Senate Refers Nash And Xenophon To High Court; Hinch And Gallagher Safe; Hanson Audit Motion Defeated

The Senate today voted to refer Senators Fiona Nash and Nick Xenophon to the High Court. The court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, will rule on their eligibility to nominate at the 2016 election.

The government leader, Senator George Brandis, moved that Senator Nash be referred, in order to determine whether she was a British dual citizen in breach of Section 44(i) of the Constitution.

Senator Xenophon moved to refer himself to the High Court. He delivered a statement explaining that he was born in Australia to Greek and Cypriot parents. He said that “out of an abundance of caution” he had renounced any rights to Greek or Cypriot citizenship but had been advised that he might hold British “overseas citizenship” on account of his father having been a British subject before he migrated to Australia.

The Senate heard a statement from Senator Derryn Hinch (DHJP-Vic). Hinch explained the circumstances in which he was eligible to receive a United States government pension. The government and the ALP have agreed that Hinch’s circumstances do not warrant a referral to the High Court.

The Senate also heard a statement from Senator Katy Gallagher (ALP-ACT). She explained the circumstances which gave rise to the possibility of her holding Ecuadorian and British citizenship. No attempt was made to refer Gallagher to the court.

Senator Pauline Hanson (One Nation-Qld) moved to establish an audit of all members of parliament to clarify their eligibility. The government and the ALP both opposed the motion and it was defeated by 43 votes to 13.

The High Court will hear the dual citizenship cases next month. In addition to Nash and Xenophon, it will hear the cases concerning Scott Ludlam, Larissa Waters, Matthew Canavan, Malcolm Roberts and Barnaby Joyce.

  • Watch the Senate proceedings (39m)
  • Listen to the Senate proceedings (39m)

Hansard transcript of Senate proceedings to refer members to the High Court.

Senator BRANDIS (Queensland—Attorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (10:07): by leave—I move:

That pursuant to section 376 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, the Senate refers to the Court of Disputed Returns the following questions— [Read more…]


George Williams On Dual Citizenship And Same Sex Marriage Survey

Professor George Williams, Dean of Law at the University of New South Wales, has addressed the National Press Club on the dual citizenship issue and the same sex marriage postal survey.

Williams suggested that the Turnbull government is “running against the grain of existing High Court authority” in relation to the marriage survey and the seven dual citizenship cases currently before the court.

In his address, Williams called for a range of constitutional reforms.

Williams, 48, has been Dean of Law since 2016. He was admitted to practice in 1993 and served as an associate to Justice Michael McHugh in the High Court. He has worked as a solicitor and barrister and has extensive academic experience at a number of universities.

A member of the ALP, Williams has unsuccessfully contested preselection on two occasions.

  • Watch Williams’ Address in full (59m)
  • Listen to Williams’ speech (33m)
  • Listen to the Question and Answer session (25m)

Transcript of Address to the National Press Club by Professor George Williams.

The Constitution is not normally front-page news in Australia. Despite the profound impact it has on our politics and society, it is easy to see why.

The United States Constitution reflects its revolutionary origins in beginning with the famous call “We the people.” By contrast, our Constitution is contained in a British Act of Parliament that opens with:

Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania…

“Whereas” is hardly the sort of beginning that gets the heart racing. In addition, these words are not even complete. They fail to mention Western Australia, which joined the Federation just before the commencement of the Constitution in 1901. [Read more…]


Barnaby Joyce May Have New Zealand Dual Citizenship; Deputy PM Refers Himself To High Court

The Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, has announced that he may have dual citizenship with New Zealand and therefore be in breach of Section 44(i) of the Constitution.

Joyce has agreed that the government will refer his case to the High Court. He will not resign from his NSW seat of New England and will remain in the Cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.

The announcement was made in a brief statement by Joyce to the House of Representatives this morning. The Nationals leader entered the Senate in 2005 and transferred to the House of Representatives in 2013.

Joyce is the fifth MP to be ensnared by Section 44 in recent weeks. Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters have both resigned from the Senate, whilst Senators Matt Canavan (LNP) and Malcolm Roberts (One Nation) have been referred to the High Court. The Nationals member for Lyne, David Gillespie, faces a challenge on the office of profit provision of Section 44.

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has written to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, asking him to nominate Labor members who should also be referred to the High Court.

  • Listen to Joyce (2m)
  • Watch Joyce (2m)

Letter from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Hansard transcript of statement to the House of Representatives by Barnaby Joyce. [Read more…]


Culleton Ineligible To Nominate For Senate, High Court Rules; Recount Likely To Elect Peter Georgiou

The High Court has ruled that Rodney Culleton was ineligible to be nominated for last year’s Senate election.

Culleton’s position as a senator is now vacant and the High Court has ruled that a recount of votes should take place. This is most likely to result in the election of Peter Georgiou, Culleton’s brother-in-law and the number two candidate on the Western Australian One Nation ticket last year.

The decision by Justices Kiefel, Bell, Gageler, Keane and Nettle was unanimous. Justice Nettle offered reasons which varied in some respects with his colleagues (see decision below).

Sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, the court held that at the time of the election Culleton was convicted and subject to be sentenced for an offence punishable by imprisonment for one year or longer. Under Section 44(ii) of the Constitution, this renders Culleton ineligible to be chosen as a senator.

The court rejected arguments that the subsequent annulment of the conviction made him eligible to stand. The decision says: “It is evident from the terms of s 44(ii) that the framers of the Constitution were concerned to ensure that not only should a person who has already been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of one year or longer be disqualified from being chosen or from sitting as a Senator; so too should a person who is able to be so sentenced. The circumstance sought to be guarded against was that such a person might not be able to sit and should for that reason not be able to be chosen.” [Read more…]


Susan Kiefel Sworn In As 13th Chief Justice Of The High Court Of Australia

Susan Kiefel has been sworn in as Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia.

Kiefel

Kiefel was sworn in at 10am in a ceremony at the High Court in Canberra. The Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis, dressed in wig and gown, addressed the court following the ceremony.

Kiefel, 63, is the 13th Chief Justice of the court since it was established in 1903. She succeeds Robert French, who served from 2008.

Under of the Section 72 of the Constitutution, Kiefel must retire by January 17, 2024, when she turns 70. [Read more…]


Susan Kiefel Appointed First Woman Chief Justice Of High Court; James Edelman Fills Vacancy

The Turnbull government has appointed Justice Susan Kiefel as the Chief Justice of the High Court.

KiefelKiefel was first appointed to the High Court in 2007 by the Howard government. She is the longest-serving member of the court and will become the 13th Chief Justice, the first woman Chief Justice and the fourth Chief Justice from Queensland. She will replace Chief Justice Robert French, who was appointed by the Rudd government in 2008.

Kiefel’s appointment means that all three arms – parliament, executive and judicial – of the Australian political system will now have been led by a woman.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney-General Senator George Brandis also announced that James Edelman will fill the vacant position on the court. Edelman, has been a judge of the Federal Court since 2015, after serving as a Justice of the Western Australian Supreme Court since 2011. He is a former Professor of Law at Oxford University.

Edelman is 42. He turns 43 on January 9. When he is sworn in on January 30, he will become the fourth youngest Justice of the Court, just behind Sir Owen Dixon, who was 42 years, 9 months and 7 days old when he was appointed in 1929. [Read more…]


High Court Unanimously Dismisses Challenge To Senate Voting Changes

The High Court has unanimously dismissed a challenge to the recently legislated Senate voting changes.

The seven Justices dismissed two applications, including one by South Australian Family First Senator Bob Day.

The changes abolished group voting tickets and introduced optional preferential voting above and below the line.

The court held that the term “method” in Section 9 of the Constitution “is to be considered broadly, allowing for more than one way of indicating choice within a single uniform electoral system”. [Read more…]