With Feeney gone, Greens sniff a chance in Batman, and has Xenophon’s bubble burst in South Australia?



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Ged Kearney has been announced as Labor’s star candidate for the inner-Melbourne seat of Batman.
AAP/David Crosling

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

On February 1, Labor’s David Feeney resigned as the member for Batman, as he could not find proof that he had renounced his British citizenship. This will trigger a byelection in Batman, which Labor could lose to the Greens. In November 2017, Labor lost the Victorian state seat of Northcote to the Greens at a byelection.




Read more:
Contradictory polls in Queensland, while the Greens storm Northcote in Victoria


Victoria has 37 federal seats, and 88 lower house state seats, so federal seats have more than twice as many enrolled voters as state seats. Batman encompasses Northcote, but also includes northern suburbs away from the inner city, where Labor does relatively well and the Greens poorly.

The Poll Bludger’s booth map below shows the clear divide between north Batman (all red booths representing Labor two-party wins against the Greens in 2016) and south Batman (all but one booth Green). The state seat of Northcote is south Batman. Larger numbers on the map are booths where more people voted.

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During the 2016 election campaign, Feeney embarrassed Labor when it was revealed he had not declared a A$2.3 million house. Feeney narrowly held Batman by 51-49 against the Greens at the election, a 9.6-point swing to the Greens. Labor will hope the large swing reflected anti-Feeney sentiment, and that a fresh Labor candidate – former ACTU president Ged Kearney – can hold Batman.

At the 2016 election, the Liberals directed preferences to Feeney, enabling him to win after trailing the Greens on primary votes. The Liberals are very unlikely to field a candidate at the byelection, and this will help the Greens.

Kearney is already well-known and will have a personal vote. She is from Labor’s left faction, and will be a better fit with the electorate than the right-aligned Feeney. Alex Bhathal will be the Greens’ candidate; she also stood at the 2016 election.

Other Section 44 cases

In late 2017, Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie resigned owing to a dual citizenship. However, Lambie’s number-two candidate, Steve Martin, could also be disqualified, as he was the Devonport mayor at the 2016 election. The High Court has not yet ruled on whether a local government position violates Section 44(iv) of the Constitution, pertaining to public service employees.

If Martin is disqualified, her number three, Rob Waterman, also has problems. If none of Lambie’s ticket are eligible, One Nation’s Kate McCullogh would win the final Tasmanian Senate seat.

SA-BEST’s number four, Tim Storer, attempted to replace Nick Xenophon in the Senate, against his party’s wishes, when Xenophon resigned to contest the South Australian election. As a result, Storer was kicked out of the party.

However, SA-BEST senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore resigned in November as she had a dual citizenship. SA-BEST is arguing that Storer should not be allowed to replace Kakoschke-Moore as he is no longer in SA-BEST; it wants Kakoschke-Moore to replace herself.

Labor’s ACT senator, Katy Gallagher, renounced her British citizenship before nominations closed for the 2016 election, but she did not receive confirmation of renunciation until after nominations closed. If the High Court rules against Gallagher, at least three Labor lower house members, whose circumstances are similar to Gallagher, will probably have to resign.

Another issue is assignment to short and long Senate terms. At the beginning of this parliamentary term, following the double-dissolution election, senators were assigned to either short terms (expiring June 2019) or long terms (expiring June 2022). If a long-term senator is replaced by someone on the ticket who should only get a short term, it creates a fairness problem.

In late December, Liberal Jim Molan was declared elected to the Senate by the High Court to replace National Fiona Nash, who had a long term. Molan accepted a short term, and the number four on the joint New South Wales Coalition ticket, Liberal Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, will be promoted from a short term to a long term.

Molan won his seat from number seven on the Coalition ticket, after Nash’s original replacement, the moderate Liberal Hollie Hughes, was disqualified for taking up public service work following her failure in the 2016 election.

Bob Day’s replacement in Senate, Lucy Gichuhi, becomes a Liberal

In early 2017, before the citizenship crisis started, Family First senator Bob Day was declared ineligible to be elected by the High Court, and replaced by Family First’s South Australian number two, Lucy Gichuhi.

When Family First became part of Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives, Gichuhi did not join the new party, instead sitting as an independent. Yesterday, Gichuhi joined the Liberals.

This outcome gives the Coalition 30 of 76 Senate seats, making up for the loss of Bernardi. It is unlikely to have an impact on Senate votes, as Gichuhi voted with the Liberals a large proportion of the time.

While Gichuhi has a short Senate term, Bernardi has a long term, so he cannot be replaced until July 2022 barring a double dissolution.

ReachTEL South Australian poll: just 17.6% for Xenophon’s SA-BEST

The South Australian election will be held in six weeks, on March 17. A ReachTEL poll for the Climate Council, conducted on January 29 from a sample of 1,054, gave the Liberals 33.4% of the primary vote, Labor 26.1%, Nick Xenophon’s SA-BEST 17.6%, the Greens 5.5%, Others 9.1% and 8.3% were undecided.

If undecided were excluded, primary votes would be 36.4% Liberal, 28.5% Labor, 19.2% SA-BEST, 6.0% Greens and 9.9% others.

There has been no statewide South Australian ReachTEL poll since the 2014 state election. An October to December Newspoll gave SA-BEST 32%, ahead of both major parties. Galaxy polling conducted about three weeks ago gave SA-BEST primary vote leads in three seats it is contesting.




Read more:
Nick Xenophon could be South Australia’s next premier, while Turnbull loses his 25th successive Newspoll


If this ReachTEL poll is correct, there has been a dramatic fall in SA-BEST support in the fortnight from when the Galaxy polls were conducted to the ReachTEL. The major South Australian parties started to vigorously campaign against SA-BEST after the Galaxy polls had been conducted.

The ConversationI would like to see some more polls before concluding that Xenophon’s bubble has burst, but this ReachTEL is not at all good for him.

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Early byelection test for Shorten after David Feeney quits parliament


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor MP David Feeney has pre-empted a High Court decision on his citizenship, quitting parliament and triggering a byelection in the Victorian seat of Batman.

Labor fears it will lose the seat to the Greens in a contest that will be a major distraction for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in the early part of the year. In 2016, Feeney held Batman against the Greens only 51-49% in two-candidate terms after a big swing against him.

Feeney, whose position was referred to the High Court late last year, confirmed on Thursday that he still could not produce the paperwork to demonstrate he had renounced British citizenship, which he claimed to have done in 2007, ahead of entering the Senate. He won his house seat in 2013.

“I have taken legal advice indicating that the material that has been located to date is insufficient to satisfy the High Court that I did, indeed, renounce my rights ten years ago. I am unable to disprove that I am a dual citizen,” he said in a statement to a news conference in Melbourne, at which he did not take questions.

The court’s deadline for Feeney to produce documents was 4pm Thursday – just an hour after he announced his resignation.

Feeney is not recontesting the seat. “The Labor Party I love deserve a candidate that is able to give the months and the years ahead 150% of their effort, their commitment and their passion. … I don’t believe I’m able to offer this. That tells me that it’s time for me to stand aside for a Labor candidate that can and will,” he said.

Labor sources have said for weeks that he would not be the candidate in a by-election, believing he would further reduce the chance of holding the seat.

It is speculated that ACTU president Ged Kearney will be Labor’s candidate in the byelection. She had no comment on Thursday. Kearney is already preselected for the seat of Brunswick for the Victorian election later this year.

Kearney is left-aligned, and under Victorian factional arrangements Batman goes to the right. But to maximise its chances in the seat, the party needs to put up someone who will appeal to voters inclined to go to the Greens.

The Greens candidate in the byelection, which is likely to be held in March, is Alex Bhathal, a social worker, who has contested the seat several times before.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale told a news conference: “It stinks that [Feeney] has decided to resign right now. What has changed between the parliamentary year last year and his decision to resign at this time?

“Here we have David Feeney, who has known all along he hasn’t got the paperwork to demonstrate he did the right thing to make sure he’s not a dual citizen, sit on that, receive a salary. And now at a minute to midnight as he’s about to have to argue his case in court, he resigns.”

Di Natale said issues in the byelection would include the proposed Adani coal mine in Queensland, refugees, electoral and donation reform, and climate change.

He predicted a Labor shift on the Adani mine. “Expect to see a backflip coming soon because they know the electors of Batman don’t want to see that mine being built.” This week Shorten was cool on Adani when questioned at the National Press Club.

The Liberals are not planning to run in the seat.

Shorten said in a statement that Feeney’s “decision is the right one and spares the valuable time and resources of the High Court”.

“Labor will put forward a strong candidate at the upcoming Batman byelection, who’ll stand up for the things that matter to Australians: protecting penalty rates and local jobs, protecting Medicare and schools, keeping taxes lower for ordinary people, and building a strong economy that delivers for all,” Shorten said.

*Update: *
Late on Thursday afternoon, Shorten was having talks with Kearney in his office.

The Conversation

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: Bill Shorten faces a summer of uncertainty


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

It is not impossible that the Greens, who started the citizenship crisis with the resignation of then-senator Scott Ludlam, could end up winners from this fiasco that has cut a swathe through the parliament and threatens more havoc.

Wednesday’s reference to the High Court of Labor’s David Feeney, who holds the Melbourne seat of Batman, has certainly put a gleam in the Greens’ eyes.

Feeney hasn’t been able to produce the documentation to confirm the renunciation of British citizenship which he says he made a decade ago.

Unless the paperwork turns up or the High Court shows a leniency that hasn’t been in its nature recently, a byelection in Batman would give the Greens a big chance of installing a second MP to keep Adam Bandt company in the House of Representatives.

Bill Shorten is understandably livid about Feeney, who before the last election overlooked declaring a A$2.3 million house, only narrowly held off the Greens in his seat, and now, if he triggers a byelection, could reduce the opposition’s numbers. No wonder there’s speculation he’d be ditched as Labor’s candidate.

And Feeney’s rank carelessness, to describe it most charitably, comes on top of the recent new revelations about Labor senator Sam Dastyari’s conduct, showing how deeply the New South Wales numbers man has been in the thrall of the Chinese, in particular of a Chinese business benefactor.

It’s made for a very uncomfortable end to the parliamentary year for Shorten, who in previous months had most things breaking his way.

The citizenship crisis had taken a heavy toll on the government, with a minister and the Senate president gone from parliament, and the deputy prime minister and a Liberal backbencher forced to byelections.

To put things in perspective: yes, they all failed to do due diligence, but none of them compromised themselves in the way Dastyari did.

Now it’s Labor in the crosshairs. The situation of several of Shorten’s MPs – leaving aside the egregious case of Feeney – is problematic, and Shorten’s boast about Labor vetting processes is being seen as hubristic.

It will be months before Labor will know what damage the citizenship crisis might do to it.

It will be more contained if the High Court, when it considers the case of ACT senator Katy Gallagher who was also referred this week, accepts the ALP argument that an MP is constitutionally eligible provided they took reasonable steps to renounce foreign citizenship before nominating, even though confirmation didn’t come through by then.

If, however, the court were to find that the candidate needs the confirmation before they nominate, that could trigger byelections in three ALP seats (Braddon in Tasmania, Longman in Queensland and Fremantle in Western Australia) as well as in Mayo, held by crossbencher Rebekha Sharkie.

The Gallagher case will set a precedent for the other MPs with similar circumstances (although if Gallagher were knocked out her Senate position would be filled by a countback, not a byelection).

While byelection swings usually go against governments (Saturday’s result in New England notwithstanding), the thought of having to fight in the marginal seats of Longman and Braddon would make Labor nervous.

Even if it turned out that the only byelection were in Feeney’s seat, the strong prospect of a loss there would sour and distract Shorten’s new year.

Similarly, the extent of the fallout from the Dastyari affair is not yet clear.

There is no defence for Dastyari’s action in warning his Chinese benefactor that his phone was likely tapped, so they should talk outside. That was the core of the latest revelations, which came on top of earlier ones about Dastyari receiving financial largesse and toeing China’s policy line on the South China Sea.

But from Shorten’s point of view, dealing with the Dastyari issue is fraught.

All Shorten has done this time is strip him of what minor responsibilities he had.

It’s fanciful to think Shorten would ever contemplate trying to throw him out of the Labor Party, which would mean taking on the NSW right, and would reduce Labor’s Senate numbers.

But while Dastyari stays, Shorten is open to Coalition attacks and hostage to anything further that may come out – just when the government is cracking down on attempts by foreign interests to influence Australian politics. Dastyari might face an inquiry by the Senate privileges committee.

It would be a gift for Shorten if Dastyari were to decide rehabilitation is too long a road and he should look for other career opportunities.

The problems that Shorten currently faces highlight certain weaknesses that his critics identify in his political approach.

The citizenship issue shows the way he plays the tactical game relentlessly, with insufficient appreciation of how things can come back to bite you.

Of course Labor would make the most of the government’s embarrassment over its dual citizens, but Shorten left himself little wriggle room when he insisted for so long Labor was fireproofed, despite warning signs it mightn’t be.

When its vulnerability was exposed this week, Shorten doubled down. After all MPs’ declarations became public, Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus produced a list of Coalition members who Labor said hadn’t supplied enough evidence that they were not dual citizens. One was Josh Frydenberg, whose mother had been fleeing persecution. Frydenberg’s inclusion in the Dreyfus list brought rebukes from two Labor MPs.

This was followed by Labor’s unsuccessful attempt to refer four Liberals (not including Frydenberg) to the High Court, as well as four of its own and Sharkie.

The move on the Liberals looked like seeking cover, especially when one of them, Nola Marino, produced a letter from Italian authorities saying she did not have Italian citizenship.

Surely it is adequate to rely on a country’s word that someone is not a citizen? Certainly Labor’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek is using a letter from Slovenian authorities.

The Dastyari affair raises questions about how far Shorten is willing to go for those who are politically important to him.

Dastyari had to leave the front bench after the initial revelations about his Chinese links.

But within months he was given a partial leg up, becoming deputy opposition whip in the Senate. This seemed undue haste, and it raises concerns about Shorten appearing beholden to his allies. We see another example in his refusal to take a tougher line towards the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

Despite the setbacks, Shorten is still very well-placed, compared with Turnbull, as the end of 2017 approaches, although the December 16 Bennelong byelection will play into this balance.

The ConversationNevertheless, it is Shorten, rather than Turnbull, who appears to face the bigger uncertainties in the early part of 2018.

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

High Court to rule on two Labor MPs, but partisan row protects others


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

A batch of MPs escaped being sent to the High Court on Wednesday thanks to a stalemate between the government and the opposition over who should be referred.

But the eligibility of two Labor MPs will be considered by the court – Victorian David Feeney and ACT senator Katy Gallagher.

The opposition failed in an attempt to get a “job lot” of MPs referred that included four Liberals, four from the ALP, and the Nick Xenophon Team’s Rebekha Sharkie.

The ALP motion was supported by all five crossbenchers, resulting in a tied vote of 73-73. The Speaker, Tony Smith, acting in line with parliamentary convention, used his casting vote to defeat the motion.

The government, insisting that none of its MPs should be referred, wanted the members considered individually.

But crossbenchers rejected that argument, seeing it as the government being partisan.

The government said it would continue to talk to the crossbenchers overnight but they are not likely to be swayed before parliament rises this week for the summer recess.

The Labor MPs in the opposition motion were Justine Keay, Josh Wilson, Susan Lamb and Feeney.

The case of Gallagher – who took action to renounce her British citizenship but did not get registration of her renunciation before she nominated for the 2016 election – should provide guidance in relation to the three other Labor MPs and Sharkie, who have similar circumstances.

Labor argues that those who had taken reasonable steps to renounce but did not receive their confirmations in time (or, in Lamb’s case, at all) are eligible.

Feeney is in a different category from the other Labor MPs – he has not been able to provide evidence that he renounced his British citizenship in 2007, as he says he did. He was referred after the job-lot motion’s defeat.

Both Gallagher and Feeney accepted they should be referred. Gallagher, while maintaining her eligibility, told the Senate she was standing aside from her frontbench positions and had asked to be referred to the court, saying her opponents would continue to use the issue.

Labor said the four Liberals – Jason Falinski, Julia Banks, Nola Marino and Alex Hawke – had not provided adequate documentation of their eligibility.

In the run up to the vote, Marino released advice from the Italian consulate saying she was not an Italian citizen.

Falinski produced advice saying that he was not a citizen of the UK, Poland, Russia or Kyrgyzstan. But the letter to Falinski was dated Wednesday and the law firm, Arnold Bloch Leibler, said that “as previously discussed, we cannot conclusively advise on foreign law and recommend that you seek independent advice from foreign law experts”.

The crossbenchers were lobbied hard over the motion, including on the floor of the chamber, by both the opposition and the government.

Labor made an unsuccessful attempt to get its motion dealt with before Barnaby Joyce, who has just faced a byelection after the High Court declared him ineligible to sit, returned to the lower house.

Labor had a temporary majority but did not have enough time. Joyce was sworn in at 1.15pm and his presence in the subsequent debate meant the numbers were tied.

Moving the motion, Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke said: “The only appropriate way for us to deal with this is to make sure that, wherever there has been serious doubt across the chamber, the High Court becomes the decision-maker rather than the numbers on the floor of this house”.

Arguing for a case-by-case approach, Malcolm Turnbull said that Labor “with not a principle in sight, with not a skerrick of evidence … wants to send members of the House to the High Court … without making any case that they are, in fact, dual citizens”.

The Greens’ Adam Bandt said the approach must be “even-handed and non-partisan”. “We think there should be an agreed set of names that go forward from this house.”

Sharkie, appealing for unity, said: “We will hang individually if we don’t hang together”.

Crossbencher Bob Katter told the parliament that none of the MPs should be sent to the High Court.

Labor leader Bill Shorten revealed that he had known for just over a week that Feeney didn’t have the required documents.

“I informed him that he needed to tell the parliament what was happening, and I made it clear to him that there was a deadline of disclosure,” Shorten told reporters.

Feeney has said he is still trying to have the British authorities find documentation that he renounced UK citizenship.

If Feeney is disqualified, Labor would be at risk of losing his seat of Batman to the Greens. There is doubt over whether he would be the candidate in a byelection.

Shorten did not disguise how angry he is with Feeney. “I am deeply frustrated – that’s a polite way of putting it – that one of my 100 MPs can’t find some of the documents which, to be fair to him, [he] says exist and says he actioned,” Shorten said.

He admitted that if he had been aware of Feeney’s situation he would not have been so definite in his repeated confident statements about the eligibility of all his MPs.

The ConversationLabor was divided internally over whether it should pursue Josh Frydenberg, whose mother came to Australia stateless: the Burke motion did not include him. The ALP is also not at this point pursuing another of those it has named, Arthur Sinodinos, who is away on sick leave.

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

New blow for Labor as David Feeney hits citizenship hurdle


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor has been dealt a further blow in the citizenship crisis, with Victorian MP David Feeney flagging his status is likely to go to the High Court because evidence cannot be found that he has renounced his British citizenship.

This follows confirmation on Monday by Labor senator Katy Gallagher that she was still a British citizen when she nominated for last year’s election, although she had taken steps to renounce.

If Feeney were found ineligible, Labor would be at high risk of losing his Melbourne seat of Batman to the Greens.

Last year Feeney beat Greens candidate Alex Bhathal by a whisker; the two-candidate vote was 51-49%. The Greens won the recent byelection for the state seat of Northcote, which is within Feeney’s electorate.

At the crossbench Christmas party in Parliament House, the Greens had a toast to Batman.

As the declarations of House of Representatives MPs were posted online, Feeney told parliament that while in 2007 he had signed documents to renounce any citizenship rights he might have inherited from his father – who was born in Northern Ireland – the British authorities could not locate his notice of renunciation. He had been informed they did not keep records for such a long period.

He said he still had inquiries outstanding with the UK, and had also sought past bank records to determine whether he had made a payment that was processed by the UK Home Office at the time.

While “to the best of my memory from a decade ago” he had sent the paperwork to both the UK and Ireland, and could confirm he was not an Irish citizen, “I accept that I have been unable to produce the requisite notice of renunciation with the respect to the United Kingdom”, he said.

“I remain hopeful that continuing searches of the UK records and archives will clarify this issue in my favour. Nevertheless, I accept that at this moment my status as a citizen in UK law remains unclear. On that basis, if I have still been unable to locate the relevant documents by the time this issue is dealt with by the House of Representatives, I will be asking the manager of opposition business to refer this matter to the High Court,” he said.

Feeney caused Labor embarrassment before the last election when it was revealed he failed to declare a house he owned worth more than A$2 million.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann accused Opposition Leader Bill Shorten of concealing Feeney’s position.

“You’ve got to assume that Bill Shorten has known for some time that David Feeney had this problem and really it just completely exposes his dishonesty and his hypocrisy when it comes to this issue,” Cormann said on Sky.

Feeney recently deleted a tweet in which he had said: “Noticed how the Turnbull govt has strangely stopped mocking the Greens Party for incompetence and sloppiness?”

The citizenship declarations confirm that Labor MPs Josh Wilson and Justine Keay had not had their renunciations of British citizenship registered by the time of nomination. Another Labor MP, Susan Lamb, had tried to renounce, but the UK said it was not satisfied she held British citizenship.

The Nick Xenophon Team’s Rebekha Sharkie did not receive her confirmation of renunciation in time.

The government and Labor are now in talks about referrals to the High Court. Referrals will be made before parliament rises later this week.

Labor, thrown on the back foot in the ongoing crisis, lashed out at the government with Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus claiming Malcolm Turnbull was “covering up” for as many as seven government MPs who could have constitutional problems. These MPs had not provided the needed evidence to prove they weren’t dual citizens, he said.

Dreyfus’ list included:

  • Jason Falinski, who said he made inquiries from the Polish consulate and had legal advice but had not provided it.

  • Josh Frydenberg, who said he had received Hungarian, Polish and Australian legal advice but hadn’t produced it.

  • Nola Marino, who said she had legal advice to show she was not Italian but did not provide it.

  • Julia Banks, Alex Hawke, Michael McCormack and Arthur Sinodinos, who all had “an unconvincing letter” from the Greek embassy and “refuse to provide legal advice”.

“The Liberal and National MPs who have not been forthcoming with all available evidence must either seek to update their incomplete disclosures as soon as possible, or refer their eligibility to the High Court,” Dreyfus said.

Falinski rejected the demand to produce legal advice saying to do so would “pierce legal and professional privilege” and others hadn’t done so. He accused Dreyfus of playing “base politics to obscure the truth”.

Update

The ConversationOn Wednesday morning Gallagher announced to the Senate that she had asked for her eligibility to be referred to the High Court. She said she was standing aside from her portfolio responsibilities within the shadow cabinet and her role as manager of opposition business in the Senate until her case was resolved. She insisted she was eligible to sit in the Senate but said it was clear the government had decided she should be referred and her political opponents would continue to use the issue.

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.