When Kevin Andrews’ staffer Andrew Ananievski resigned after the Herald Sun broke allegations of ethnic branch stacking last Friday, the riding instructions would no doubt have been “turn your phone off, leave town and don’t talk to anyone”.
But Ananievski gets a lengthy run in the letters page of The Manningham Leader, which hit the streets yesterday.
His commentary bagging the now-departed Manningham mayor, Labor Senate candidate Jennifer Yang, makes no mention of his employment with the local federal Liberal member.
Staffers failing to disclose affiliations has long been a political tactic, and it raises more questions about the governance practices and standards within the conservative Kevin Andrews’ political machine.
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However, the Ananievski letter raises some interesting points. It reads as follows:
The honourable thing to do is to step aside from the position of mayor.
No matter what political party a councillor is from, if you get elected by the people to serve a four-year term at Manningham Council then that should be your first and only priority.
During this term, Cr Yang run unsuccessfully as the Labor candidate for state seat of Mt Waverley in the 2014 Victorian election, ran in the ALP 2016 ALP preselection for the Federal Seat of Chisholm and how for the Senate.
Cr Yang needs to make it crystal clear that she is not misusing taxpayers dollars and resources that are meant to be invested for the benefit of the Manningham municipality [not] for her own vested interest.
It has been raised by many residents and small business owners that by her remaining as mayor, there is a perception that Manningham council is not being bipartisan.
Local Government should be above party politics and deliver for the people — no matter how they vote or intend to vote.
Knowing that Cr Yang was interested in running for federal politics, she should not have put herself forward and accepted the nomination of mayor last year.
Rather than issues of perception and conflict of interest, the federal Labor campaign forced Yang to resign as mayor due to the conservative legal position it has taken on the question of whether there is a constitutional prohibition on councillors standing for federal office.
It is clear that candidates cannot hold “an office of profit under the crown” when challenging to serve in the federal Parliament.
This was the constitutional provision that, in 1992, had the High Court (with William Deane dissenting) declare independent federal MP Phil Cleary ineligible to serve in Bob Hawke’s seat of Wills because he was a teacher on leave.
The idea that federal and state public servants cannot run for federal Parliament is clearly farcical, but with constitutional reform so hard in Australia, this High Court decision remains a considerable barrier to entry.
It has never been tested as to whether local government councillors are profiting from an office under the crown, but Labor has decided not to risk it.
This same constitutional quirk explains why Carolyne Boothman quit as the Labor candidate for Gippsland earlier this week. She was not prepared to resign as a teacher at Morwell Primary School and the Labor machine would not allow her to only take unpaid leave, like Phil Cleary did.
Similarly, the Sex Party’s most prospective and credentialed candidate, Victorian businesswoman Meredith Doig, has resigned from a TAFE board and a water board, just in case she scores the last Senate seat in Victoria.
Phil Cleary, who has not yet declared if he’ll be running again as an independent candidate in Wills, told Crikey yesterday the system needs reform.
“Every sitting MP is enjoying an office of profit under the crown — the whole situation is a complete joke.”
If the Liberals preference the Greens in Wills, then incumbent Moreland mayor Sam Ratnam will be in the box seat. It is not yet clear if she will be resigning from the council.
The High Court determined in the Cleary decision that any resignation needs to occur before a candidate has formally nominated, so prospective MPs not currently enjoying the privileges of incumbency have until June 1 to get their house in order.
I’m still contemplating the whole situation but can’t rule out also resigning from City of Melbourne in order to decrease the risk of a legal challenge if the tilt being taken at Kevin Andrews in Menzies succeeds.
*Stephen Mayne is an independent City of Melbourne councillor and an independent candidate against Kevin Andrews in the seat of Menzies. He was not paid for this item.