ALP ‘hitting dogs when they’re down’
‘I’m free to learn from everybody … without that (restriction) of a party structure’ LUCY GICHUHI INDEPENDENT SENATOR
Accidental senator Lucy Gichuhi has hit out at Labor for its treatment of politicians caught up in the dual citizenship fiasco, saying “You don’t hit a dog when it’s down”.
The Kenyan-born crossbench MP, whose citizenship status was unsuccessfully challenged by Labor this year, said she “didn’t like” the opposition’s question time tactics targeting Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Nationals deputy leader Fiona Nash.
Mr Joyce and Senator Nash are among seven MPs who could be disqualified from federal parliament under section 44(i) of the Constitution, which prohibits dual citizens.
“We need to be gentle when we are dealing with our colleagues and at the same time let them face the full interpretation of section 44,” Senator Gichuhi said. “That is why I’ve said to my colleagues in Labor: ‘You don’t hit a dog when it’s down.’
“It’s the one time we need to be human. This is somebody’s life that has just come to a halt. We need to understand and show them courtesy. However, the members should do the right thing and follow through with the High Court.”
Labor has demanded Mr Joyce and Senator Nash stand down from cabinet amid concerns their ministerial decisions may be open to legal challenge, pending the High Court’s ruling, and set a record for suspending standing orders in the lower house to create a sense of chaos and confusion.
Reflecting on her own High Court experience, Senator Gichuhi said she had not only faced questions over Kenyan citizenship but was also told she might be British because Kenya was a British colony until 1963 — a year after she was born.
“That was the first time I heard I could be a potential Briton,” she said.
Labor’s push to challenge Senator Gichuhi’s eligibility to sit in parliament was dismissed and she was declared the replacement senator in April for Family First MP Bob Day, who lost his seat for holding an indirect pecuniary interest with the commonwealth.
As she prepares to mark five months as a senator tomorrow, Senator Gichuhi said her decision to go it alone as an independent MP after Family First joined with Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives party was “the best thing that could have happened”.
“When it happened, I was terrified, I didn’t know what to do. I kept saying ‘Stand still, be still, it will be OK, next step’,” she said.
“It has placed me in this situation where I’m free to learn from everybody … without that (restriction) of a party structure.”
The former lawyer and accountant, who earns $200,000 a year as a senator and says she will run at the next election, did not rule out forming an alliance with other crossbenchers such as Senator Bernardi or Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm.
“If it will happen, depends, I don’t have a timeframe,” Senator Gichuhi said.
“Invitations to alliances have come from all the parties.”
Senator Gichuhi concedes she has kept under the radar while she “sits back and watches” how the parliament works and gets to know her colleagues. “That takes a bit of observing, getting to have a bit of a relationship with them, before I can really come out blowing the horn,” she said.
‘We need to be gentle when we are dealing with our colleagues,’ says independent senator Lucy Gichuhi