News National One Nation’s Culleton takes his political fight to court

One Nation’s Culleton takes his political fight to court

Rod Culleton with One Nation party leader Pauline Hanson
Rod Culleton has resigned from One Nation, and there's no love lost with its leader Pauline Hanson. Photo: ABC
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One Nation’s Rod Culleton insists he was eligible to have been elected as a senator as he fights for his job before the nation’s highest court.

It was a bumpy start to Wednesday’s hearing before the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns in Canberra, with a heckler interrupting proceedings and forcing the court to adjourn.

The protester, One Nation supporter John Wilson, was escorted from the building accusing the High Court of being a kangaroo court.

Claiming to be a friend, Mr Wilson said Senator Culleton was being persecuted because of his stand against the big banks, insisting he should be judged by a jury of his peers instead of the judges of the full court.

Senator Culleton denied being friends with Mr Wilson, a vexatious litigant banned from starting court proceedings in NSW.

“That was an outburst I think was not required in the court,” he told reporters, insisting he was happy with the way the case was going.

None of Senator Culleton’s One Nation colleagues turned up to support him on Wednesday, with the senator admitting he hadn’t spoken to party leader Pauline Hanson for “some time”.

“I can’t make someone love me,” he said.

Senator Hanson had told Sydney’s 2GB Radio on Tuesday that she was furious when Senator Culleton crossed the floor to vote against her party on the backpacker tax last week.

“He is not a team player at all,” she said.

“We can’t work with him; you can’t reason with him and honestly I think the whole lot has gone to his head.

“He loves the limelight; he loves the publicity. He’s not really listening to the advice.”

Senator Cullen was supported in court by lower house MP Bob Katter.

Senator Culleton’s referral to the High Court stems from a larceny conviction against him at the time of the July 2 election. The conviction, which was later annulled, was for taking a tow truck key he says was worth $7.50.

He later pleaded guilty to the charge but no conviction was recorded.

Under the constitution, any person who has been convicted of an offence punishable by a jail sentence of a year or longer is disqualified from being chosen as a senator.

Senator Culleton’s lawyer Peter King argues the senator has no case to answer.

He argues there’s been no disability under the constitution because Senator Culleton had not been sentenced, and was not subject to a term of imprisonment, even once he pleaded guilty.

“My client was not under sentence for any period. At all,” he said.

Justice Virginia Bell said it was difficult to see why a person convicted but not yet sentenced would be exempt.

Mr King twice tried and failed to have the matter adjourned, arguing first the Senate needed time to consider a matter pertinent to the case, before later arguing Senator Culleton was denied procedural fairness when convicted of larceny and needed more time to collect information.

Neil Williams SC, representing the Attorney-General, said a warrant had been issued for Senator Culleton’s arrest in March 2016 and the mere fact it hadn’t been executed did not mean he was still eligible to have been elected.

He argued there was a Senate vacancy because the senator had been subject to be sentenced as of polling day, submitting the vacancy should be filled by a special count of the ballot papers.

The High Court decision has been reserved for Friday, December 9.

Bob Katter says One Nation would be happy to see Senator Culleton go and replace him with a "puppy-dog-on-a-leash senator''.
Bob Katter says One Nation would be happy to see Senator Culleton go and replace him with a “puppy-dog-on-a-leash senator”.

In a statement, Mr Katter said the case was not about a $7.50 key but an attempt by the coalition and Labor to potentially pick up his Senate seat.

One Nation had a vested interest in throwing him out to “get another puppy-dog-on-a-leash senator”, he said.

Senator Culleton said he’d let voters decide whether he was doing a better job representing One Nation than Senator Hanson.

“If you feel that you can get a better deal as one senator standing on his own, that’s what you go for,” he said.

“That’s what the people want, they want someone who is going to perform not a bloody Muppet.”

He said the High Court case was a waste of taxpayer dollars.

“It is easy for the Attorney-General [George Brandis] and everyone to whistle me off to the High Court because they are not paying, the Australian people are,” Senator Culleton said.


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