With the Liberals confirmed as forming government in the lower house, we can now set our sights on the upper house, and what kind of crossbench will face Malcolm Turnbull and his legislative agenda. As has been well reported, Pauline Hanson will be back in Canberra, representing her One Nation Party as a senator for Queensland, but with the One Nation vote increasing around the country, she is set to be leading an upper house bloc the same size as that of Nick Xenophon’s. According to Crikey’s Poll Bludger, William Bowe, Hanson will be joined by a senator from NSW and a senator from WA, with previous predictions of a second senator from Queensland proving unlikely. So who are Hanson’s running mates and what can we expect from them?
The possible NSW senator for One Nation is Brian Burston, who told his local paper the Newcastle Herald that he was chosen as a candidate at the last minute and didn’t have much of a campaign. Burston is a former deputy mayor for Cessnock City Council and long-time member of One Nation’s party executive. He was once sacked by Hanson but has been back in the fold for quite a few years. His twin brother, Graham, ran as the One Nation candidate for the seat of Paterson. He believes that Islam is a “religion of hate” but says that not all Muslims are bad, according to an interview with the Daily Mail: “I’ve got a lot of friends who are Muslims and I’ve got a lot of clients who are Muslims.”
Burston told The Daily Telegraph: “Islam is an infringement on our culture; we’re a Christian country, I know we have some Jews as well … but the Muslims, they kneel five times a day and it’s not how we are in this country.”
Rod Culleton was One Nation’s lead Senate candidate in WA and ran on a platform of protecting farmers against the big banks and other agricultural issues. Culleton believes we need a royal commission into the big banks, citing his own experience of having his farm repossessed by ANZ after the the bank took over his loan from Landmark. Culleton featured in a 60 Minutes story on farmers’ dealings with ANZ last year, in which he walked onto the farm in Williams in the WA wheatbelt he had previously owned and told the new owners he would then be staying on the property.
The new owners called the police. Culleton has also taken on an advocacy role in supporting other farmers, in the course of which he had a run-in with the law, which could prevent him from taking the role in parliament. Culleton has been convicted of larceny in NSW and faces a stealing charge in WA. He is appealing the larceny charge, but he told a parliamentary committee this year that the charge resulted when ANZ sent debt collector to re-possess a prime mover (truck):
“They tried to take one of our prime movers. That has now gone to court for larceny because I took the key out of the tow truck because he had no court order. Of course, confrontation broke out and the key was lost. They say that I have taken the key and that that meant I was taking the truck. Now, I have to do a trial up in Armadale on that. It has come at a great expense.”
The constitution says that someone is ineligible to be a parliamentarian if they have been convicted of and awaiting sentence for a crime that could incur jail time of a year or more (a situation that does not apply to Derryn Hinch).
The 60 Minutes report shows that when debt collectors attended the farm of another WA farmer, Bruce Dixon, the air was let out of their tyres and the car hedged in by large hay bales. Culleton spoke to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Impairment of Customer Loans saying that he wasn’t a violent person but has had to “stand up and fight” over farms.
“There have been cases where cars have ended up on the top of roofs — and someone drives into a haystack. But, in a lot of the times, to take the power, take the sting out of it, because it is too confronting. That was the hardest thing I had to face in my life.”