ROD Culleton is unsure if he’ll make an immediate return to politics potentially working in the electoral office of his brother-in-law Peter Georgiou who is set to replace him as a federal Senator for WA.
But in his first media interview since being ultimately ruled ineligible for federal parliament last week, the combative ex-farmer says his Greek wife’s brother is his own man who’ll make his own decisions about politics and also cooks a good souvlaki.
On Friday, the High Court ruled Mr Culleton wasn’t eligible to be elected at last year’s federal poll where he ran for One Nation on a pledge to fight for farmers facing duress over poor bank-lending practices.
Due to facing a potential imprisonment term of one year or longer at the 2016 election, over a larceny conviction, and despite it later being annulled, the Court deemed he was ineligible for the Senate as per Section 44 of the constitution.
The High Court - sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns - also decided Mr Culleton would be replaced by a recount of ballot votes that’s likely to see Mr Georgiou elected, who was second on One Nation’s WA Senate ticket.
“I don’t think I’ll influence Pete but I’ll be talking to him on a regular basis,” Mr Culleton said of his replacement Senator and immediate family member.
“All Greeks are close; he’s an eligible bachelor; he’s done well for himself; and he keeps himself pretty tidy and also cooks a good souvlaki.
“I’ve got nothing to complain about really, so long as (One Nation leader and Queensland Senator Pauline Hanson) treats him with respect and doesn’t try and put string around his fingers and around his ankles and hook him up to the ceiling fan so he starts to move that way.”
Mr Culleton said “at this point”, he didn’t know if he’d go to work on his brother-in-law’s political staff; potentially as an advisor.
He said his brother in-law “runs his own show” and was his “own man” who would decide how to approach his political career and any staffing entitlements.
“He’s going to have to decide how he wants to run his office and I’m not going to influence him one way or another,” he said.
In a statement, Mr Georgiou said it was a “very proud and humbling moment” to be given the opportunity to represent Pauline Hanson’s One Nation in WA.
“If I am confirmed as a Senator, it will be my great honour to represent the people of Western Australia,” he said.
“As a small business owner I recognise that hard work is critical in achieving our goals.
“My goal is to fly the flag for this great country and be an influential voice for all West Australians.
“I feel lucky and honoured to be Australian and have the opportunity, as an everyday citizen, to serve the constituents of WA and I am looking forward to working with my One Nation colleagues.”
Mr Culleton said he was “not concerned” about his immediate fate and life after politics but promised he’d continue applying “bruises” to the government on core issues like the legal system and banking.
“I’ll still press bruises and the government have definitely got a lot of bruises on them and it’s not hard to press them,” he said.
“They are not a good government and I believe Labor is in a far better place to take out the next election.”
Mr Culleton said he now needed to get other parts of his business going and still had a court order related to his horse feeding business that “we haven’t exercised”.
The former Williams farmer said he also wanted to continue serving other farmers who are under pressure with bank-debt and facing potential foreclosure.
“I’m not going to abandon them,” he said.
But he said he would look at “further challenging” the bankruptcy ruling handed down against him and his company Elite Grains in the Federal Court on December 23, which faced an appeal which was rejected on Friday, shortly after the High Court’s decision.
“I’ve still got a couple of lifelines there,” he said saying he’d not been properly prepared to fight the case and distracted by parliamentary duties.
Mr Culleton said his former farm neighbour Dick Lester who pursued the bankruptcy legal claim over a debt related to the lease and sale of his Williams property “Rathgar and sale of oats, could not claim victory after spending more than $1.6 million pursuing a $205,000 debt dating back to late 2009 and early 2010.
He said he’d made Mr Lester an offer for $205,000 in recent weeks which he had “ready to go” but it was rejected his one-time neighbour wanted the money to be paid out of a third party account.
“Dick was an overzealous litigant who was overreaching his mark on funds and…spent a colossal amount,” he said.
Mr Culleton said basic minutes were kept of meetings and discussions about the potential deal, which was put into the court as evidence.
But he said that documentation was only conducted in Mr Lester’s name and not his company Balwyn Nominees – however the court rejected his concerns about that aspect of the appeal.
Mr Culleton said he never signed up to bank with the ANZ Bank after it purchased the Landmark rural loans book and it was “an imposter that came in and destroyed the business”.
“I don’t know what part of the financial approval Dick Lester didn’t understand, but in no way shape or form was Rodney and Ioanna Culleton ever a party to buying essentially a $17.7 million property, “Rathgar”, at Williams, that was reduced to $13.2m,” he said.
“That was right at the time when ANZ purported to buy the Landmark loans book.
“But Dick obviously has kept us in his sights and tried to run me down like a dingo with a roo and just basically kept cantering along but in doing so has exhausted a huge amount of funds for something that’s totally uncommercial.
“My wife and I have never entered into an agreement with Balwyn Nominees – Balwyn Nominees is the phantom creditor.
“The cause of my fight is when the ANZ Bank came in and totally destructed that part of the business which is what I’ve been fighting for.
“At the end of the day I just want to do what’s right by the creditors but I’ve been prevented from doing so (and) that’s why I looked at putting Elite Grains into liquidation after the assault by the ANZ Bank.”
In a Facebook post, in relation to the High Court’s ruling over the larceny conviction, Mr Culleton said, “I never stole a key – it got lost in an altercation”.
“That went against me today and cost me my Senator-ship,” he said.
“I’ll live with that and that’s what the court’s decided - but that doesn’t mean it’s right.”
Mr Culleton said he had no regrets about being disqualified from federal parliament or his brief but colourful time in Canberra.
“I’ve simply gone ahead and done what’s right and helped a lot of people,” he said.
“I have set a precedent and the Senate will need to deal with a few issues and I’ve still got a lot of contacts in the Senate and I’ll also have a family member who’ll be in the Senate.
“I’ve taken the public with me on how the judicial system works and sure it hasn’t been pretty sometimes but, you know, it’s just what I’ve had to do.
“I’ve just had to deal with those matters, even on a personal level but at all material times I’ve given 100 per cent to my constituents, and that’s why I’ve been late getting certain documents into the court on time.
“This was a very heavy and costly litigation process and the government is a powerful litigant and the bank is a powerful litigant.”