“I have now become the hunter,” declared One Nation’s Rodney Culleton boldly in his maiden speech to parliament. Swept to power on a populist platform of bashing the banks, Rodney is now advocating – although he seems to be alone in this – “The Culleton Inquiry” into the financial sector.
As the government smooches the four elected representatives of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party for political favours, lately gleaning their support for its ABCC bill, Rodney’s star is on the rise. He is a power broker.
It is worth asking however how long his star can ascend when Rodney has dozens of angry creditors pursuing him, a High Court challenge against his senate eligibility – get comfortable, this list goes for a while – a series of, what’s the word … “anomalies” in his bankruptcy and company insolvency statements, not to mention anomalies and omissions in his Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) disclosures, two judgements against him to pay back a combined $4.5 million and a court appearance on larceny charges in Armidale this very day.
Although he may deem himself “the hunter”, Rodney might be the fitting star for the third sequel in Hollywood’s Hunger Games series, Hunger Games IV – Hunting Rodney.
While he hunts the banks, literally dozens of creditors are hunting him. This week yet another claim was filed against Rodney in the Federal Court.
Rodney doesn’t see things this way though. When he delivered his maiden speech to parliament, the freshman senator from Western Australia waxed lyrical about his business career. He even took the opportunity to have a crack at some of his myriad creditors.
He labelled Peter Walsh and Jack Vivers, creditors to one of his failed ventures, “patent trolls”.
“Mitavite clearly pidgeonholed the concept though exclusivity and encouraged patent trolls through Mitavite agents Dean Holzer, Peter Walsh and Jack Vivers to infringe all copyrights to my invention,” Culleton told the Senate.
The rub with this unabashed claim by Rodney is that Peter Walsh had never had any dealings with Mitavite and, as Vivers told us on Friday, “I had nothing to do with it … only that he told me about it later”.
One of Rodney’s teeming throng of creditors, Jack Vivers moved to wind up Rodney’s company, DEQMO Pty Ltd, this year.
Vivers was in a jovial mood when we had our chat about Rodney last week. “I’ve been subpoenaed to appear Friday,” he said, in reference to today’s larceny proceedings in Armidale.
Rodney was arrested in August by NSW police, accused of stealing the keys of a tow-truck amid a spirited tête-à-tête with the tow-truck driver who was busy repossessing Rodney’s truck.
Although a self-styled champion of farmers, Rodney, says Vivers, is not well known in rural communities for paying people for their goods and services. “He stole my truck,” says Vivers casually, as though it was par-for-the-course.
While advocating his “Culleton Inquiry” into the banks, Rodney has a judgement debt against him of $4.3 million from the ANZ Bank’s trustee PCL. He also has a judgement debt against him of $203,000 by WA businessman Dick Lester.
Rodney declined to respond to detailed questions for this story. One Nation party leader Pauline Hanson was also sent questions to which there was no response. We did manage to phone Rodney though and while he declined to respond to many questions he did say that, in the case of Dick Lester, it was Lester who owed him money, not the other way around.
“We don’t owe Mr Lester the money,” he said. He then inquired as to whether we knew anything about the legal system and proceeded to explain that, as he had the right to appeal the judgement, and was in fact doing so, Dick Lester did not owe him money.
It is unclear, in light of all the debts owed by Rodney, how the One Nation senator managed to decamp from bankruptcy last year. He was bankrupted in October 2013 and was out in December 2015.
He appears to have emerged from bankruptcy by asserting that he is solvent because he is owed substantial money by Australian Keg Company Pty Ltd (AKC).
Rodney’s defence claimed he was solvent because he was owed by AKC. The judge did not find that he was owed money by AKC, only that Rodney was relying on this to be solvent. Then, in August this year AKC submitted a claim for $4.2 million to the administrator of DEQMO.
As DEQMO cannot pay its bills and is in the process of being wound up, Rodney has certainly adopted a “glass-half-full” approach to his financial affairs. Indeed he describes himself as “also a successful businessman, sitting on the board as a Managing Director of several companies”.
We were unable to establish the bona fides of this claim to success and many managing directorships. The other of Rodney’s companies, Elite Grains Pty Ltd, is also insolvent. Still, it must be pleasing for the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to have such an agile and innovative colleague with which to negotiate the nation’s future.
Notwithstanding all of the above, it might be asked if Rodney Culleton is a suitable person to be heading up the government’s inquiry into the financial sector. He owes ANZ $4.3 million.
It was his anti-bank schtick which got Rodney into the Senate. He appeared in glorious colour as the star of a 60 Minutes investigation, Fighting Back, where he illuminated the plight of farmers fighting the banks (and was charged for stealing the hire car of the ANZ receivers).
Let it never be said that the Australian political landscape is lacking in light, movement and colour.
The anomalies in Rodney Culleton’s declaration of financial affairs to the Australian Electoral Commission include the following omissions:
1. His claim against DEQMO Pty Ltd for $450,000 for unpaid wages.
2. The judgment against him from Dick Lester for circa $203,000.
3. The claim against him by PCL (ANZ) for circa $4.3 million.
4. His shareholding in Elite Grains Pty Ltd.
5. The $100,000 he owes Dick Lester (in addition to the $203,000 judgement in favour of Dick Lester.