27th October 2017: In a plot more suited to a bad country and western song, The Nationals have lost a Deputy Prime Minister, its leadership team and are heading to a by-election on the 2 December 2017. In a unanimous decision, here’s what the High Court has decided:
Barnaby Joyce MP, Member for New England – Out: It was the case that stopped the nation, and while we do not anticipate that Joyce will start sporting an All Blacks jersey anytime soon, he has been ruled to have been a New Zealand citizen by descent at the time of his election – leaving him ineligible to sit as an MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Nationals. A by-election will be held, and with an 8.5 per cent margin and his foe Tony Windsor deciding not to run, Joyce would expect to hold the seat. It will, however, be an unsettling four weeks with every man and his dog with a gripe against the Government likely to head to New England. Joyce may have failed at getting the public servants out of Canberra but he certainly will be getting the lobbyists and media to head to the bush over the coming weeks.
Senator Fiona Nash, Senator for New South Wales – Out: Fiona Nash has been ruled ineligible as she maintained dual British citizenship, inherited from her father, during the time of her election. The High Court has ordered a recount of the electoral ticket, meaning a Liberal candidate Hollie Hughes is likely to assume Nash’s seat – a potentially contentious shift in the Coalition balance of power.
Senator Matt Canavan, Senator for Queensland – In: Family dinners are about to become less awkward for Senator Canavan with Canavan eligible to remain in the Parliament. Unlike his Senate colleague Nash, Canavan will re-assume all of the ministerial duties he voluntarily walked away from in July.
Senator Larissa Waters, Senator for Queensland – Out: The former Greens co-deputy leader Larissa Waters has been ruled ineligible by the High Court for maintaining dual Canadian-Australian citizenship at the time of her election. As Senator Waters has already quit Parliament and has chosen to retain her Canadian dual citizenship, she will likely be replaced by the next Green on the Queensland Senate Ticket – Andrew Bartlett. Expect her to potentially re-run at the next Election.
Senator Scott Ludlum, Senator for Western Australia – Out: Senator Ludlum has been found ineligible to retain his seat in the Senate as he held New Zealand citizenship at the time of his election to the Senate. Next on the ticket to replace Senator Ludlum is 23-year-old Jordon Steele-John. An outspoken advocate for disability, Steele-John lives with cerebral palsy and stands to become the youngest senator in Parliament.
Senator Malcolm Roberts, Senator for Queensland – Out: The often steel-faced Pauline Hanson had tears welling in her eyes when Malcolm Roberts announced he will be leaving the Senate after he was found ineligible. The High Court will require a recount of votes to determine Roberts’ replacement– it is likely that One Nation’s Fraser Anning will assume Roberts’ seat. However, Roberts won’t be out of politics too long with his announcement that he will run in the next Queensland state election – which is likely to be announced this weekend.
Senator Nick Xenophon, Senator for South Australia – In but Out: It would appear that Xenophon potentially threw in the towel too soon. Despite allegations that he was a British citizen by descent, he has been ruled eligible to serve as Senator for South Australia. Senator Xenophon has already announced his resignation as Senator for South Australia to run for the South Australia Parliament in March’s election. Unlike the other senators, his resignation creates a casual vacancy, leaving the Nick Xenophon Team with the power to choose the new personality to replace Xenophon on the crossbench. Xenophon’s current staffer Rex Patrick is the rumored front-runner.
Storms ahead for the Coalition Government
Just when you thought Malcolm Turnbull’s week couldn’t get any worse– it just has. The Coalition Government has lost its one-seat majority – leaving the Prime Minister with a minority Government, a hung Parliament (Joyce is not expected to return to the Parliament in 2017), and at the centre of the ALP’s firing line. The by-election is set to utterly dominate the political debate and throw chaos on the Government’s legislative agenda at a time when it was hoping to finish its political year strongly.
The Leader of Opposition Business, Tony Burke, will be chuffed. Turnbull’s decision to ignore calls from Burke and the Opposition to strip MPs in question of their ministerial duties and their voting rights has opened up the doors for the ALP to scrutinise the legitimacy of the Government, and may put decisions made by departing Ministers under legal scrutiny.
With only two sitting weeks left, the Government’s hold on the House of Representatives appears tenuous at best. However, independent Cathy McGowan has publically stated that she will put ‘people over politics’ and side with the Government in the coming weeks. Don’t expect the Government to bring any legislation forward without absolute confidence that they have the Opposition’s support.
As Turnbull heads to the Governor-General’s residence to put Senator Canavan back in the Ministry, the National Party is left sending requests for political donations, their senior leadership in disarray and the Coalition party room looking dysfunctional and chaotic. While the PM has taken responsibility for Agriculture and Water Resources and Nash’s portfolios are slated to be split between Ministers Mitch Fifield and Darren Chester, all are in an acting capacity only ensuring a ministerial reshuffle is almost guaranteed before Christmas.
This week marks the 22nd consecutive week that the Coalition has trailed Labor in the Newspoll—after the week they’ve had, we don’t anticipate this trend changing anytime soon.
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