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…]


Scott Ludlam Resigns From The Senate; Victim Of Section 44 Dual Citizenship Rule

Scott Ludlam, an Australian Greens senator from Western Australia, resigned today, after announcing he had dual citizenship with New Zealand and was therefore in breach of Section 44(i) of the Constitution.

Ludlam

Section 44(i) of the Constitution says that a person is “incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator” if they are “under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject of a citizen or entitled to the rights and privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power”.

In a statement, Ludlam said he was born in New Zealand. His family left when he was three years old and settled in Australia when he was nine. “I was naturalised when I was in my mid-teens and assumed that was the end of the New Zealand citizenship.”

Media reports today say that the citizenship question has been previously raised with Ludlam.

Ludlam, 47, was first elected to the Senate in 2007. He took up his seat on July 1, 2008. He was re-elected in 2013 and in the 2014 re-run election. He was re-elected to a six-year term in the 2016 double dissolution election. The Greens polled 10.53% in WA.

Ludlam has been Joint Deputy Leader of the Greens, with Larissa Waters, since May 2015.

It now appears that the Senate will refer the matter to the High Court. Twice this year, the court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, has ordered countbacks following rulings that Rodney Culleton and Bob Day were not entitled to nominate at the election. Assuming this takes place again, the seat will go to the number three candidate on the Greens WA Senate ticket, 22-year-old disability advocate Jordon Steele-John.

Media reports today quote Steele-John as not committing himself to taking the seat. Were he to resign, a casual vacancy would be created and the Greens would nominate a replacement. It would be possible for Ludlam to be appointed in these circumstances, provided he rectifies the citizenship issue. However, Ludlam’s statement and press conference suggested he has chosen to move on to other things.

The practical political implication of today’s resignation by Ludlam is that the Greens will be without one of their number for some months in the Senate. This will not make a significant difference but until the vacancy is filled the Turnbull government will only need eight of the eleven crossbench votes to secure passage of legislation opposed by the ALP and Greens. It currently needs nine extra votes. A pairing arrangement to cover the absence could also be put in place.

Ludlam is the third senator to fall victim to Section 44 since the 2016 election, an unprecedented situation.

  • Watch Ludlam’s media conference in Perth (15m)
  • Listen to the media conference (15m)

Statement from Senator Scott Ludlam. Click to enlarge

Ludlam