Dual citizen scandal: Labor senator quits, others to follow
WE are set for an expensive, unsettling and prolonged season of elections from individual seats to a national ballot.
That's the consequence of the High Court decision today that Labor's Katy Gallagher had to quit the Senate because she was a dual citizen when elected, breaching eligibility rules in the Constitution.
The Government is insisting three Labor members of the House of Representatives and a minor party MP follow Senator Gallagher out of Parliament.
The flow-on dual citizenship casualties include Labor's Susan Lamb in the Queensland seat of Longman, Justine Keay in the Tasmanian seat of Braddon, Josh Wilson in the West Australian seat of Fremantle, and the Centre Alliance's Rebekha Sharkie in the South Australian seat of Mayo.
Ms Sharkie today said she was taking legal advice.
In a separate matter, Labor's MP for Perth Tim Hammond will cause a by-election in his seat because he is resigning to spend more time with his family.
The five by-elections will drain the coffers of the major parties when they are saving up for bigger contests.
But it could mean the Liberals will regain the South Australian seat of Mayor, expected to be contested by Georgina Downer, daughter of the previous Liberal member Alexander Downer.
And there might even be a referendum.
There is a growing argument the restrictions are unworkable in a multicultural nation and the Constitution should be changed, which can only be done by a referendum.
The counter argument is that election candidates have a clear and manageable obligation to sort out citizenship matters and should be penalised if they don't.
Further, Victoria will have a state election before the end of the year and NSW next March. And Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today repeated he wanted to call a general election in the first half of 2019.
The by-elections will be tests of voter sentiment following the Budget and the competing tax plans of the Government and the Opposition.
Attorney-General Christian Porter today told reporters the decision was a "crisp and crystal clear clarification of the law".
"That, if a person is a dual citizen of another country after the date of close of nominations, then that person is ineligible to sit in the common Wealth parliament," he said.
"And those four (Labor) people must resign. They must resign today. (Opposition Leader) Bill Shorten must require the resignation of those three Labor members today, and that must occur before close of business today," Mr Porter said.
The Government also made clear it will accuse Labor of prolonging the constitutional issue.
Defence Industries Minister Christopher Pyne said when Government members were suspected of constitutional breaches they resigned from Parliament of ministries - Barnaby Joyce, John Alexander, Stephen Parry Fiona Nash, Matt Canavan.
"By contrast, on the Labor side, when Bill Shorten was faced with similar issues, he circled the wagons, behaved like a trade union leader trying to avoid accountability and transparency, and today we've seen the outcome of that, where three of his members have been ruled ineligible, in effect, by the decision, this unambiguous decision, of the High Court," Mr Pyne told reporters.
He said referring the Labor trio to the High Court would take up more time and money and that Mr Shorten should "do the right thing".
"The idea that this leaves any room for manoeuvre on the Labor side is quite frankly laughable," he said.
Katy Gallagher accepted the decision.
"Today the High Court sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns has ruled that I am ineligible to sit as a Senator in the Australian Parliament," she said in a statement.
"I have always performed my duties to the ACT community with honesty, integrity and a desire to make Canberra and Australia a better place for all of us.
"I have always acted on the best available legal advice, which at all times, indicated that I satisfied the eligibility requirements under the Constitution. However, today the High Court has made its decision, and I respect the outcome."