The High Court is now deliberating on the futures of the “Citizenship Seven” after arguments wrapped up yesterday, but predicting what will happen next is not black and white. Whatever the court rules, it’s unlikely that it will mean all in, all out. And it gets more complicated from there — some senators have already resigned, some plan on coming back and some face replacements who aren’t even from their own party. So, with the full knowledge that the High Court is yet to make a decision, what would happen next for each of the Seven if they are found to have not been eligible for a seat in Parliament in the first place? Does that mean they are goneski? Or is it back in a jiffy?
As the only lower-house MP embroiled in the dual-citizenship snafu, Joyce is the only one who would be headed to a by-election if the High Court finds he was ineligible to be elected. Joyce won his seat of New England with 52% of the vote in 2016, his closest rival being former independent MP Tony Windsor who had 29.2% of the vote. Windsor is a party in the High Court case, as he was the one who lost out to Joyce last year. Windsor has a high-powered and high-profile legal team, being represented by former federal court judge Ron Merkel and former solicitor-general Justin Gleeson. The government is sweating on the timeline for the High Court’s decision — if a byelection is to be held before Christmas, they need to know by November 10.
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Queensland Nationals Senator Matt Canavan was the first member of the government to be embroiled in this chapter of Australian politics, resigning from his role as a minister, but not from parliament, after he said found out about a possible Italian citizenship. So if he is found ineligible what next? Canavan has told reporters it’s up to his “boss” — his wife — to decide if he quits politics or not if the Court doesn’t rule in his favour.
“I’d love to continue doing it but I’ve always said that my job as a father is much more important than my job as a senator, I’ve got five kids, so we’ll just see what happens next for me, if that happened,” he told Channel Nine.
Former Greens senator Scott Ludlam was canary in the coalmine when it comes to possible dual citizens in Australia’s parliament, announcing in a shock press conference that he was resigning due to his dual-citizenship with New Zealand and to await the High Court’s decision. There had been speculation that Ludlam would return to the Senate, which he didn’t rule out to Perth Now this week, but it seems unlikely he’ll be rushing back into the fray, saying that up next for him is travelling overseas and writing. “I haven’t ruled it out,” he told the website. “At the moment it feels like the last thing I would want to do, it feels like I really need a break from that place but never say never.”
Ludlam’s Queensland Greens colleague was the next cab off the rank, revealing that a quirk in Canadian law meant that although she has two Australian parents, she gained Canadian citizenship through being born there. She resigned from her position, which led to speculation around whether or not the next name on the Greens’ Queensland ticket was also eligible. Since then Waters has renounced her Canadian citizenship and told The Guardian last month “The key thing from my perspective is that I have renounced and am ready and willing to return to the job when the Queensland party wills it”.
The deputy Nationals leader revealed that she was a dual-British citizen, and the NSW senator faces an uncertain future if the High Court rules against her. The Australian reported this week that her likely replacement has no intention of giving up the spot to let Nash return to parliament. Under the National and Liberal deal in NSW, the Senate ticket alternates between Nats and Libs, with Liberal Hollie Hughes in sixth place on the list at the 2016 election. The possible departure of Nash and Joyce also has implications for the leadership of the Nationals.
No matter what the result in the High Court, Xenophon has bought a one-way ticket out of Canberra, announcing that he will run at the South Australian election early next year for the seat of Hartley. Xenophon says the decision to move back to the state parliament has nothing to do with the High Court case, but the High Court will influence who replaces him in the Senate. If Xenophon is ruled ineligible, there will be a recount, and the fourth Xenophon candidate Tim Storer will be elected, but if he is ruled as eligible, the Nick Xenophon Team can nominate who replaces him. Either way, it’s still a NXT senator that replaces him.
What would happen with One Nation if the Queenslander was found to be ineligible is an interesting pickle. Fraser Anning was third in line on the ticket behind Pauline Hanson and Roberts, and also facing bankruptcy, which would also make him inelgible to get into parliament. Now the proceedings have been withdrawn so the path is clear for Anning, but we don’t think Roberts will leave parliament or the party without a fight.