Bankrupt former senator Rodney Culleton says the ABC has defamed him by calling him a bankrupt former senator.

In a press release sent last night to only ABC journalists, Culleton’s chief of staff and policy adviser Margaret Menzel said that the claims that Culleton had been made bankrupt and wasn’t still a senator were “grossly defamatory and completely inaccurate”.

“On advice from Senator Culleton and his legal team, we seek an immediate retraction and apology for the erroneous media statements … To delay such a retraction will serve only to further delay Senator Culleton his rights to a fair hearing under the law and compound the damage already caused by media statements to date.”

The ABC has not, so far, issued a retraction. Unusually, Crikey understands Culleton has actually not issued the ABC with a formal legal threat, but merely signalled his disapproval through the press release. It is thus not clear who Culleton’s legal advisers are — he has been closely advised by Peter Gargan, who believes Australian courts are no longer constitutional as they do not issue writs in the name of the Queen, and who seems proud to be considered a vexatious litigant in four jurisdictions.

On the Senate website Culleton is listed as a “former Senator”.


On December 23, a Federal Court ruled Culleton was an “undischarged bankrupt” — which Senate President Stephen Parry relied on when he wrote to the Western Australian Governor saying Culleton had been disqualified as a senator.


But Culleton is hanging on, fighting the ruling both in court and in the media.

Yesterday, Culleton sent another press release to all the gallery (released publicly on Facebook), in which he said he had received “sound legal advice” that said Parry’s claim that Culleton was bankrupt was “premature and should be withdrawn immediately”. Culleton also said he was solvent and had filed proof of this to the court. He has filed a notice of appeal in the Federal Court over the bankruptcy ruling. Culleton argues that as there was a 21-day stay over the ruling anyway, he is not, at this point in time, strictly speaking, a bankrupt (the 21-day stay ends on Friday).

Numerous other media outlets have also written about Culleton’s bankruptcy, and yesterday, Parry’s letter saying a vacancy existed in the Senate was widely covered by most media outlets. It appears Culleton’s office has only issued the press release demanding a retraction to the ABC.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey