Pauline Hanson
Pauline Hanson speaks during a news conference in Sydney, February 19, 2003. Reuters/Tim Wimborne

Rod Culleton was ineligible to have been elected as a federal senator last July, according to a ruling by the High Court. A recount of the votes will be carried out to determine who will replace Culleton.

The decision comes after the court was asked whether a disqualification could stem from a conviction at the time of the polling – even if the conviction was later annulled. Culleton was not present in Canberra at the time of the ruling.

In December, increased tensions between Culleton and One Nation leader Pauline Hanson have led to the former’s departure. According to constitutional law expert George Williams, Culleton could be substituted by Peter Georgiou, the next in line on the One Nation ticket.

Hanson welcomed Georgiou to the party in a social media post. “I look forward to having Peter Georgiou represent Pauline Hanson’s One Nation & Western Australia. Welcome to the team Peter,” she said. In a statement, Hanson lauded Georgiou as an asset to the party. “After meeting Peter and getting to know him, it is clear he is a dedicated hardworking man who believes strongly in the principles of One Nation,” she said.

According to ABC election analyst Antony Green, a recount had technically already been done. "There is no path back for Rod Culleton because, say if Mr Georgiou resigned his seat to try to let Mr Culleton back in, One Nation would determine who fills it," Green said. "So that's the end of Rod Culleton's Senate career."

As reported by AAP (via The Australian), a court ruling dismissed Culleton’s qualification from standing for election on July 2 due to his conviction at the time. Nevertheless, his conviction was later annulled. While he pleaded guilty to the charges brought against him, a conviction had not been recorded. The constitution disallows anyone convicted of an offence leading to an imprisonment of a year or longer from being elected as a senator.

The court ruled that votes in favour of One Nation of which Culleton was an endorsed candidate should go towards the candidate next in line. It has been noted that as many as 96.04 percent votes that Culleton received were for One Nation.

The High Court dismissed Culleton’s bid to retain a senator’s privileges and allowances earlier this week. On Tuesday, his application for the same was dismissed by Judge Stephen Gageler. However, the judge ordered that the Commonwealth pay Culleton’s costs. His lawyer, Peter King, said Culleton was ousted from his office “in a way which this court should prevent.”