The High Court has ruled that Rodney Culleton was ineligible to be nominated for last year’s Senate election.
Culleton’s position as a senator is now vacant and the High Court has ruled that a recount of votes should take place. This is most likely to result in the election of Peter Georgiou, Culleton’s brother-in-law and the number two candidate on the Western Australian One Nation ticket last year.
The decision by Justices Kiefel, Bell, Gageler, Keane and Nettle was unanimous. Justice Nettle offered reasons which varied in some respects with his colleagues (see decision below).
Sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, the court held that at the time of the election Culleton was convicted and subject to be sentenced for an offence punishable by imprisonment for one year or longer. Under Section 44(ii) of the Constitution, this renders Culleton ineligible to be chosen as a senator.
The court rejected arguments that the subsequent annulment of the conviction made him eligible to stand. The decision says: “It is evident from the terms of s 44(ii) that the framers of the Constitution were concerned to ensure that not only should a person who has already been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of one year or longer be disqualified from being chosen or from sitting as a Senator; so too should a person who is able to be so sentenced. The circumstance sought to be guarded against was that such a person might not be able to sit and should for that reason not be able to be chosen.”
The court ordered that a recount take place. It said that 96.04% of Culleton’s votes were above-the-line votes for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation part. A recount would exclude Culleton and his votes would go to the second candidate on the One Nation ticket, Peter Georgiou. “A special count would not distort the true legal intent of the voters,” the court said.
Shortly after the court’s decision was published, Pauline Hanson issued a statement (see below) welcoming Peter Georgiou.
Statement issued by Pauline Hanson, leader of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.