slenderest of evidence – or none at all – that Labor and left-wingers often gain office through vote fraud.
So was Castle’s motive the hope that he might expose an actual left conspiracy? Unlikely. He can hardly have hoped that a recount would put Hanson in front. If he did in fact have access to Hanson’s scrutineer’s story he’d have known it wasn’t evidence of fraud – compelling or otherwise. And his access to the ongoing count confirmed she was behind.
I’m speculating on another motive: the addled fraudster hoped to keep the Hanson dream alive by creating a populist myth to nourish the victimhood of the lunar right – that the ratbag redhead was robbed of victory by a leftist and establishment conspiracy.
On Friday 24 June, the Supreme Court formally dismissed Hanson’s challenge and recommended all legal costs, said to be well in excess of $150,000, be paid by the taxpayer.
Hopefully Castle won’t escape prosecution for the nuisance he’s caused – let alone for disgracefully impugning the reputation of the two electoral officials. He’s still listed on the staff of Toongabbie Christian School where, in the words of the ‘vision statement’ he’s no doubt bearing “ …Christian witness, through life example and missional endeavour, to our local community and the world.”