Scott Ludlam & the Australian Senate: what happens now?

Scott Ludlam

Scott Ludlam’s announcement he’s not eligible to be a Senator www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/greens-mp-scott-ludlam-forced-to-quit-senate/news-story/c92e91f84c9db4abc3d11e92eb96abf5 throws plenty of juicy but well-answered questions into the public arena, but because Australian journalists and commentators are too often badly trained and do little research, most will get their facts wrong.

Here’s some fast facts:

  • Scott can’t resign from the office of Senator, because he’s not a Senator: his ineligibility means his election was invalid and he’s never lawfully been a Senator.  You can’t resign from being something that you’ve never been.
  • Declaration of the poll, on each of those occasions he’s been elected and reelected, by the Australian Electoral Commission doesn’t make him a Senator if he never was eligible; the AEC doesn’t have the power to inquire into eligibility – they simply require candidates to declare they are eligible.
  • Because he can’t resign, someone – probably the AEC – will need to start a Court of Disputed Returns action in order to have Scott’s election declared invalid and a recount ordered.
  • Or, he could try to take his seat in the Senate* at the next sittings, or re-occupy his Senate office, or take his next Senate pay cheque, in which case someone – probably the Liberal Party or National Party – would seek an injunction to prevent it, which would eventually have the same outcome as a Court of Disputed Returns action.
  • Because Scott isn’t resigning, the casual vacancy mechanism relating to mid-term replacement of Senators isn’t activated and The Greens don’t get to nominate a replacement.
  • The recount mentioned above will probably see the third candidate on The Greens’ Senate ticket at the last election – Jordon Steele-John – declared elected.
  • In theory, Scott has a debt to the Commonwealth of all of the salary he has been paid, and all of the expenses of his office.  Normal practice is that the debt is calculated, demanded, and then waived.  However, others have different ideas: www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jul/16/george-brandis-attacks-scott-ludlam-and-says-he-could-be-forced-to-repay-debt.
  • This is a guy who has been doing what has generally been acknowledged to be a good job**, is hard-working, and is open about having suffered depression, and these revelations will have come as a huge shock; all of his staff, too, are now without jobs or income: so even those who dislike The Greens intensely might wind back the gloating a little.

The ABC’s Antony Green makes additional interesting points here http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2017/07/scott-ludlam-resigns-what-happens-to-his-senate-seat.html.

The Senate may initially be harder to predict until a new Senator is appointed – probably months away – but things will be easier for the Government in the interim:

Of the 75 Senators post-Ludlam, 29 are Coalition, 26 Labor, 8 Greens, 4 One Nation, 3 Xenophon Team, and one each to Liberal Democrats (Leynholm), Justice Party (Hinch), Australian Conservatives (Bernardi), Jacqui Lambie Network, and independent Gichuhi (who is ex-Family First); usually, to secure Senate passage, the Government will need nine votes from amongst the 20 cross-benchers, and Labor needs 12. Prior to the Ludlam revelation, the Government needed ten and Labor needed thirteen.

Prior to the Ludlam revelation, the Government needed ten and Labor needed thirteen.  The smaller number will make it easier than before, for the Government to stitch together nine further votes and hence a Senate majority, because they will have to wrangle fewer of the cross-bench votes, and complicated ideologies and personalities, so to do.

 

*  Of course he won’t: he’s not that dishonest or stupid.  Many friends say he is quite nice.

**  Political disagreements aside, of course.

 

 

 

About Mike Smith

Partner in Ethical Consulting Services: www.ethicalconsulting.com; sometime University lecturer; previously Government Relations consultant; before that Labor Party State Secretary in Northern Territory; union advocate with LHMU/United Voice in NT and NSW; hobby – election campaigns!

Posted on July 17, 2017, in Australian Government, Democracy, Election, Federal Government, Parliament, Politics, Voting and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Mike,

    Very succinct and good work. Many people are calling for things to happen that are not possible. Watch the Greens put enormous pressure on Steele-John to step aside after confirmation for a party hack reward.

    • Thanks.

      Yes, I expect there will be pressure on him to stand down. The signal that’s happening will be if Scott Ludlam now does renounce his New Zealand citizenship.

      Greens members, and quite a few in Labor, have thought as a Senator Scott was doing a good job, so he will have a genuine fan base in the Party who will want him back in the Senate.

  1. Pingback: Scott Ludlam & the Australian Senate: what happens now? | mikesmithonline

  2. Pingback: Labor Prime Minister Ineligible? | Ethical Consulting Services

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