Pauline Hanson's One Nation loses Senator Rod Culleton
OUTSPOKEN West Australian senator Rod Culleton has quit the One Nation party, as leader Pauline Hanson unveiled 36 candidates for the next Queensland election.
The maverick senator cited his fraught relationship with Senator Hanson, and a slew of policy splits between he and the party, for his resignation last night. He said he will continue his term as an independent.
"Since my election to the Senate, I have consistently remained committed to all of the policies and pre-election promises, however my PHON Senate colleague's public record shows they have not," he said in a statement on Sunday night.
"Policy decisions have been run in morning media, with no consultation, discussion or agreement from the party room and personal attacks and undermining, un-Australian behaviour towards myself and my team, has been ongoing and terms dictated to the team."
He accused Senator Hanson and her chief of staff of trying to force him to resign and wielding control over his office.
"The PHON leader's rants against me have been accompanied by demands for my resignation and control over diaries, office management and staffing by Senator Hanson and her chief of staff, James Ashby," he said. "The irrational dictates have caused only distrust and disunity."
The embattled senator is facing legal battles, including one case before the High Court, which could render him ineligible as a parliamentarian.
Senator Hanson has not yet responded to the resignation.
ONE NATION EYES QUEENSLAND SEATS
Senator Hanson is confident of snatching Queensland seats from the major parties as she announces a raft of candidates ahead of the next state election.
The One Nation founder has unveiled 36 "very closely" vetted candidates, but is remaining tight-lipped about the party's policies for the election, which is due to be held in 2018 or earlier.
Senator Hanson said the party was destined to win some seats in the next parliament, after hearing Labor was going to put the Liberal National Party last in preferences.
"We're coming after you (the major parties) and your jobs because I don't feel you need to be there," she said in Brisbane on Sunday. "You have not listened to grassroots Australians."
Recent polls show support for One Nation has risen into the double digits in Queensland, with the election considered by many as its best chance to pick up seats since 1998, when it won 11 seats.
The party is seen as a threat to both sides and given neither Labor nor the LNP holds a majority, it may only need to snare a handful of seats to hold the balance of power.
Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann acknowledged One Nation was competition to the LNP, but one they could take on.
Labor frontbencher Jim Chalmers said his party took the electoral threat One Nation posed very seriously.
CULLETON'S RESIGNATION UNDERSCORES PARTY TROUBLES
Senator Culleton's resignation comes just days after he said he was not considering leaving the party, despite his rift with Senator Hanson.
The tension has been mounting for weeks, with the rogue West Australian most recently angering the party leader by going his own way on the backpacker tax vote.
In November, she supported a High Court probe into his eligibility to run for parliament and he also got a "please explain" from her over a letter he wrote to a Queensland magistrate.
Earlier this month, after she said he was not a team player and his time in politics had "gone to his head", the former farmer said he would absolutely consider his future with the party over Christmas.
He told reporters in Perth a week ago, however, he was "not even thinking about that" but was opposed to Senator Hanson's focus on banning burqas and also her support for the joint Gina Rinehart-Chinese acquisition of the Kidman cattle empire.
"I'll stay with One Nation," he said.
"She's only the party leader, she's not the party. She doesn't run the party - well, essentially she does run the party but, you know, I mean, she's in Queensland. How often do I see Pauline? When I go to Canberra.
"But I'll stick with One Nation values and unless she has a different outlook where she thinks she can place me, well, we'll see."