Contempt charge fires up senator

Kim Macdonald and Josh ChiatCountryman
One Nation Senator Rod Culleton, right, with farmer Greg Kenney outside the Supreme Court.
Camera IconOne Nation Senator Rod Culleton, right, with farmer Greg Kenney outside the Supreme Court. Credit: Sharon Smith

One Nation Senator Rod Culleton stormed out of the Supreme Court on Monday, where he had been supporting a farmer friend who faces jail after refusing to leave a repossessed property.

Senator Culleton, who is calling for a royal commission into the banking sector, claims farmer and former Rural Action Movement president Greg Kenney was clearly confused in court and should have been allowed a third adjournment to reconsider his plea.

Mr Kenney initially pleaded not guilty to contempt of court after refusing to hand over a Salmon Gums property in a repossession.

He changed his plea about an hour later.

Senator Culleton left the courtroom after Mr Kenney registered his guilty plea, claiming the Supreme Court and the Commonwealth Bank were fast-tracking people off their properties.

“Why haven’t they come up with a commercial negotiation plan with the grower,” Senator Culleton said. “It seems to be the avenue that these banks take to just fast-track people off their properties and I think it needs major reforms, that’s why I’ve come down here.

“These courts are just stamping mortgage possessions like stamping bloody carcasses.”

There were several breaks in the proceedings yesterday as Mr Kenney’s legal team sought to clarify his position.

Mr Kenney’s lawyer, Stephen Gabriel, at one stage asked Mr Culleton to move from an area usually reserved for instructing solicitors.

The senator refused and continued talking to his chief of staff, Margaret Menzel.

Mr Kenney could face jail for contempt of court over his refusal to leave the Salmon Gums property when the bank foreclosed.

He first defaulted on his loan in February 2011, claiming banks were charging exorbitant interest which farmers in drought-affected regions could not repay.

In December 2014, Mr Kenney appealed to suspend the order to hand over the property until he could complete the year’s harvest and make a settlement offer, but it was rejected. His last refusal to leave was in May, prompting the contempt charge.

Justice Rene Le Miere reserved his decision.

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