ONE Nation’s Rod Culleton has been officially sworn-in as a Senator to represent WA in federal parliament but he continues to be dogged by steely critics and an array of legal claims.
He’s also revealed he’s considering putting his second electoral office on the Albany Highway in Williams where his home farm was once located, to remind him of financial grievances with the ANZ Bank that have motivated his political aspirations.
But that normally serene agricultural town in WA’s south eastern Wheatbelt is also a hotbed of community resentment that’s intensifying against his upset election.
Last week Senator Culleton signed the official certificate of his election to the Senate at the July 2 poll, along with 75-other Upper House members, to formally commence the new federal parliament.
“I’m ready to do the job,” he told Fairfax Agricultural Media shortly afterwards.
“It was an absolute honour to sign myself in as a Senator for Western Australia in the federal parliament and an absolute achievement.”
Senator Culleton said he felt emotional during the signing ceremony with his entire family, led by wife Ioanna, witnessing the occasion and watching on “proud as punch”.
He said he now wanted to use parliamentary privilege to examine the legitimacy and transparency of bank-lending practices to protect other farmers who’ve suffered debt and financial loss that’s contributed to “killing-off our rural areas”.
Senator Culleton already has an electorate office in West Perth to add to the one in Canberra and believes having another one based in Williams will provide the ideal platform to continue kindling his political, psychological motivation.
“One of the places I’m thinking of having another office is in Williams, right on the Albany Highway, to where I can pull back the curtains and look out over my old farm property which had nine kilometres of river frontage and came right down to the town boundary,” he said.
“I’ll be able to remind myself how the ANZ Bank stole my property and that will force me to work harder because I will get my farm back.
“And like every other farmer around Australia if they were thrown off their property illegally, I’m sure they just wouldn’t just sit outside the front gate and do nothing.
“They’d want to get back inside the farm and that’s what I want.
“It’s my farm and I want it back and I will get it back.”
Senator Culleton said he was keeping his options open on his second office.
“At the moment my office is up and going and serving the WA people because they are my constituents,” he said.
But local farmer and Shire of Wagin President Phillip Blight - who has raised concerns about community angst over Senator Culleton’s election due to historical debts linked Culletons wool and grain buying entity - said putting a second electoral office in Williams would be a “brazen” move.
Shire of Williams President John Cowcher said in his view, he didn’t think the people of Williams would welcome the new Senator’s office being located anywhere in the district.
“I can be 100 per cent sure the majority of people would not welcome his office being located in Williams,” he said.
“I don’t think he releases some of the hurt that he’s caused people along the way.”
Culletons was forced into liquidation in the mid-1990’s owing money to multiple farmers and other related businesses in the area.
But Senator Culleton says the wool buying side of the family business was run by his father for 21-years with an “unblemished” record, until the wool reserve price scheme collapsed, in the early 1990’s.
He says his father became a victim through “force majeure” and the official process to wind-up the company involving creditors was done according to the law.
Senator Culleton also rejected any suggestion it would be a provocative move to set-up his second office in Williams.
“I love my farm,” he said.
“It wasn’t the best farm in the district, far from it, but I had to purchase my farm.
“I never inherited the farm to become a self-inherited labourer - I’ve had to purchase every acre I’ve ever farmed.”
Senator Culleton believes the local reaction to One Nation’s win can be attributed to a few disgruntled locals who have traditionally voted for the Nationals or Liberals.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of people that I’ve done business with in the Williams area and we get on well; in fact I was out to tea with one the other night,” he said.
“The Nationals are nothing but a little poodle sitting on the Liberal’s lap.
“When the poodle is on nanna’s lap, it‘s amazing how much confidence it has but when you remove the poodle from nanna’s lap and it gets lost in the scrub it shivers under a log and that’s exactly what the Nationals are.
“They’ve got no go and that’s why I went with One Nation.”
But Senator Culleton can’t relax anytime soon, with continued challenges confronting his political future.
He’s due to face the Perth Magistrates Court on September 13 for a trial allocation hearing, over charges relating to the alleged theft of a $27,000 hire car.
The car was being driven by bank-appointed receivers during a farm foreclosure incident on a farm near Williams at Cuballing in March last year and was surrounded by straw bales impeding its path.
Last month, the matter was due to be heard at trial but was adjourned by the court allowing the One Nation representative to attend official Senator training in Canberra.
The 52-year old is also waiting on a mention hearing, set-down for September 12 in the Armidale Court, relating to the alleged theft of a $7.50 key.
It stems from an altercation with a tow truck driver during a vehicle repossession attempt at Guyra, connected to his horse feed business.
He was convicted on that charge in his absence but had the matter annulled recently and is confident it won’t block his Senate position or the alleged car theft matter.
However, a former associate Bruce Bell has lodged a petition seeking to have the Court of Disputed Returns decide if Senator Culleton is eligible to sit in the Senate.
The petition claims the Senator, at the time of singing his nomination form for the federal election, was convicted and awaiting sentencing on the Guyra incident which carried a penalty exceeding 12 months jail time, and was therefore ineligible according to section 44 of the constitution.
With other legal matters lingering in the background including the NSW Supreme Court appointing a liquidator to his company DEQMO and a judgement order to pay a long-standing damages claim for $200,000 on a soured property deal on his Williams property, Senator Culleton this week conceded his political future was ambivalent.
“I’m over it - but I’m not worried about it - and we are dealing with it because we have to deal with it,” he said.
“This all came about before I decided to stand for politics.
“I stood up and I’ve been prepared to put my feathered cock on the block and I’ve still got my feathered cock and I’m going to enter it into the next agricultural show.
“And if at any point I get pulled away from the podium, I’ve already achieved a lot.
“I’ve come here to achieve and so it would still be an achievement to me.
“I knew before I ran that I had issues and I did say to (One Nation founder and leader Pauline Hanson) and I’ll reiterate - it was about getting One Nation a seat in WA.
“And whether I’m the jockey to remain on the horse, or not, I’ll still be the horse trainer or I’ll become the trainer.
“We have won but to me, I’ll stay here.”
Senator Culleton said he had the right of appeal in regards to the $200,000 property claim by former Wesfarmers director Dick Lester, for unpaid rent linked to a $13.2 million property deal in 2009 to expand his farm at Williams that went awry due to his issues with the ANZ Bank.
He’s also rejected suggestions he’s insolvent which would also impact his eligibility for the Senate and denied allegations in an anonymous email sent to journalists and politicians including the office Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce.
The email said it had sought to warn Senator Hanson of Senator Culleton’s alleged non-payment of debts to farmers and legal matters, in citing the public interest and urging recipients to contact listed individuals, to validate any claims.
“You cannot do this to decent hard working Australian farmers,” it said.
But Senator Culleton said the media was “putting the cart before the horse and only getting 10pc of the story right” in regards to his legal and financial affairs.
“I think it’s time people embraced me – they’ve got a real war horse here,” he said.
“I’m totally different to any other Senator in Canberra and I’m already being recognised for that.
“I’m here for the people and nothing will beat me down on that one.
“I won’t get pulled away from the Senate but I would gladly resign if the Australian people who put me there, no longer want me there.”
Senator Culleton said in his short period in federal parliament, he’d wasted no time getting on with the job that he was elected to do and achieving results.
He claimed a tactical manoeuvre in the Senate last week helped avoid a Clayton’s Royal Commission into banking by expanding the terms of reference to include bank agents, receivers, property valuers and real estate agents.
He said he’s also has discussed with Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer an alternative to the government’s newly announced inquiry into the mistreatment of small business customers by banks.
“Ms O’Dwyer has said that she would be very happy to have my involvement and expertise as I have had experience on the matter,” he said.
“I told Ms O’Dwyer that I would take up the offer to be involved but that I would also be setting up my own high-calibre committee to oversee the banking Ombudsman and the Parliamentary Committee.
“My committee would include the people who have played a massive part in the push for a Royal Commission, including some of the bank victims.
“I have been informed that the powers of this new committee will give people immediate relief through forbearance and or a moratorium put on all property, small business, farming foreclosures, or even the repossession of their family home whilst cases are being investigated; anyone who is being attacked by their financier.”
Senator Culleton said if the new committee failed to bring the banking sector to justice, he’d pressure the government and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for a full blown Royal Commission.
Senator Culleton said he’d already held face to face talks with Mr Turnbull about holding the banks to account and with Liberal deputy-leader Julie Bishop.
“This is a great start to a three year process for me in the Senate and that’ll go longer,” he said.
“These people do not know what’s going on in rural Australia.
“It’s imperative we bring back our wool industry and imperative that we bring back all of our agricultural industries and add more agricultural industries because that’s where it all starts for the economy in primary production.
“We need to ensure the banks are there with us and they are good partners and do not act like a wild animal, where you never know when they’re going to attack you, which is essentially what’s been happening.”
Senator Culleton said Mr Turnbull had been trying to convince him that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) could manage issues with the banks but he did not agree.
“If I had a horse that went as badly as ASIC in the race I wouldn’t start it,” he said.
“ASIC can’t run and you can’t even make it run.
“Turnbull is saying to me ASIC can be changed and moulded but that’s just nonsense.
“We don’t need an old nag; we need a new model.
“Malcolm Turnbull turns around now and says ASIC has the power and he’s given it a set of teeth but I told him all he’s done is give ASIC a set of dentures that will never hang onto anything.
“But I said we would go back to our own workshop on the farm and make up a set of steel teeth so we can give ASIC something to bite into.
“I was up front with Malcolm and at one point he said I was pressing the boundary of bullying but I was just basically telling him how it was and I also told him that the people of Australia viewed his as a bank hugger but he didn’t seem to comment on that at all.
“Other than that it was a very constructive meeting.
“I told Malcom he needs to call for an instant moratorium on farm foreclosures and he said, ‘look, you’re trying to bully me into that’ so I invited him into rural areas and to talk to people who’ve actually lost their farms.
“I am now a Senator and I’ve got other tools available to use and they’re very powerful tools.”
Mr Culleton helped Bruce Dixon retain his farm at Cuballing after he reached an agreement with the ANZ earlier this year and claims to have helped other farmers impacted by similar issues, like him, with the ANZ takeover of the Landmark rural loans book.
Mr Culleton said the process to lodge a dispute in the court of disputed returns was a democratic process everyone had available to them – but he denies ever being a business associate of Mr Bell who his wife has taken a restraining order against.
He said he also wanted to visit Washington DC to meet with US presidential candidate Donald Trump to discuss issues with free trade and the Trans Pacific Partnership.