Validity of Xenophon party now in spotlight
The validity of the Nick Xenophon Team could be open to challenge if the High Court finds the party founder was ineligible for the Senate when he registered it with the Australian Electoral Commission four years ago.
South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon applied to register the “Nick Xenophon Group” in May 2013 on the basis he was the only parliamentary member and received approval from the AEC on July 1.
The AEC makes clear a party can be registered by signing up at least 500 members listed on the Commonwealth electoral roll or by virtue of having at least one commonwealth MP who is a member of the party.
Senator Xenophon changed the name of his party to the “Nick Xenophon Team” in December 2014 and expanded his representation in parliament at the 2016 double dissolution with the election of two more senators, Stirling Griff and Skye KakoschkeMoore, as well as Rebekha Sharkie in the lower house.
If the High Court finds Senator Xenophon was wrongly elected to the Senate, some are raising questions about whether his party could be found to have been invalidly registered and, if so, whether the election of his party colleagues could be challenged.
Dean of law at the University of New South Wales, George Williams, said it was a “good pragmatic question” whether the elections of the three other members of the NXT team could be cast into doubt.
“There is a good logic that if he was ineligible to stand, then things flow from that. I think where it gets difficult is that the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, does tend to take a pragmatic approach to these sorts of questions,” Professor Williams said. “Someone could try and challenge. I just think it’s unlikely to succeed.”
Senator Xenophon told The Australian: “It is an entirely fanciful and speculative hypothesis. That interpretation of events is a stretch that even a yoga instructor wouldn’t contemplate.”
Senator Griff said that while the party was registered as a par-
‘That interpretation of events is a stretch that even a yoga instructor wouldn’t contemplate’ SENATOR NICK XENOPHON
liamentary party, it had over 700 supporter members. “Five hundred members is the number to qualify as a member party, so in my view we could rely on that if there was any challenge,” he said.
Federal secretary of the Democratic Labor Party, Stephen Campbell, has already asked the AEC for advice on the issue but was informed it was unable to comment on a matter before the High Court. “If Nick Xenophon loses eligibility and he was the reason for the NXT party gaining registration, are they an illegitimately registered party?” he said. “We want to know who is validly in parliament and who isn’t.”