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Oct 27, 2017

Joyce out: High Court delivers body blow to Turnbull

The Turnbull government has received a devastating blow with the National leadership found to be ineligible by the High Court.

The Turnbull government is facing minority status and a difficult by-election after the High Court found the entire leadership of the National Party — Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce and Nationals deputy leader Fiona Nash — ineligible to stand at the 2016 election, due to their citizenship status under section 44 of the constitution.

The decision — which the Prime Minister strongly insisted in Parliament would not happen — plunges his government into another crisis in a week in which Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has faced pressure to resign in response to the AWU raid debacle.

The Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, found that South Australian senator Nick Xenophon was eligible despite acquiring British citizenship via his Cypriot father. Xenophon, however, has already decided to leave federal politics for a tilt in the South Australian election next March. Nationals minister Matt Canavan, who stood aside from the ministry when he revealed he had Italian citizenship, was also found eligible, and can now return to the frontbench, presumably in his former role as Minister for Coal.

The remainder of the “citizenship seven” have been found to be ineligible. Former Greens senator Scott Ludlam, who has since left politics, and former colleague Larissa Waters, were both found ineligible. One Nation Queensland senator Malcolm Roberts was found to be ineligible due to his failure to take action to renounce his British citizenship.

Comment

When Scott Ludlam began this extended political storm over citizenship on July 14, no one would have expected that it would end with a beleaguered government hanging onto power with the help of the crossbench. Ludlam declared that the matter was black letter law and that he had no alternative but to resign over his New Zealand citizenship, which he immediately did.

As it turns out, his handling of the matter — then the subject of criticism by the government and many in the media — proved to be the most principled and correct one. Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash — not to mention angry conspiracy theorist Malcolm Roberts — should all have taken note of his example and resigned on the spot. Instead, the government has been subjected by the Nationals to a distracting period of citizenship chaos, culminating in what will likely prove a messy by-election in New England and — potentially — a ugly Coalition stoush in NSW over who takes Nash’s spot.

The retention of Matt Canavan is a small win for the government but for now the impression that the Turnbull government is notable only for its chaos and instability has been massively reinforced — through no fault of Turnbull or the Liberal Party. This one’s all on the Nationals.

 

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33 comments

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33 thoughts on “Joyce out: High Court delivers body blow to Turnbull

  1. Wayne Cusick

    Not sure how Canavan survived.

    1. Marco Tedeschi

      By the skin of his teeth became a non Italian in oral argument in HCA

    2. Robert Garnett

      Download the decision and read it then it will become clear.
      https://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/cth/HCA//2017/45.html

  2. Venise Alstergren

    How did Matt Canavan escape the hangman’s noose. Still, I can’t complain. At long last sweet revenge has caught up with the Nationals-the most unprincipled bunch of bastards outside the Liberal Party. The preposterous little Malcolm Roberts deserved everything he’s got. It’s moments like this I wonder if, maybe there is a God?

    1. leon knight

      Don’t crow just yet Venise, the good burgers of Ipswich may well be stupid enough to give Roberts another run in the state parliament.
      And Pauline thinks she has lost her best colleague..!! Talk about living in a bubble of dumb….

  3. Andrew Lindsay

    What does this do to members like Joyce and Nash that have been in parliament for 12 odd years. Do they lose their tenure w.r.t. superannuation and other perks that our elected officials receive? Wouldn’t that be accrued under false pretences?

    1. Wayne Cusick

      Didn’t the government suggest that Ludlam and Waters should pay back their wages since the election?

      If so, wouldn’t it stand to reason that they will demand the wages of Joyce, Nash and Roberts? For all the time they have improperly been sitting in parliament.

    2. PaulM

      Nash and Joyce were both first elected in 2004 after the previous, generous, defined benefits superannuation scheme was closed. 12 years term is irrelevant now, and Joyce will most likely be back anyway.
      It pains me to say this, but we have Mark Latham to thank for shaming John Howard into making the change.

  4. blenda

    Cash AWU debacle was a classic Trumpesque distraction move with the pending decision looming in an annus horribilis. Is Truffles trying the art of watch this hand while I mess with your brain with the other hand before the looming loss of the one toilet seat majority.

  5. Peter Logan

    As a former independent councillor, ie politician, I can empathise with Tony Windsor and the other candidates who funded their own campaigns against Barnaby Joyce because the independents are not publicly funded, as are the major parties. Joyce should reimburse the independents as he ran as an ‘illegal’, to use a word the coalition is fond of. Joyce can run again knowing he will not have to pay for his campaign but the independents are probably still paying off the last campaign.
    Peter Logan – poorer but happier from political life

    1. Marilyn J Shepherd

      And the taxpayers have had to pick up the millions these cases cost to run in the high court while Brandis’s new stooge solicitor general has been destroyed by his old one over the Joyce case.

      The thing is the constitution as it stands at Article 44 is really hard to translate anyway other than how the High court did.

      1. michael r james

        while Brandis’s new stooge solicitor general has been destroyed by his old one over the Joyce case.

        Exactly, and I wonder why BK failed to mention this. To remind people: Justin Gleeson SC was hounded out of his position as Solicitor General (an office supposedly to give impartial non-partisan legal advice to all elected politicians, not just as a flunky to the incumbent politician-AG like Brandis) and replaced by a compliant–and no surprise, incompetent–choice of Brandis, Stephen Donaghue. Even Murdoch journos are choking on their tongues and telling the truth. Here is Chris Merritt:

        Tony Windsor and Justin Gleeson have done the nation a great service by smashing the government’s illegitimate effort to save Barnaby Joyce by vandalising the Constitution.

        Mind you, Merritt didn’t name the culprits of George Brandis and Stephen Donaghue. As to Bernard K’s:

        the Turnbull government is notable only for its chaos and instability has been massively reinforced — through no fault of Turnbull or the Liberal Party. This one’s all on the Nationals.

        Err, no BK, even Murdoch’s hyper-partisan flunkies have called this one correctly. Here is no less than the *&%#$~! Chris Kenny:

        The High Court took a chunk out of Turnbull’s hind leg yesterday and he is bleeding in the water. … Turnbull is weakened by his own words and actions: he confidently predicted the High Court would not rule Joyce ineligible and declined to have him or Nash stand aside from Cabinet. His judgment has been rebuffed by the highest court in the land.

        Turnbull may have been relying upon the advice of the SG Donaghue via George Brandis but you didn’t even need to be a lawyer, let alone a constitutional lawyer, to know that a politician shouldn’t publicly pre-empt the High Court on such matters. And Turnbull is a lawyer. If he still believes George Brandis’ self-belief that he, George, is the smartest person in the room (well when Turnbull is not in the same room), then this alone reveals a massive failure in judgment.

        1. Will

          Mike, you’ve been had. Murdoch’s attack dogs (Merritt, Kenny, et al) have no more interest in truth than they have in protecting the Constitution. They’re just out to shaft Turnbull and anyone batting for him (Barnaby and Brandis here, specifically), in the name of a conservatism that abhors judicial activism (i.e. reading the Constitution sensibly, rather than archaically).

      2. Administrator

        s44 is OK. It puts the onus, now as before, on the candidate to do their due diligence. They have abundant notice, including the Handbook for Candidates. Yes, Marilyn, we taxpayers are asked to pay. We got to see Truffles and Brandis embarrassed except that both have too much hide to suffer. We got the entertainment of some spectacular judicial gymnastics: that a British Overseas Citizen is not a British Citizen… because not all of them have right of free entry to UK. Really, when UK is BREXITing EU because it cannot control the entry of refugees? When UK has spent decades establishing and defending the privileged status of British Overseas Citizens? And it was good that Senator Xenophon survived. No, we will not get that money back.
        But the writ of mandamus lives on, compelling a public official to do their duty. Perhaps that could recover ministerial salaries and allowances paid to ineligible recidivists?

    2. Andrew Lindsay

      The thing is, for these long serving ‘persons’, it goes back years! Think of the loss of earnings that the people that Joyce and Nash kept from winning and having their chance at serving the Australian people and the paydays and opportunities that they also lost out on.
      BJ has been in parliament (wrongfully) for 12 years.

  6. Marilyn J Shepherd

    You let Truffles off the hook too easily, he is the one who stood in Parliament and declared that the High court would rule for Joyce, Nash and Canavan and abused Waters and Ludlam for their extraordinary laziness and sloppiness.

  7. Graeski

    Couldn’t happen to a more unpleasant band of lowlifes.

  8. Nudiefish

    This s44 thing is operating on two distinct levels.

    Level One: An obvious and unwelcome distraction for the government in trying to just get through it’s parliamentary term. The LNP will have to rely on the speakers’ deciding vote coupled with nobody on the government benches needing an extended visit to the toilet. Plus the cross-benches will make their life pure hell for every single vote.

    Level Two: As Bernard says, the complete narrative of the Turnbull Government is pure and unadulterated chaos. Nothing can happen within this government without a healthy dose of slapstick. It’s like somebody distributed a thousand rakes upon the carpet for these drones to step on. Painful and repetitive. And they said the Gillard Government was ineffective? This narrative will now encompass a horrible and messy by-election, which even if Barnaby wins, will make Shorten and Labor look like steady hands on the tiller.

    The best bit is that Shorten will only have to keep breathing to win.

    1. Nudiefish

      Oh, and I forgot all about the stupid SSM survey.

      When the results come in, poor old Malcolm Turnbull will have a humiliating public battle with the nutty right-wing of his party who will refuse to accept the will of the people. Backed by Tony Abbott who’s sense of revenge has gone past the boiling point.

      That’s Christmas done for.

  9. OwenM

    To be fair to Malcolm Roberts, his British Citizenship was faked by NASA

    1. michael r james

      Shurley you mean Stanley Kubrick?

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