Category Archives: Parliament

8 August 2017: Opportunity for Government, or for Litigation?

Federal Parliament House

Australia is supposed to have seventy-six Senators: right now we have no more than seventy-four, possibly only seventy-two, and possibly far fewer, because of application of s44 of the Australian Constitution.  And when Parliament resumes on 8 August, expect political and legal fireworks.

This reduced number of Senators is important, because it might make it easier for the Government to get their legislation passed.

Here’s why: while Australia’s Liberal National Party Coalition government has the support of a majority in the House of Representatives, no legislation can pass without the support of a majority in the Senate, where the Government is in a minority. This means all legislation which passes through the Senate, and subsequently becomes law, must garner support from non-government parties, and with fewer Senators the total number of Senators required to support legislation reduces.

If we indeed have 74 Senators,

  • 29 are from the Coalition,
  • 26 are from Labor,
  • 7 from the Greens,
  • 4 are from One Nation,
  • 3 from the Xenophon Team, and
  • one each are from the Liberal Democrats (Leynholm), Justice Party (Hinch), Australian Conservatives (Bernardi), Jacqui Lambie Network, and independent Gichuhi (who is ex-Family First).

With only seventy-four Senate votes in play, to secure Senate passage of government legislation, the Liberal National Party Government needs nine votes from amongst the 19 cross-benchers; Labor needs 12 to block the passage of any legislation, or pass their own resolutions.

The Government now needs the support of one less non-Government Senator than before, to see legislation passed, and this situation will continue for months as the process of replacing ineligible Senators isn’t quick – see https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2017/07/17/ludlam-senate/.  This presents the Government with opportunities to advance unpopular legislation through the Senate – the two ineligible “Senators” are seen as more likely to have opposed components of the Government’s legislative program.

Malcolm Roberts

We are down to no more than seventy-four Senators because two Greens Party Senators have acknowledged they are ineligible – see www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/queensland-government/queensland-greens-senator-larissa-waters-resigns-over-dual-citizenship/news-story/ecb99e946835145fd8f6dacdbf55e131.  We may have only seventy-two Senators because detailed questions have been raised about the eligibility of two others – see www.brisbanetimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/malcolm-roberts-expert-anne-twomey-believes-one-nation-senator-may-have-breached-constitution-20170727-gxkeol.html and www.brisbanetimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/the-dissenting-argument-from-a-former-governorgeneral-that-could-save-matt-canavans-skin-20170727-gxjxkr.html.

Matthew Canavan

Both Senators Roberts (One Nation Party) and Canavan (Liberal National Party) say they are eligible.  There’s no doubt this will be tested in the Court of Disputed Returns – probably at the same time as determinations are made about Larissa Waters’ and Scott Ludlum’s replacements.

The Australian Senate resumes on 8 August 2017, and we can be very sure if either Senator Roberts or Senator Canavan seek to exercise a vote, or perhaps even take their seat, someone is going to go to Court, claim those Senators are ineligible, and seek via legal action to stop them acting as a Senator.

And to add to the potential for chaos, while it is a typically over-blown and under-researched article, the Australian newspaper has questioned the eligibility of 21 Members of Parliament further, from all of the Liberal Party, the National Party, and Australian Labor Party: www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/mp-dual-nationality-fiasco-extends-to-bloodlines/news-story/5ad03ba3d47cf4eae0a5b1066ea5c59b?login=1 (paywalled).

In the House of Representatives, the Government has only a one-seat majority – should any one Government member* in the House acknowledge ineligibility, or be found ineligible, they will lose their working majority in the House, the capacity of the Government to govern at all becomes questionable, and we may be headed to a very early election.

By 8 August, all of our Parliamentary parties need to have their plans in place for how to react: because the success of the Government’s legislative program, or the very existence of the Turnbull Government, might hinge on the outcome, there’s little hope of bipartisanship.

Here’s a link to information on the Australian Electoral Commission website explaining eligibility laws: www.aec.gov.au/About_AEC/Publications/backgrounders/constitutional-disqual-intending-candidates.htm

 

*  Or one more Government member than non-Government members.

Labor Prime Minister Ineligible?

Scott Ludlam

Was Australia’s, and the world’s, first Labor Prime Minister invalidly elected?

Scott Ludlam’s and Larissa Waters’ announcements they are not eligible to be Senators www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/greens-mp-scott-ludlam-forced-to-quit-senate/news-story/c92e91f84c9db4abc3d11e92eb96abf5 and www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/queensland-government/queensland-greens-senator-larissa-waters-resigns-over-dual-citizenship/news-story/ecb99e946835145fd8f6dacdbf55e131 throws plenty of juicy but well-answered questions into the public arena, but because they are so badly trained and do so little research, most journalists and commentators will get their facts wrong – see yesterday’s article here.

But there’s an even more interesting issue of which we are reminded: was Australia’s and the world’s first Labor Prime Minister invalidly so?

Chris Watson’s birthplace and birthdate were once the subject of some confusion, but it’s now clear he was born in Chile: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/watson-john-christian-chris-9003.

Chris Watson

Did Chilean law at that time mandate that someone taking citizenship of another country automatically lost Chilean citizenship?  If not, did he ever renounce his Chilean citizenship?  Almost certainly not.

Was he ever an Australian citizen?  The Grassby/Ordoñez biography* (pages 31-32) suggests he claimed to be British-born, and never bothered with the formality of becoming an Aussie.

So, how could he be elected to the Australian Parliament in 1901 and later become Australia’s** first Labor Prime Minister in 1904?  Quite possibly not lawfully!

 

*  Grassby, A. and Ordoñez, S.  (1999) .  John Watson.  Melbourne: Black Inc.

** … and the world’s!  Did we mention that already?

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Last Week in Queensland – 29 May 2017

Schapelle Corby’s release and the McCulkin murder trial and verdict drove a lot of other news* out, but:

Adani mine subsidies or maybe not, divisions in the State Government, and multiple scandals for One Nation Party … last week in Queensland.

 

Governing

 

Opposition and Crossbench

 

Politics

 

Community

 

Economy and Infrastructure

 

Parliament

  • Queensland’s Parliament sat last week, and next sits from Tuesday 13 June to Friday 16 June – that’s budget week, which will be presented on the Tuesday
  • The notice paper for the next sittings of the Queensland Parliament can be downloaded here www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-assembly/sitting-dates/latest-sitting-dates
  • The Queensland Parliament’s summary of what’s new, including newly-introduced and passed legislation, is here www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-assembly/whats-new
  • Federal Parliament sat last week, and again this week, from Monday 29 May to Thursday 1 June – the House of Representatives will be sitting, and Senate Estimates Committees will be in session

    Federal Parliament House

  • The forward agenda for the Federal Parliament can be found here www.dpmc.gov.au/resource-centre

 

Sleeper Issues?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* We’re not representing that this is a complete coverage of news in Queensland – it certainly isn’t, and it’s what we find interesting or important, and sometimes what’s unusual.  Some of the links will require subscriptions to read content.

 

 

Last Week in Queensland – 25 May 2017

A claimed split in the Government over Adani mine, and blame-shifting over the Cross River Rail project dominated news* in Queensland last week.

 

Governing

 

Opposition and Crossbench

Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls

 

Politics

 

Community

 

Economy and Infrastructure

 

Parliament

 

Sleeper Issues?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* We’re not representing that this is a complete coverage of news in Queensland – it certainly isn’t, and it’s what we find interesting or important, and sometimes what’s unusual.  Some of the links will require subscriptions to read content.

 

 

Last Week in Queensland – 15 May 2017

Corruption in Queensland’s towing industry, criticism of Queensland’s top cop, and reaction to the Federal budget, dominated the news* last week in Queensland.

 

Governing

 

Opposition and Crossbench

Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls

 

Politics

 

Community

 

Economy and Infrastructure

Treasurer Curtis Pitt, with Deputy Premier Trad and Employment Minister Grace

 

Parliament

Federal Parliament House

 

Sleeper Issues?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* We’re not representing that this is a complete coverage of news in Queensland – it certainly isn’t, and it’s what we find interesting or important, and sometimes what’s unusual.  Some of the links will require subscriptions to read content.

 

 

Last Week in Queensland – 24 April 2017

Crime and Corruption Commission investigating local government elections, roads maybe unready for Commonwealth Games, and the Liberal-National Party clearly lifting their hit-rate on the State Government … last week in Queensland.

Governing

 

Opposition and Crossbench

Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls

 

Politics

 

Community

 

Economy and Infrastructure

 

Parliament

 

Sleeper Issues?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* We’re not representing that this is a complete coverage of news in Queensland – it certainly isn’t, and it’s what we find interesting or important, and sometimes what’s unusual.  Some of the links will require subscriptions to read content.

 

 

Last Week in Queensland – 18 April 2017

Crocodiles sinking the State budget, a secret child protection report, toxic foam in the Brisbane River, and delays in post-cyclone aid, dominated news* last week in Queensland.

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Governing

 

Opposition and Crossbench

 

Politics

 

Community

Minister leading anti-domestic violence moves, Shannon Fentiman

 

Economy and Infrastructure

 

Parliament

Federal Parliament House

 

 

 

 

 

 

* We’re not representing that this is a complete coverage of news in Queensland – it certainly isn’t, and it’s what we find interesting or important, and sometimes what’s unusual.  Some of the links will require subscriptions to read content.

 

 

Last Week in Queensland – 3 April 2017

Death, destruction & recovery from Cyclone Debbie has dominated the news* last week in Queensland and still does, with ongoing evacuations, flooding and damage, whilst some communities begin their recovery.

 

Governing

 

Opposition and Crossbench

 

Politics

 

Community

 

Economy and Infrastructure

 

Parliament

Federal Parliament House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* We’re not representing that this is a complete coverage of news in Queensland – it certainly isn’t, and it’s what we find interesting or important, and sometimes what’s unusual.  Some of the links will require subscriptions to read content.

 

 

Last Week in Queensland – 27 March 2017

Cyclone Debbie bearing down, M1 upgrade funding secured, the LNP caught offering deals to One Nation,  and Adani mine viability is debated (again, still) – last week in Queensland*.

 

Governing

 

Opposition and Crossbench

 

Politics

 

Community

 

Economy and Infrastructure

 

Parliament

Federal Parliament House

  • Queensland’s Parliament sat last week, and next sits again from Tuesday 9 May to Thursday 11 May
  • The Queensland Parliament’s summary of what’s new, including newly-introduced and passed legislation, is here www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-assembly/whats-new
  • Both chambers of the Federal Parliament sit this week, from Monday 27 March to Thursday 30 March

 

Sleeper Issues?

Stuart Robert, former Minister

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* We’re not representing that this is a complete coverage of news in Queensland – it certainly isn’t, and it’s what we find interesting or important, and sometimes what’s unusual.  Some of the links will require subscriptions to read content.