ROD Culleton says he’s not a racist and nor is Pauline Hanson and he’s also not a criminal - never has been one and never will be. Mr Culleton is confident of taking the 11th WA Senate position for Ms Hanson’s One Nation party when polls are declared early next week, representing a major upset at the 2016 federal election.
“It’s still uncertain but given the results and the positon of One Nation we’re a hot favourite to grab the 11th WA Senate seat,” he said during an extensive interview.
“I believe we’re about 22,000 votes ahead of the Nationals which is not a bad run home.
“At the end of the day the best way to describe it is that I was the jockey on the horse, the horse is One Nation’s horse and it was about getting One Nation the seat and getting over the line.”
However, Mr Culleton confronts a tense legal battle to ensure he clears the final hurdle to be eligible to sit in federal parliament and join Ms Hanson to pursue big picture plans to stick up for debt-ridden farmers by seeking bold regulatory reforms; especially around bank foreclosures.
But ironically, it was a run-in with the law that motivated his desire to take a tilt at federal politics and become a law-maker, after his Williams farm was foreclosed in 2013.
He’s currently facing charges stemming from an attempted foreclosure in March last year of Bruce Dixon’s farm at Cuballing, about 200kms south-east of Perth, where two bank appointed receivers had their car involuntarily impounded.
Mr Culleton claims the bales that impeded the car’s escape during the controversial foreclosure - which was also covered in a 60 Minutes television report - were made of straw and not hay.
He said due to being on bail for the straw bale incident - that’s alleging the theft of a $37,000 hire care and due to be heard next month - he could not appear in person at a court hearing in Armidale NSW in March this year to face a separate larceny charge relating to an altercation with a tow truck driver and $7.50 key.
He was subsequently convicted of the charge in his absence and is now appealing it.
Mr Culleton said during the incident, the tow truck driver was seeking to repossess a car leased by his equine performance company based at Guyra in the NSW New England region when a single key got knocked out of his hand, during an altercation.
“Larceny is not an act of dishonesty - it’s to permanently deprive - and because the key was lost in amongst the undergrowth on my property, we were unable to retrieve it that day,” he said.
“The tow truck driver drove away that day and the police are now saying that he hotwired the tow truck and there’s a big question mark over that so we believe we’ll be able to have that annulled.”
Under the Commonwealth Constitution, anyone is disqualified from entering parliament if they’re convicted, under sentence or due to be sentenced for an offence punishable by imprisonment for one year or longer or is an undischarged bankrupt or insolvent.
It’s understood both of the charges that Mr Culleton is facing carry potential sentences of one year or longer.
Mr Culleton said he was disputing the two charges against him and was confident the one linked to the $7.50 tow truck key would be annulled.
He said, “I’m not a criminal - never have been and never will be a criminal”.
“You need to say in your article - and this is the truth - I didn’t get out of the nut scratcher that morning to go and steal some tow truck driver’s key,” he said.
“I went to work that day like I did.
“I’d just bought a road train and drove it across the Nullarbor (for five days) because I had a facility in Guyra and this guy rocked up on a bank related issue wielding his big authority and he had no court orders – it was all a big bluff.”
During the incident on Mr Dixon’s farm last year, receivers from RSM Bird Cameron visited the sheep and grain property, the day after he’d defaulted on his multi-million dollar loan with the ANZ bank.
Speaking to Fairfax Agricultural Media at the time, Mr Dixon said he was “taken aback” when the receivers told him the bank had already taken possession of his farm and started discussing a timeline to exit the property.
He said the receivers claimed they had a court order to remove him from the property, but failed to provide paperwork to prove that claim.
The receivers parked their vehicle on the property and while inside the farmhouse holding talks, “someone decided to build a haystack” around their car, blocking its exit, he said.
A Channel 9 camera crew filmed the incident which was used as part of a 60 Minutes story on farm foreclosures that included Mr Culleton’s property and broadcast in mid-April, 2015.
Mr Culleton said the battle to save Mr Dixon’s farm had changed the focus on how banks should treat their customers and also led to good reforms.
“It’s one of the things I’ll be powering home if I’m standing in the Senate which I believe I will be,” he said.
Mr Culleton said he was the one being charged with the motor vehicle theft but only because he had full control of the situation on the day in question and removed the receivers, off the farm.
“They put me as the head man and said I was a part of them not getting the car but they’ve always had the car – we certainly didn’t steal a motor car that day,” he said.
Mr Culleton said whoever blocked the car needed to be commended for “preventing a catastrophe” because the receivers had driven around the property, believing it was theirs, but on dry stubble, when a fire ban was imposed.
“Those straw bales could have been slid out of the way because they are considerably lighter than hay bales,” he said.
“Those receivers would not know which end of a sheep ate grass and had they been well educated, because the straw bales were on gravel, they would have just pushed them out of the way.
“They (straw bales) weren’t meant to permanently entrap the car.”
Mr Culleton said he believed the vehicle also had a couple of flat tyres which may have been “pinched” while the receivers were driving around in the dry stubble.
He said he couldn’t physically attend the NSW court hearing due to being on bail for the vehicle incident at Cuballing and hit rock bottom after being convicted.
“They required me to front up bright eyed and bushy tailed at the Armidale Court in northern NSW and I told the magistrate I was ready to do it over the phone and he never rang me and convicted me in my absence,” he said.
“In actual fact that was the lowest point in my whole life really and that’s when I decided to stand for parliament.
“I just thought this was a travesty of justice which it was and this is why I’m standing like I am (for the Senate).
“I’ve taken the bullet for a lot of farmers and we’ve been very successful as the proof shows.
“Bruce Dixon was relieved and he’s still got both of his farm properties.
“We had to make a stand because we had not defaulted under our loans and we weren’t prepared to have the toe cutters just come in and take people’s prized assets.
“Not only did Bruce Dixon keep both of his farms and have his debts wiped, we saved his life as well and that’s a fact.”
Mr Culleton will also push for a Royal Commission into banking to investigate farm lending issues stemming from ANZ’s takeover of the former Landmark rural loans book, if he takes his place in Canberra.
“What does Rod Culleton stand for? A fair go,” he said.
“Rod Culleton is going to represent the people - Rod Culleton is going to support the agriculture area.
“We’ve lost the constitution and run off the rails.
“What I say to people is PH – Pauline Hanson in the Senate – you’ll grow anything with good PH balance in the Senate and that’s what we’re going to do, when we get in there.”
On the Greens’ claims that they’ll stand against Ms Hanson’s racist policies, Mr Culleton said the party’s founder and leader was “certainly not racist”.
“That’s their belief that they stand for but we don’t believe that at all,” he said.
“The Greens want to fly refugees in if they can’t bring them in by boats well why don’t they start paying the bill.
“I say to people, please explain what racism is - it’s just a simple word to try and divert from the real issue and that’s not right at all.
“We’re certainly not racist, I’m not racist and Pauline’s not racist.”
Mr Culleton said he didn’t expect he would have any friends in the Senate when it came to agricultural policy, if he eventually claimed his Senate position.
“I believe a lot of the Liberals and Nationals don’t understand agriculture – they’ve never really experienced it like we have,” he said.
“Agriculture is the backbone of Australia and it is the way of the future and is going to employ a lot of people; it’s not all about extractable industries.
“Agriculture in Australia has huge potential considering the (Asian) markets.
“The whole reason why foreign investors want to come in and buy land in Australia is the very reason why we shouldn’t be selling it.
“And regional communities need to start pulling together because we can look at adopting a co-op mentality - Israel is doing it well and we can do it well.
“We do not want our agriculture falling into foreign ownership – otherwise we’d lose the sovereignty of our food.
“And we don’t want agriculture falling into foreign corporations (ownership) because we want taxation paid in Australia to provide a better future for our kids.”Source: www.farmweekly.com.au Author: Colin Bettles
is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media