One Nation senator Rod Culleton compared himself to Jesus Christ in a speech to the Senate, and made reference to the Queen and "the Diggers", as he looked to defend himself against a High Court referral on his eligibility to serve in parliament.
Culleton has come under scrutiny over a larceny charge in which he grabbed the key to a tow truck in Guyra, northern NSW in 2014. Culleton recently pleaded guilty to the charge, but the judge declined to record a conviction. The federal constitution states that MPs and senators may not be eligible for election if they have been convicted of an offence punishable by a year's jail, which the larceny charge does carry.
The federal government will challenge the election of Culleton in the High Court, following approval from the Senate on Monday evening.
The Senate had spent time in the afternoon debating Culleton and also the eligibility of Family First senator Bob Day, who has officially resigned from the parliament. Culleton took the floor himself to state his case. He outlined that he would continue to vote in Senate votes, which he had formerly said he would not.
"The very nature of this situation confirms to me what Australians have seen in the parliamentary representation for far too long. Parliamentary representatives who actually stand up and represent their constituents will always be under attack from within and without," Culleton said.
"That is all too often the nature of the political climate in this country. The preference in the political arena is for the conformity to just warm those seats for the respective parties with no tolerance for true representation of constituents' interests. This is not a democracy. That is not in the interests of the true representation in this place for all Australians."
Earlier on Monday, Culleton compared himself to boxer Muhammad Ali. During his Senate address on Monday afternoon, he invoked an even more revered figure.
"I do not claim ever to be a perfect man. Amongst imperfection, there was only one perfect man who walked this earth and we remember that they lauded him one week and then brutally crucified him the next," Culleton said, invoking the Jesus crucifixion and resurrection story.
here's Rod Culleton invoking Jesus in relation to his eligiblity dramas and the High Court referral pic.twitter.com/fXevjF2zfh— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) November 7, 2016
He said it was a "shameful indictment" for political attention to shift to himself and Senator Day "while 21 fathers suicide each week and numerous lives lost across the country due to their acts of foreign-owned bankers and their agents".
He said that he had sworn allegiance to the Queen, which meant that "we stand for what she stands for and what every digger who has ever served has stood for. They were prepared to lie down their life for what she represents and we, too, I call on to make such sacrifices and take on the challenge and principles to true democracy."
However, his own party leader publicly resisted the urge to support him. Pauline Hanson said she supported the call for the matter to go to court, to clear up the matter once and for all.
"It is a question over Senator Culleton's eligibility to hold his seat in this place. I was of the opinion when he was nominated for Pauline Hanson's One Nation as a candidate, that he stated he was eligible to stand under the requirements of the constitution," she said.
"I took that to be his oath, it was signed and witnessed by a JP."
"My fellow colleages and I support Senator Culleton but we have seen on too many occasions politicians in this place, politicians who have not been accountable to the Australian people. I will not stand here and be of the same ilk. I believe that it should go to the High Court to make their ruling on this matter and I hope their findings are, and I would dearly love to see Senator Culleton take his place here again, as a One Nation senator," she said.
"I know Senator Culleton will not be too happy with what I just said, but I think my integrity and my honesty, and I have fought for 18 years to be on the floor of this parliament as a representative of the people. I cannot sit back and disregard what may have been a wrong judgement but I will leave it up to the courts to make the final decision."Suggest a correction