Va­lid­ity of Xenophon party now in spot­light

The Australian - - THE NATION - JOE KELLY

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.”

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