MP travel claims and elections: Were the rules broken or stretched?

In a series of Deirdre Chambers-like coincidences, at least three parliamentarians made claims for travel and travel allowances that coincided with election activities in Queensland and NSW towards the end of 2017.

Labor MP (and former Treasurer) Wayne Swan and Pauline Hanson One Nation Senator Brian Burston made claims for tax payer funded travel to or around Queensland on the weekend of that state’s election in November 2017.

The following week, Nationals Senator for NSW, John Williams, claimed travelling allowance for an overnight stay in Tamworth on the evening of the by-election in New England that saw Barnaby Joyce returned to Parliament after his disqualification in the High Court. Continue reading “MP travel claims and elections: Were the rules broken or stretched?”

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Section 44: Is elected local government office an “office of profit under the Crown”?

The section 44 juggernaut just keeps rolling. The next substantive question likely to come before the court, as a consequence of Jacqui Lambie’s disqualification on dual citizenship grounds, is whether her likely replacement, Devonport mayor, Steve Martin, is himself disqualified, for holding an “office of profit under the Crown”, with respect to his office in local government. Martin maintains that he is on solid ground, citing advice given by the then Clerk of the Senate ahead of the 2016 election.

Indeed, history suggests he has a strong case. Continue reading “Section 44: Is elected local government office an “office of profit under the Crown”?”

How the WA Greens conducted a pre-selection for the wrong Senator

A question barely considered in the ongoing section 44 crisis is what would be the outcome of the filling of places for which Senators were disqualified where they held a six year term, rather than a three year term, following last year’s Double Dissolution election. Would any of the new Senators, elected after a special recount, be entitled to a seat that would not see them go to re-election until 2021-22?

It seems this question has not even considered by the WA Greens, who put their newest Senator, Jordon Steele-John, through a fresh pre-selection at the weekend, even though the highly likely outcome of the High Court’s ruling on him replacing Scott Ludlam is that he now doesn’t have to face voters for up to five years. Continue reading “How the WA Greens conducted a pre-selection for the wrong Senator”

Section 44: Would a student loan from the Commonwealth prove grounds for disqualification?

Could the Commonwealth HELP loan scheme, that assists the vast majority of students to undertake tertiary or further education, give rise to yet another ground for disqualification under section 44 of the Constitution, which has seen 10 MPs and Senators depart the Parliament since the 2016 election, another candidate miss out on taking up a Senate seat, and a growing cloud over many more?

If it does, this might adversely affect the position of the newly elected Greens Senator for Western Australia, Jordon Steele-John, who, before taking up his seat this week, was undertaking a degree in politics by distance education at Macquarie University?

If this were found to be an issue, it would also affect the future nomination and election of students and recent graduates with student loans owing to the Commonwealth. While few students are in the box seat for winning an election, some run as minor party candidates, for the experience or to “fly” a party’s “banner” in seats where their prospects are slim. Continue reading “Section 44: Would a student loan from the Commonwealth prove grounds for disqualification?”

Can Hollie Hughes Get Past the High Court’s “Brutal Literalism”?

“[the vacancy caused by Robert Wood’s disqualification] can be filled by completing the election after a recount of the ballot papers” (Re Wood, 1988)

“… s 44(i) applies until the completion of the electoral process” (Re Canavan & Ors, 2017)

With those words delivered separately across nearly thirty years, the High Court has possibly put paid to Hollie Hughes’ hopes of becoming a Senator for NSW. Continue reading “Can Hollie Hughes Get Past the High Court’s “Brutal Literalism”?”

Just in Time? Malcolm Roberts’ 1974 Application for Citizenship by Notification

The documents behind the Buzzfeed story on how Senator Malcolm Roberts, indicating he was a British subject in his 1974 application for Australian citizenship, suggests a “just in time” application regarding his citizenship status. Roberts, and his father, were among the last to be recognised by a streamlined process intended to provide long standing British subjects with fast, simple recognition of citizenship. Continue reading “Just in Time? Malcolm Roberts’ 1974 Application for Citizenship by Notification”

Section 44: Questions about the timing of a disqualification.

The possibility that the election of Queensland Senator Malcolm Roberts might be voided because he was disqualified by standing while still a British citizen, without having taken sufficient steps by nomination day to renounce that citizenship, has given rise to further questions as to what would occur if a likely successor were also disqualified.

This is complicated by the possibility of the disqualifying circumstances occurring after the 2016 election, but before (or while) the High Court considered how a person might fill a Senate seat vacated by any disqualification of Roberts.

The third placed candidate on the Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (PHON) ticket, Fraser Anning, is reportedly facing bankruptcy proceedings. If he were bankrupt or insolvent, the Constitution would seem to indicate he would be incapable of being chosen or sitting as a Senator. If it were ruled that he too was incapable of being chosen by reason of disqualification, then the likely outcome would be that the fourth member of the PHON ticket, Judy Smith (Pauline Hanson’s sister), would be declared the second PHON Senator for Queensland. Continue reading “Section 44: Questions about the timing of a disqualification.”

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”