Two Libs set to en­ter Sen­ate if Nats pair fall

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - ROSIE LEWIS

The Na­tion­als could lose a cabi­net po­si­tion and an as­sis­tant min­is­ter if deputy leader Fiona Nash and se­na­tor Matthew Cana­van are found in­el­i­gi­ble to sit in par­lia­ment, with two Lib­er­als set to re­place them.

The Week­end Aus­tralian un­der­stands for­mer Lib­eral se­na­tor Joanna Lindgren, the LNP’s No 6 can­di­date at the 2016 elec­tion and next in line to take Se­na­tor Cana­van’s seat, wants to sit in the Lib­eral par­ty­room.

“Her pref­er­ence and heart lies with the Lib­er­als,” a party mem­ber said. “She can’t pre­tend she’s a Na­tional.”

There are sug­ges­tions Ms Lindgren could be di­rected to sit in the Na­tion­als par­ty­room to keep the bal­ance of Lib­eral and Na­tion­als sen­a­tors in Queens­land but a se­nior Na­tion­als source con­ceded yes­ter­day there would be “a lot of re­sis­tance” to the move.

The no­tion of telling a se­na­tor which par­ty­room to sit in would also go against the Lib­er­als’ be­lief in in­di­vid­ual free­dom.

“There’s a view among the ru­ral Libs gen­er­ally the Nats have got them­selves into this mess, they can’t ex­pect us to get them out of it,” an MP said.

Ms Lindgren and Lib­eral can­di­date Hol­lie Hughes are the likely re­place­ments for the Na­tion­als sen­a­tors, which would see the ju­nior Coali­tion party’s fed­eral rep­re­sen­ta­tion fall from 22 to 20 MPs.

Coun­try Lib­er­als are pre­par­ing to ramp up their push for rep­re­sen­ta­tion in cabi­net, amid ex­pec­ta­tions any re­duc­tion in Na­tion­als MPs would only bol­ster their chances.

If un­der the worst-case sce­nario for the govern­ment the High Court finds Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Barn­aby Joyce and sen­a­tors Cana­van and Nash were dual ci­ti­zens at the 2016 elec­tion and should be dis­qual­i­fied, it is likely a by-elec­tion will be held in Mr Joyce’s seat of New Eng­land while spe­cial re­counts would be or­dered for the Sen­ate spots.

As­sum­ing Mr Joyce wins the by-elec­tion, which the govern­ment will want held by Christ­mas, the Na­tion­als should get one less spot in cabi­net and one less spot in the as­sis­tant min­istry un­der the Coali­tion’s quota sys­tem.

Malcolm Turn­bull could ne­go­ti­ate a new agree­ment with the Na­tion­als leader ahead of a reshuf­fle, ex­pected in De­cem­ber, to keep ex­ist­ing ar­range­ments in place.

There are cur­rently five cabi­net spots for the Na­tion­als, one in the outer min­istry and three in the as­sis­tant min­istry. There are also sug­ges­tions within the govern­ment that At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Ge­orge Bran­dis could re­tire from fed­eral pol­i­tics to be­come Aus­tralia’s next high com­mis­sioner to Bri­tain, leav­ing a ca­sual va­cancy that could be filled by Se­na­tor Cana­van.



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