I fly a lot. Got so friendly with a TWA flight attendant on a White House press charter that I married her. Once, arriving for a flight across Fiji from Nadi to Suva, I was told they had overbooked. They asked if I’d fly in the co-pilot’s seat. For the whole trip over the mountains I studied the pilot for signs of a pending heart attack.

On a flight from Cairns to Sydney after that infamous Ansett bomb scare cover-up — which I revealed on HINCH — the pilot sent a note back with the hostie. It said, “If I’d known you were on my flight, I would have had you thrown off in Brisbane”.

So, I was a bit wary last Friday, asking a Virgin cockpit crew for a favour. You see, as the EST clock ticked towards 2.15pm, I was on a flight from Maroochydore to Melbourne after the Day for Daniel walk. Totally shut off from the High Court ruling on the political futures of the Munificent Seven. Could the cockpit crew get info from the ground and pass it on?

I knew, in my gut, we were right when we argued deputy prime minister Baaanaby Joyce should have done a Canavan, like his Senate National Party colleague, and gone to the backbench while awaiting the High Court decision. And so should Senator Fiona Nash.

Joyce’s own gut feeling admission, after the High Court decision, made it even more of a scandal. The National Party leader said, “In my gut I thought this is the way it is going to go”.

Jesus wept. Surely this cornpone knew that this is not the US of A. That under section 64 of our constitution a cabinet member must be a member of Parliament? And that cabinet decisions, and ministerial decisions, made by a tainted minister, could face future legal challenges?

Not to mention the possible court cases down the track launched by commercial entities who could argue their business had been financially damaged by a (now illegal) ministerial ruling.

How was Barnyard Barnaby’s gut feeling when, in a burst of dumb arrogance and over-confidence, the PM expressed total confidence in his deputy by insisting in Question Time that Joyce was “qualified to sit in the house and the High Court will so hold”?

But back to my flight. Tick, tick, tick. Quarter past two arrived and a charming flight attendant named Lynda told me she would have a cockpit message very soon. And, within ten minutes, I was handed a friendly hand-scrawled note from the pilot across a telex-style printout detailing the two who were in and the five who were out.

Confession time. And this may be a breach of CASA or FAA or Virgin flight laws. The journo in me couldn’t help himself. You never get the ink out of the veins.

Well before Lynda brought me the news, I had surreptitiously taken my iPhone off airplane mode under the lunch serviette and glanced at my messages. My trusted EA, Annette Philpott, had fired four words into the ether: “Saved Xenophon and Canavan”. The flight attendant had been so helpful, I couldn’t tell her that I already knew.

 

***

 

If I had to bet on who the safest senator was under section 44 I would have wagered that the least likely person to be carried out in the dual citizenship box would be the Senate president, former undertaker, Stephen Parry.

As I’ve just written about him in my new book, he was “one of the most impressive people I met on the Hill. He was fair, learned, and well-ordered in the chair. A respected and tranquil chairman in meetings.”

A procedural stickler, he knew the law, and, as a former policeman, he knew right from wrong. So, I find it inexplicable, and totally out of character, that Parry did not put his own hand up, when, from the president’s chair, he handed up the paperwork sending Senator Fiona Nash to the High Court. His case of having a father born in the UK mirrored hers.

And the various permutations and implications of Barnaby Joyce’s parental predicament had flooded the media for months.

In his shock email to us this week, Parry wrote that “My father moved to Australia as a boy in 1951”.  Not too much of a boy. He married Parry’s mother nine years later. The year Parry was born in Tasmania.

The email also had a Malcolm Roberts touch: “I have always regarded my late father as Australian.” Maybe, but surely he knew his dad was a pom. Even though he mentioned his family’s convict roots in his maiden speech.

Wasn’t the issue ever raised in the Liberal party room as the government dominoes kept falling?

More questions:  Why did Senator Parry wait until this week?  Is this why he cancelled a parliamentary trip to India last Friday?  Was he hoping for a High Court decision that cleared Nash and Joyce and left him under the radar?

There are now even more forceful demands for an audit of all MPs credentials. As I tweeted:

“Stephen Parry, another domino. Cross-bench all voted for independent audit of us all. Libs, Nats, Labor blocked us. Will bring it on again.”

Peter Fray

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