Last week was busy. To try and keep the news summary at a controllable length, we took a running jump at the citizenship saga, managed to miss the closing of the Manus Island Detention Centre, and didn’t even hi-five the newly announced Queensland election. We’ll be touching on all of these at the end of the week, but right now we’ll look at the fallout of the citizenship clusterfuck.
We did a deep dive on this matter when it first came up a few months ago. On Friday, the High Court delivered its final verdict. Four of the ‘citizenship seven’ were declared ineligible to sit in Parliament because they did not take reasonable steps to renounce their foreign citizenship. According to the constitution, you have to be True Blue to sit in Parliament, and this mob, knowingly or not, were trying to have their New Zealand/Canadian/Italian/British cake and eat it too.
So what does this all mean? Is the Parliament in chaos? Is the Australian government at a stand still? Turnbull’s lost his majority…but what does that mean?
First, a quick word about the LNP
It occurs to me that I’ve never stopped to explain a fact that confused me for years before I sat down and Googled it.
It’s important to note that no Liberal or Labor politicians were caught up in this mess. That’s probably because they spend time screening their candidates thoroughly, and asking about citizenship well before people nominate to run for office.
Malcom Turnbull is leader of the Liberal Party. Julie Bishop is Deputy leader of the Liberal Party.
The Liberal Party is suffering because a couple of high-profile politicians from the National Party have been declared ineligible.
The Liberal and National Party combine themselves under one umbrella. The history of this dates back as far as the 1920’s, but basically, they are two parties that have a permanent alliance for their mutual political gain.
This means they can be hard to label. While the Liberal Party and the National Party are two different things, combined they may be referred to as the LNP, the Coalition, or the Liberal National Party. (You may already know this, but if you didn’t, holy God are you going to find the news easier to digest now. I know I did.)
Generally speaking, the National Party is more conservative than the Liberal Party. A lot of Malcom Turnbull’s more progressive policies around same-sex marriage and climate change have been held back by his National Party colleagues who advocate for more conservative viewpoints (like a plebiscite and a lack of emphasis on renewable energy).
What happened to the National Party
In one swoop, the National Party have potentially lost both their federal leader (Barnaby Joyce) and their deputy leader (Fiona Nash).
This means that the National Party are in some pain. But the Liberal Party has copped some accidental positive news out of the mess.
For a start, Julie Bishop, Deputy Liberal Leader, has temporarily taken Barnaby Joyce’s spot as Deputy Prime Minister.
Fiona Nash is officially out of a career in federal politics. Her spot goes to the runner-up for her spot in the election, who happens to be a Liberal. So while the Nationals have lost a representative, the Liberals have gained one.
And of course (they say through gritted teeth), the Nationals are happy for their good mates the Liberals. Of course they are, that’s fine.
Many on the left got very, very excited when Barnaby was knocked off his perch on Friday. As leader of the Nationals, Barnaby is a hero in his electorate in conservative Regional New South Wales, but despised by the middle-class left that typically makes up more metropolitan electorates.
However, Barnaby is unlikely to suffer any lasting damage from the blow.
He’s renouncing his New Zealand citizenship completely, and is entitled to run again. He will most likely win back the seat and immediately go back into federal politics and resume his place as Deputy PM and leader of the Nationals.
So the seat of New England in regional NSW is having a by-election. Barnaby has to get elected again. He’s won it comfortably for many elections, but last time he was put under considerable pressure from an independent politician running against him called Tony Windsor. But Tony won’t be running in this latest election, and it’s unlikely that anyone else would possess the money and volunteer force to put up a substantial campaign to run against Barnaby.
So how long could Barnaby be away for?
Not that long, really. The by-election was called immediately on Friday. The election will be in early December. If it isn’t close and Barnaby wins quickly, he’ll be back in Parliament well before Christmas.
Which is not that bad for the Nationals, because Parliament just finished one of its sitting weeks last week, and won’t come back again until December anyway. He probably won’t be able to come in on the Monday that Parliament is back, as the votes are likely to still be counted from the weekend just gone.
But he’d probably be back in by the Wednesday or Thursday.
So basically? He’ll miss three or four days.
Can anything happen in those three or four days?
Maybe. It’ll be a busy time in Parliament before the year closes out. The big piece of legislation will be the same sex marriage act. And Labor might use the opportunity to move on big items on its wish list.
With Barnaby gone, the LNP lose their governing majority in the House of Representatives. This means that they will have to make deals with Labor politicians or ‘the cross-bench’ (independent politicians) to get anything through – at least until Barnaby comes back.
High on Labor’s wish list is a Royal Commission into Australia’s banks – how they operate and how they might be potentially ripping off Aussie customers. This would require someone from the LNP crossing the floor to vote with Labor. There are a few possibilities, but with such limited time, many are saying it’s unlikely to happen.
Surely there’s more. This feels huge.
Labor is inclined to agree.
They’re arguing that this bungle has three major ramifications.
One, that Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash continued to sit in Parliament and make decisions while they knew they were under investigation by the High Court. The Greens leaders that were under scrutiny stepped away from their posts immediately. Nationals Senator Matt Canavan surrendered his responsibilities as soon as he found out. But Barnaby and Fiona kept going as if nothing was happening.
In addition, Barnaby shot himself in the foot on Friday when he said that he had always felt in his gut that he was going to be declared ineligible. That means he sensed he was effectively breaking the law by continuing his position, but did it anyway.
Second, it’s now suggested that over a hundred Parliamentary decisions that Barnaby and Fiona helped get over the line are now legally challengeable – because they were never eligible to have their positions in the first place. These decisions include controversial elements of the NBN rollout, or Barnaby’s controversial policies around agricultural water management.
Third, Malcom Turnbull was brutal in his comments about the High Court. He declared in Parliament that the High Court would not rule that his Nationals colleagues were ineligible. He was absolutely wrong. Egg on the face of Mr Turnbull.
And what about that One Nation guy?
Yep, Malcom Roberts continued to sit in the Senate as well, even though he was the most obviously ineligible. Roberts had UK citizenship and attempted to renounce it by sending an e-mail to an address that…whoops, didn’t exist.
Don’t worry. Malcom Roberts won’t go away. He announced he’s going to run for the Queensland election in One Nation’s stomping ground of Ipswich.
Back with the rest of the news on Friday.
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