ANTI-FARM foreclosure crusader Rod Culleton has asked the federal Department of Finance for an extension on the deadline for him to request a waiver of his commonwealth debt of about $700,000.
Last week Special Minister of State Scott Ryan revealed former SA Family First Senator Bob Day – who like Mr Culleton was also disqualified from parliament due to a High Court ruling, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, earlier this year – had requested a waiver of his debt, which he’d accepted.
But Senator Ryan disclosed a similar proposition that was put to Mr Culleton in writing, outlining his options, including requesting a waiver of his taxpayer debt, remained unresolved but open to the former Senator.
This week, Mr Culleton wrote to First Assistant Secretary of Ministerial and Parliamentary Services Jason Ford, on the same day as the deadline for providing his advice back to the government (May 30), outlining his reasons for requestion an extension of the deadline, to seek a waiver.
He said he wanted an extension granted until the Senate concluded its next sitting period, which would be on June 22.
“I am informally writing in response to both of your emails dated May 12, 2017 and May 19, 2017 in relation to your seeking confirmation to my making an application to either provide my financial information or seeking my request to waiver the alleged Commonwealth debt,” he wrote.
“I also wish to bring to your attention that there was an email from the Clerk of the Senate dated May 12, 2017 which clearly is contradictory in reference to my salary being calculated at $132,004.98 where he states in regard to 'not pursue recovery of a debt, including where it is not economical to pursue the debt’.
“However, he then proceeds to state ‘such a determination does not extinguish the debt, which can be reinstated and pursued’.
“This position is ambiguous and must be clarified with care.”
Mr Culleton said “I wish to advise the Parliament that as I am still fully in control of my assets I am not deemed to be a ‘bankrupt’, all my legal avenues have yet to be exhausted and evidence has been filed within the courts to clearly show that I am not insolvent”.
“If the government wishes to seek my position surrounding solvency, material that is on the court record in regard to my solvency can be sought by yourselves,” he said.
“Due to the unprecedented nature that surrounds the circumstances which had derived from the High Court’s decision to a created question by the Commonwealth Attorney General and leader of the Senate for the government, it has clearly left legal avenues fully open to myself as a duly elected Senator that must be corrected - to avoid any liability of myself and my former staff and to avoid trespassing on the rights of the WA voters”.
Mr Culleton told Fairfax Agricultural Media he also believed the latter was an admission by the government that he wasn’t bankrupt.
“How can I be bankrupt when they’re writing to me directly and not a trustee?” he said.
“That’s an admission that I’m not a bankrupt, because all of the legal avenues haven’t been exhausted yet.”
Mr Culleton’s letter to Mr Ford outlined six points to support his request for an extension including issues with the Senate and High Court’s powers to examine and rule on his eligibility for election and constitutional matters linked to that case and his bankruptcy.
Last week Mr Ryan updated the Finance and Public Administration Committee’s budget estimates hearing in Canberra on matters relating to the two former Senators.
He said on February 3, 2017, the Court of Disputed Returns found Mr Culleton was incapable of being chosen as a Senator, under section 44.2 of the constitution because he had been convicted and subject to be sentenced for an offence punishable by imprisonment for one year or longer at the date of the 2016 election.
Mr Ryan said the salary allowance paid to Mr Culleton and Mr Day and other costs like superannuation, benefits and staff payments were considered a debt owed to the Commonwealth.
“I have agreed to waive Mr Day’s debts,” Mr Ryan said.
“The options outlined in the letters remain open to Mr Culleton.”
At the same time Mr Culleton was disqualified from parliament, he was also declared bankrupt in the Federal Court following a long-running legal action over a $205,000 claim from a soured farm property sale and lease arrangement, and sale of oats contract, against his former farming neighbour at Williams in the WA Wheatbelt, Dick Lester.
Mr Culleton - a former farmer from Williams in the WA Wheatbelt - was elected for One Nation on a promise to push for reforms into bank lending in the rural sector to reflect his personal circumstances with the ANZ Bank and its purchase of the former AWB Landmark rural loans book.
But he suffered a bitter falling out with party leader Pauline Hanson over his demands for a Royal Commission into banking and eventually split to become independent before being disqualified.
He was replaced by his brother-in-law and electrical contractor Peter Georgiou in a special recount of the WA Senate votes, in early March.
Senator Georgiou is now sitting with One Nation and was in Canberra this week for Senate estimates hearings where he attacked banking issues.
The new WA One Nation Senator also met with Resources and Northern Australia Minister Matthew Canavan.
He has also urged WA farmers to contribute to the Senate Select Committee inquiry into lending for primary production customers focussed on practices concerning financial institutions and not just banks,