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