Nat may face court test over retail centre deal
The High Court “cannot decide” if Nationals MP David Gillespie has fallen foul of the Constitution because he has not been referred by federal parliament, Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue says.
Peter Alley, who ran against Dr Gillespie for Labor in the NSW seat of Lyne, filed the application under the Common Informers Act in July, arguing the MP holds an indirect pecuniary interest in an agreement with the commonwealth.
Dr Gillespie is facing questions over his eligibility to sit in parliament under section 44 of the Constitution, the same section that triggered the dual citizenship crisis.
His case has attracted little attention amid the dual citizenship fiasco, but he faces his first test next month when the full bench of the High Court is asked to decide whether it can rule on the matter.
In written submissions Dr Gillespie and Dr Donaghue, representing Attorney-General George Brandis, argue the case should not be heard because the court is in- capable of deciding whether a member of the House of Representatives is disqualified under the Common Informers Act.
Dr Gillespie’s family company owns a small shopping centre in Port Macquarie, and a tenant has a licensing deal with Australia Post, a government-owned business.
Under section 44, a person who has “any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the public service of the commonwealth otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members of an incorporated company consisting of more than 25 persons” is incapable of being chosen to sit in parliament.
University of Sydney constitutional law student Georgia Allen, who is taught by constitutional lawyer Anne Twomey, said on the university’s “Constitutional Critique” blog that Mr Alley’s case “may well fall at the first hurdle’’ if it could not be shown Australia Post was part of the public service.
Dr Gillespie argues in his submission that any petition against a member’s election must be resolved within 40 days after polling.