Lib­eral Hol­lie Hughes in­el­i­gi­ble to re­place Fiona Nash in Se­nate

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Gareth Hutchens

Lib­eral party mem­ber Hol­lie Hughes is in­el­i­gi­ble to re­place the Na­tional party’s Fiona Nash in the Se­nate, ac­cord­ing to a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion by the high court.

Hughes held the sixth spot on the Coali­tion Se­nate ticket at the 2016 elec­tion, and was tipped to re­place Nash af­ter the high court found Nash was in­el­i­gi­ble be­cause she held Bri­tish cit­i­zen­ship by de­scent from her Scot­tish-born fa­ther.

But the high court on Wed­nes­day found Hughes was in­el­i­gi­ble to re­place Nash. It dis­missed the sum­mons to have Hughes de­clared a sen­a­tor as Nash’s re­place­ment, with rea­sons to be de­liv­ered at a later date.

The court said the com­mon­wealth should pay Hughes’s le­gal costs.

Ques­tions had been raised about Hughes’s el­i­gi­bil­ity be­cause she was ap­pointed by Ge­orge Bran­dis to the ad­min­is­tra­tive ap­peals tri­bunal in June this year af­ter she missed out on a Se­nate seat at the 2016 elec­tion. Sec­tion 44(iv) of the con­sti­tu­tion dis­qual­i­fies any­one who holds an of­fice of profit un­der the crown from elec­tion.

Con­sti­tu­tional ex­perts had sug­gested Hughes could be dis­qual­i­fied be­cause of a high court au­thor­ity that the elec­tion pe­riod stretches from the nom­i­na­tion date to the date a seat is validly filled, which in­cluded Hughes’s time on the AAT dur­ing the pe­riod Nash was in­el­i­gi­ble.

Hughes had re­signed from her AAT po­si­tion af­ter the high court dis­qual­i­fied Nash so she could be el­i­gi­ble to re­place Nash.

The New South Wales Lib­eral party has is­sued a state­ment say­ing it re­spects the de­ci­sion of the high court, which was sit­ting as the court of dis­puted re­turns, and will closely ex­am­ine the de­ci­sion when it be­comes avail­able.

“We com­mend Hol­lie Hughes for the proac­tive and trans­par­ent ap­proach she had taken, seek­ing the clar­i­fi­ca­tion of her sta­tus from the high court,” it said. “The party will now await fur­ther di­rec­tion from the high court.”

The court heard on Wed­nes­day that the new Greens sen­a­tor An­drew Bartlett, who re­placed Larissa Waters in the Se­nate this week, still had a cloud hang­ing over his el­i­gi­bil­ity.

Prof Ge­orge Wil­liams, who had pre­vi­ously warned Hughes could face dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion, has also warned Bartlett could face a po­ten­tial chal­lenge for hav­ing worked for the Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity while nom­i­nated for the Se­nate.

The high court is yet to con­sider whether univer­sity em­ploy­ment is con­sid­ered as re­ceiv­ing profit from an of­fice un­der the crown.

Bartlett has pre­vi­ously ad­dressed the is­sue of his po­ten­tial chal­lenge by re­fer­ring to le­gal ad­vice ob­tained by the Greens that did not see univer­sity work as an is­sue.

On Wed­nes­day the so­lic­i­tor gen­eral, Stephen Don­aghue, said Bartlett’s po­si­tion had not ac­tu­ally been

tested and the Se­nate might have to so. re­fer Bartlett to the high court to do

Pho­to­graph: Lib­eral Party

Hol­lie Hughes has been found in­el­i­gi­ble to re­place Fiona Nash in the Aus­tralian Se­nate.

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