Biting insults have been exchanged as Western Australian senator Rod Culleton splits from Pauline Hanson, ahead of the High Court determining whether he will be turfed from parliament.
Culleton accused Hanson of “public rants” against him; she said he had been “a pain in my backside”.
The break is not unexpected – Culleton and Hanson have been at odds for some time, with the One Nation leader publicly angry at his refusal to accept her discipline and Culleton furious at her lack of support in his battle over his eligibility to sit in the Senate.
While Culleton hopes to continue as an independent, his future is up to the High Court, which is considering whether he had the right to contest the July election.
At the time he had been convicted of a crime that would have made him ineligible, but the conviction was later annulled. If he is knocked out, he stands to be replaced by his brother-in-law, who was the next on the One Nation ticket. Four One Nation senators were elected in July.
Culleton said in a statement that since the election he had stayed committed to pre-election policies and promises but his One Nation colleagues had not.
“Policy decisions have been run in the morning media, with no consultation, discussion or agreement from the party room and personal attacks and undermining, un-Australian behaviour towards myself and my team has been ongoing.”
“I can no longer tolerate the lack of party support for my positive initiatives,” he said, citing the issue of his push for a banking royal commission.
Hanson’s “public rants against me have also been accompanied by demands for my resignation and control over diaries, office management and staffing by senator Hanson and her chief-of-staff James Ashby. The irrational dictates have caused only disunity and distrust.”
Hanson told the Seven Network that Culleton “was not there working with us as a team”.
“Rod is a pain in my backside to tell you the truth. I’m glad to see the back of him.”
She said the One Nation senators and staffers met every parliamentary morning and discussed that day’s legislation but Culleton seldom turned up. “He wasn’t interested. He was too busy running around the place, doing his own media or actually going to other meetings and dealing with his legal proceedings.”
She said that when the question over his eligibility was revealed and she had contacted him, he had said: “Will you give me the money?”
“I said, ‘Rod this could cost a million dollars’ and he said ‘Will you back me?’. … I said ‘no, that’s party’s money’. And he said, right ‘do you want me to resign?’. I said, ‘yes’.
"Now to say that I’ve asked him to resign is not true. He asked me, ‘do you want me to resign?’. Previously with all his legal cases, he said to me then: ‘Do you want me to resign?’. I said, ‘no, we’ll see you through this, I’ll stick by you’. This time I said ‘yes’ because I believe that he did not comply with Section 44, Section 2 of the Australian Constitution.”