Section 44: The Cloud Gets Thicker, With An “Office of Profit” Now In The Mix

The cloud hanging over Parliament from the spate of section 44 cases is further complicated by a scenario thrown up by the likely referral of NSW Senator Fiona Nash to the Court of Disputed Return over her possible status as a dual citizen.

Furthermore, at the directions hearing today for the first citizenship five matters referred to the High Court, Chief Justice Susan Kiefel asked the parties to consider what remedies might be appropriate with the passage of time since the last election, given that “we are not in a circumstance where we are close to an election having been held.”

This suggests argument over whether the effluxion of time might require a different solution (such as a re-run of the entire Senate election for an affected State) to the previously used method of recounting the Senate ballots as if the disqualified candidate were not present. Continue reading “Section 44: The Cloud Gets Thicker, With An “Office of Profit” Now In The Mix”

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Forty Year Ombudsman Tradition Trashed by Turnbull

Yesterday’s announcement that the vacant role of Commonwealth Ombudsman would be filled by the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), Michael Manthorpe, brings to an end a forty year bipartisan tradition of appointments not being directly made from the ranks of frontline departmental management.

While the post was reportedly offered to several departmental heads in the early years of the Hawke Government, every previous appointee since the establishment of the Office in 1977 has held a post in academia, consumer advocacy, legal or judicial administration, or oversight and complaints handling immediately prior to appointment. Continue reading “Forty Year Ombudsman Tradition Trashed by Turnbull”

Re Webster: Members of Parliament, Pecuniary Interests and Disqualification – A Background

At the heart of the High Court challenge to Bob Day’s qualification to contest the Double Dissolution election of 2016 lies the case of Senator James Webster in 1975. Contentious at the time in the midst of wider political controversy, and thought potentially capable of opening up to scrutiny all manner of contractual arrangements, including residential leases, held between MPs and the Commonwealth, the relevant clause was narrowly interpreted by a single judge of the High Court and benefit of the legal doubt given to the Senator.

Since then, it has been the subject of criticism, and may well be overturned in the course of current proceedings. In its submissions in the current case, the Commonwealth has argued that, while Bob Day would fall foul even if the case were applied, Re Webster was too narrowly decided. Herewith the background to the original case, and its aftermath. Continue reading “Re Webster: Members of Parliament, Pecuniary Interests and Disqualification – A Background”

The Time Philip Ruddock Opposed Double Dipping by Retired MPs

Revelations that fomer Minister and Member of Parliament, Philip Ruddock, has continued to receive his full parliamentary retirement benefits whilst in receipt of payment for his role as the Government’s Special Envoy on Human Rights are at odds with a stance he took early in his parliamentary career.

In Senate Estimates for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade yesterday, the Department indicated that Mr Ruddock’s parliamentary pension had not been reduced, as a result of legal advice on the status of his role as a “Special Envoy”. The DFAT officer to which the role reports,  Dr Lachlan Strahan, First Assistant Secretary, Multilateral Policy Division, told the Estimates session that Ruddock had obtained the legal advice on his own initiative. Continue reading “The Time Philip Ruddock Opposed Double Dipping by Retired MPs”

New Rules Net Liberal Party Extra $49,000 For Software Subsidy

After a cap was removed on a controversial public subsidy of the major political parties, 72 Coalition MPs claimed an additional $48,935 in the first half of 2015-16 over and above what could be claimed in previous years.

This was paid to the Liberal owned entity, Parakeelia Pty Ltd, the subject of recent controversy over its practice of funding the Liberal Party by way of public subsidy for electoral management software it developed and owns. Continue reading “New Rules Net Liberal Party Extra $49,000 For Software Subsidy”

The $5 Million “Software Subsidy” for Major Parties – And It’s Only Going To Get Bigger

Since 1996, an allowance has seen over $5.6 million in taxpayer funds made available to Federal Members of Parliament for “software reimbursement”, with members of the major parties directed to claim this allowance against software prescribed by their party.

A decade long cap on the allowance of $1500 per year has now been removed, thereby exposing taxpayers to greater charges by parties and reimbursement claims by MPs. Continue reading “The $5 Million “Software Subsidy” for Major Parties – And It’s Only Going To Get Bigger”

“A Large, Extremely Hungry and Undoubtedly Treacherous Hound”: Malcolm Turnbull on State Income Taxes … in 1976

It’s often embarrassing to be right, but I blush not over my correct analysis… it is nothing more than a cunning attempt to offload millions of dollars worth of government expenditure back on to the states without giving them any means – other than posing an income tax – of raising the revenue needed.

[The Premier] claims he was sold a pup. Not so. He has been given a large, extremely hungry and undoubtedly treacherous hound.

No, not a comment about Malcolm Turnbull’s plans to give the states the opportunity to raise revenue to pay for services.

That’s a comment BY Malcolm Turnbull – in 1976 – the last time a Prime Minister tried to devolve revenue raising by means of state based income taxes. Continue reading ““A Large, Extremely Hungry and Undoubtedly Treacherous Hound”: Malcolm Turnbull on State Income Taxes … in 1976″

Political Party Membership in NSW – Figures for 2014-15

Updated to incorporate figures for Country Labor, and account for multi-year memberships in the Labor Party entities. Some minor errors of transcription since first publication have been corrected without notation, but thank you to commenters. If you have comments or queries, either leave them here or tweet me at @smurray38

While there has been much talk about the decline in party membership over the years, there has never been a sure way of ascertaining the state of play, given the reluctance of political parties to share the numerical health of their parties.

However as part of the funding disclosure requirements for the NSW Electoral Commission, NSW political parties are now required to disclose how much money is raised through membership and affiliation fees. Continue reading “Political Party Membership in NSW – Figures for 2014-15”

A History of the Sir Garfield Barwick Address

The Sir Garfield Barwick Address is a lecture organised by the Legal Professional and Policy Branch of the NSW Liberal Party. Intended to honour the former barrister, Liberal Attorney General, Minister for External Affairs, and Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, it has been held at Sydney’s Castlereagh Hotel since 2010.

Until now, the speakers have largely consisted of lawyer-politicians, who either served with Sir Garfield, or followed in his tradition. Speakers have included the former Prime Minister, John Howard, three Commonwealth Attorneys-General and a Chief Justice of the High Court. Future speakers are said to include former High Court justice, Ian Callinan, and a former associate to Sir Garfield, Garry Downes, a former Federal Court judge and President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Continue reading “A History of the Sir Garfield Barwick Address”

NSW Political Donations Reform – Background and Resources (Updated)

In May 2014, in response to the mounting revelations at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of breaches and circumvention of NSW’s electoral disclosure laws, particularly in respect of donations by prohibited donors, Premier Mike Baird announced a Panel of Experts to review the system of political donations. Continue reading “NSW Political Donations Reform – Background and Resources (Updated)”