James Paterson Sworn In As Victorian Liberal Senator

James Paterson has been sworn in as a Victorian senator, filling a casual vacancy left by the retirement of Michael Ronaldson.

Paterson, 28, is a former official of the Institute of Public Affairs. He won preselection last week.

Under Section 15 of the Constitution, the casual vacancy is filled by a vote of the two houses of the Victorian Parliament sitting as one. Since the referendum of 1977, casual vacancies must be filled by a person from the same political party as the departing senator.

Paterson will see out the remainder of Ronaldson’s term which runs until June 30, 2017, barring a double dissolution this year. He is expected to secure a winnable position on the Liberal Party’s Senate ticket. [Read more…]


First Turnbull Ministry Announced; More Women Into Cabinet, Abbott Supporters Axed

Malcolm Turnbull has announced the composition of his ministry, five days after being sworn in as prime minister.

As expected, Joe Hockey has been replaced as Treasurer by Scott Morrison. Hockey is expected to be appointed Ambassador to the United States, replacing former Labor leader Kim Beazley in the new year.

Five women will be in the Cabinet, an increase of three. Senator Maris Payne becomes Defence Minister, whilst Senator Michaelia Cash will be the Minister for Women. They will be joined by Kelly O’Dwyer as Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Small Business.

Turnbull has sacked a number of Abbott supporters. The most prominent casualties are Defence Minister Kevin Andrews and the Senate leader and Workplace Relations Minister Eric Abetz.

Small Business Minister Bruce Billson has been left out of the ministry, as has Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane. The Special Minister of State, Senator Michael Ronaldson, has also been dropped.

This is the official list of ministers released by the Prime Minister’s office:

15-09-20_first-turnbull-ministry


Bishop And Ronaldson Speak At Gallipoli And Villers-Brettonneux ANZAC Services

The Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, and the Special Minister of State, Senator Michael Ronaldson, have delivered speeches at ANZAC Day services overseas.

Villers-Brettonneux

Ronaldson, who is also the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC, spoke at the Gallipoli Dawn Service and the Lone Pine Service, in Turkey.

Bishop spoke at the Dawn Service at Villers-Brettonneux, in France. [Read more…]


Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn Resigns; WA Electoral Officer Also Goes; Casualties Of Senate Debacle

The Australian Electoral Commissioner, Ed Killesteyn, has resigned. The Western Australian Electoral Officer, Peter Kramer, has also quit.

KillesteynKillesteyn’s resignation was announced this afternoon by the Special Minister of State, Senator Michael Ronaldson. He said Killesteyn has taken personal leave until his resignation takes effect on July 4.

The resignation comes a day after the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, formally voided the Western Australian Senate election. The court ruling followed a petition from the AEC that the election should be thrown out following the loss of around 1300 ballot papers during last year’s count.

Killesteyn’s resignation is an honourable move to accept responsibility that will safeguard the AEC against ongoing criticism. It comes just two months into his second 5-year term as Electoral Commissioner.

The resignation of the Western Australian Electoral Officer, Peter Kramer, complements Killesteyn’s and provides a chain of accountability for last year’s events. Kramer was in the final year of a 5-year term. [Read more…]


High Court Formally Voids WA Senate Result; No Date Yet On New Poll

The High Court’s Justice Kenneth Hayne, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, today formally declared the Western Australian Senate election void, paving the way for a new election in April or May.

The Court ruled that the loss of 1370 ballot papers during the second count meant that those electors had been denied a vote. It rejected arguments that it should endorse either of the two counts, as well as arguments that it should substitute a “patchwork” of results from both counts.

A writ for the Senate election now needs to be issued by the Governor of Western Australia. By convention, state Governors accept the advice of the Governor-General on when to call Senate elections. This means that the election date, as usual, will be decided by the Abbott government.

The election must be held by May at the latest, in order to allow time for the votes to be counted and a result declared so that new senators can take their place on July 1. [Read more…]


Government Tightens Rules On Parliamentarians’ Expenses Claims

The federal government has strengthened the rules governing parliamentarians’ expenses.

The Special Minister of State, Senator Michael Ronaldson, has announced that from January 1, 2014 MPs whose travel claims need adjustment will pay a 25% penalty on top of the adjustment. Mandatory training will be provided to parliamentarians and their staff if more than one claim needs adjustment within a financial year.

The government has tightened rules on travel entitlements for members’ families. It has also stipulated that overseas travel may not be taken first class. Members’ names may also be tabled in parliament if they do no “substantially comply” within a reasonable time with requests for further information.

The government will also ban MPs from employing relatives in their electorate offices. Those who currently do so have until January 1 to make alternative arrangements.

The changes have been announced just days before the new parliament meets for the first time. They follow several weeks of revelations about claims by MPs. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has repaid over $1,700 in travel and accommodation expenses he claimed for attending the weddings of Sophie Mirabella and Peter Slipper in 2006.

Adam Bandt, acting leader of the Australian Greens, said the government was only acting under pressure and its changes were the “bare minimum”. He called for an Integrity Commissioner and a parliamentary “entitlements adviser”.

Statement from the Special Minister of State, Senator Michael Ronaldson.

STRENGTHENING THE RULES GOVERNING PARLIAMENTARIANS’ BUSINESS EXPENSES

Direct contact between citizens and their elected representatives is an important part of our democracy.

The system of funding the work costs of members and senators in carrying out their responsibilities is complicated by the fact that there is no set job description for the role of a parliamentarian. As independent assessments show, a parliamentarian’s day is routinely long, busy and varied. [Read more…]


Craig Thomson And The Gillard Government

This is the text of a speech in the Matters of Public Interest debate by Victorian Liberal Senator Michael Ronaldson.

The speech was given at 1pm on June 15, 2011.

The transcript is taken from Hansard.

Michael RonaldsonAt the heart of this Gillard Labor government lies the truth that it is an illegitimate government. The government is not only illegitimate but also hopelessly divided. Only today we read how Labor backbenchers are at war with each other about policy decisions taken by their own party. It is a tale of zombies and daleks. The members—described by one of their own as ‘zombies’—are generally too frightened to speak out. The factional warlords—the ‘daleks’, according to one past leader—are angry at their loss of power and influence.

Today’s media reports describe a vicious exchange in yesterday’s caucus meeting between a backbencher from the New South Wales Central Coast, the member for Dobell, Mr Craig Thomson, and his New South Wales Labor colleague Senator Doug Cameron.

Paul Keating famously declared that where New South Wales Labor goes, so too goes the nation. This is indeed a troubling omen for our nation. Today I wish to discuss renewed allegations against the said Mr Thomson—all of which are on the public record. Mr Thomson’s actions go to the heart of this government’s legitimacy. Mr Thomson is now into his second term as a member of the House of Representatives. Nevertheless, serious concerns remain about Mr Thomson’s past as a union heavy in the Health Services Union. There are serious allegations including allegations of fraud and electoral misconduct. It is time to end Labor’s deafening silence concerning these very serious allegations. Put simply, it is time for the Prime Minister to show leadership. Mr Thomson is not fit to be a member of parliament and he should be stood down immediately. Of course, the Prime Minister knows this. In normal circumstances the member for Dobell would not be allowed to continue. But, in the so-called ‘new paradigm’ where the government has only a wafer-thin majority, the Prime Minister lacks the courage and the leadership authority to deal with the member for Dobell appropriately. [Read more…]