Op­po­si­tion party fumes; 2 Aus­tralia min­is­ters ex­pelled

Kuwait Times - - International -

SYD­NEY: Aus­tralia’s main La­bor op­po­si­tion party said yes­ter­day it was con­sid­er­ing a le­gal chal­lenge to more than 100 de­ci­sions made by Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull’s con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment, after two of his cabi­net min­is­ters were ex­pelled from par­lia­ment. Among the par­lia­men­tary votes in ques­tion was the gov­ern­ment’s de­feat of a pro­posed wide-rang­ing in­quiry into Aus­tralia’s scan­dal-hit bank­ing sec­tor. A pow­er­ful in­quiry into Aus­tralia’s banks, which are un­der fire after scams in­volv­ing money-laun­der­ing, mis­lead­ing fi­nan­cial ad­vice, in­sur­ance fraud and in­ter­est-rate rig­ging, was ap­proved by the up­per house Se­nate this year, but fell one vote short of pass­ing the lower house.

The gov­ern­ment lost its one-seat lower house ma­jor­ity on Fri­day when a court ruled Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Barn­aby Joyce was in­el­i­gi­ble to sit in par­lia­ment as he had held dual ci­ti­zen­ship when elected, in con­tra­dic­tion to the con­sti­tu­tion. For­mer cabi­net col­league Fiona Nash, along with three other politi­cians, were also ex­pelled. The rul­ing has cast doubt over the va­lid­ity of par­lia­men­tary votes Joyce and Nash have cast, said Tanya Plibersek, act­ing leader of the Aus­tralian La­bor Party. “We’re go­ing to look at all of our op­tions,” Plibersek said yes­ter­day in an in­ter­view with Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion ra­dio. “We are very con­cerned about the fact that Barn­aby Joyce has been vot­ing at a time when he shouldn’t have been in the Fed­eral Par­lia­ment and we nar­rowly lost votes be­cause of that.” Joyce has said many of those de­ci­sions were made by cabi­net col­lec­tively rather than him­self per­son­ally and so ought to re­main valid. Plibersek said le­gal chal­lenges could be mounted by any­one ag­grieved by the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sions.

She flagged chal­leng­ing a nar­rowly-won vote that cut Sun­day pay rates for some work­ers, as well as de­ci­sions taken by Joyce and Nash in their ca­pac­ity as min­is­ters. That in­cludes a de­ci­sion to re­lo­cate a gov­ern­ment depart­ment head­quar­ters to Joyce’s elec­torate and de­ci­sions on wa­ter-rights al­lo­ca­tion and the roll­out of a national fast-in­ter­net scheme. Con­sti­tu­tional law aca­demic Ge­orge Wil­liams said the is­sue was not so clear cut. “It’s cer­tainly un­charted wa­ters,” said Wil­liams, Dean of Law at the Univer­sity of New South Wales.

The court would “look very care­fully” in par­tic­u­lar at de­ci­sions taken since Au­gust, when Joyce and Nash re­al­ized they may be dual na­tion­als. “It’s not clear what the re­sult would be,” he said. The Aus­tralian con­sti­tu­tion bars politi­cians with dual ci­ti­zen­ship from be­ing elected to the national par­lia­ment. Both Joyce and Nash said they were not aware they held dual ci­ti­zen­ship and have since re­nounced their New Zealand and Bri­tish cit­i­zen­ships, re­spec­tively. Turn­bull’s mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment now re­lies on three in­de­pen­dent law­mak­ers to re­main in of­fice. Joyce is ex­pected to win a by-elec­tion for his seat on Dec 2, which would re­store the gov­ern­ment’s one­seat ma­jor­ity.—

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