To the High Court we go: six MPs under clouds in decisions that could undermine the government



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Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is one of five MPs caught out in the ban in dual citizens holding seats.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Graeme Orr, The University of Queensland

Two green bottles and up to four blue ones. Falling from the parliamentary wall, unless the High Court saves them from the rules about MP qualifications. The six are now-resigned Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, fellow upper house members Matt Canavan (LNP) and Malcolm Roberts (One Nation), and two government members of the lower house, Barnaby Joyce and David Gillespie (both Nationals).

At least that’s the latest count, as of Monday’s referral of Joyce to the court. I hesitate to file this piece lest the number rise again today.

What happens now?

First, a word on process. Gillespie’s case is different from the others, in two ways. He is not a dual citizen but faces claims about his “pecuniary interest” in a shop sub-leased to Australia Post. This is the constitutional rule that knocked out Family First senator Bob Day in April.

Also, Gillespie is being sued by his former Labor Party rival, acting as a “common informer” – a fancy term for an officious bystander who sues to enforce the law.

This avenue to challenge an MP has not been used before. It’s not entirely clear the court has power to declare Gillespie “not duly elected”. (As opposed to exacting a penalty from an MP, in the princely sum of A$200, for any day they sat while under a disqualification.)

The other five – facing dual citizenship claims – are not being sued at all. Rather, parliament has referred their positions to the court. A few things flow from that, aside from the Commonwealth almost certainly having to cover their legal costs.

One is that there is no belligerent plaintiff to argue against, say, Joyce. There will just be the solicitor-general, putting legal arguments for the Commonwealth, plus lawyers for whichever of the other four MPs or their parties choose to be represented.

Yet Joyce, Canavan and Roberts share a desire to convince the High Court that they are legitimate, arguing on related grounds that it might be unfair to unseat them.

Another is that while the election is long over, the High Court says it can undo an election on a reference from parliament. This is due to a quirky, 30-year-old ruling. I say quirky because, for more than a century, there’s been an absolutely strict time limit for challenging elections.

With electoral fraud, unlawful campaigning, or electoral commission stuff-up, a court case must begin within 40 days of the election. Yet the High Court says it can undo election results, long afterwards, over qualifications issues.

What will the MPs argue?

We must await the arguments, but it seems that Joyce, Canavan and Roberts will argue that they either took reasonable steps to renounce (Roberts) or that it was unreasonable to expect them to have known of their dual citizenship (Joyce and Canavan). In a 1992 case, the High Court softened the law against dual citizenship to allow a defence of “reasonable steps” of renunciation.

Roberts was born in India (after partition) to a Welsh father. He took some steps – three emails in one day on the eve of nominating, apparently – to renounce his UK inheritance. Was that enough, given the UK has a set application form and fee for renunciation? Roberts, some time after the election, received notice that his UK citizenship was expunged.

Canavan, Australian-born, asserts that his mother took out Italian citizenship on his behalf, without his knowledge.

Similarly, Joyce, also Australian-born, says he was blindsided to learn he had New Zealand citizenship via his NZ-born father. They want the court to inject a subjective element – actual or constructive knowledge of dual nationality – to avoid a finding that taking no steps to renounce does not meet the idea of “reasonable steps”.

It’s possible Joyce will also argue the details of NZ law. For example, whether it automatically bestowed citizenship on him, or whether he was merely guaranteed it if he applied to activate it.

The Greens pair, by resigning, seemed to admit they were disqualified. But MPs cannot declare themselves improperly elected. Only the court can do that.

Ludlam (New Zealand) and Waters (Canada) were each born overseas, but to Australian parents. They left their birth countries at the tender ages of three years and 11 months respectively.

At least in Waters’ case, her family lore (not law) was that her nationalisation as an Australian toddler terminated any Canadian status. In some countries, you lose your birth citizenship when you take out another nationality. This was the law in Australia until recently.

The logic of the Greens’ political position is to have their two Senate seats filled ASAP. Yet, in substance, their pair are hardly more blameworthy than the other MPs, who seek to fight on. They have hemmed themselves in, however, by resigning.

If the court found their disqualifications were OK, the Greens could reappoint them or any other Greens member, under the old rule for filling a “casual vacancy”.

Finally, to legal consequences. If a senator is declared “unduly elected”, the Australian Electoral Commission conducts a recount. Invariably, the next candidate in the party’s original electoral ticket inherits the seat.

That windfall beneficiary can keep it, or the party could cajole them to resign in favour of … the unelected MP. Because all of these MPs, with sufficient paperwork and knowledge, can fix up their qualifications.

Roberts and Waters say they’ve done that. Joyce and doubtless Canavan have that in train.

In a lower house seat, however, a recount would be crazy. The seat would go to the rival major party, robbing the electorate. Instead, the court effectively triggers a byelection.

In a worst-case scenario for Joyce (or Gillespie), he would recontest that fresh election. A lot would be at stake in New England (or Port Macquarie). But it’s hard to see the electors there treating now-ex-Kiwi Joyce as a fifth columnist.

The law is an unnecessary mess

All this is a law professor’s picnic.

Section 44, as it applies to elections, detracts from, rather than adds to, democracy. Its technicalities are a thicket, catching many a candidate. It sits oddly in a Constitution that never guaranteed a right to vote, leaving that small matter to the national parliament.

It’s time for reform. We inherited the dual citizenship rule, an old rule about fealty to one Crown, from our English forebears.

The ConversationThe founders struck it in stone in the Constitution. Yet state parliaments are fine with dual citizens being elected. So too is New Zealand. And, funnily enough, so nowadays is the UK.

Graeme Orr, Professor of Law, The University of Queensland

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

Newspoll 53-47 to Labor, but respondent preferences better for Coalition


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted Thursday to Sunday from a sample of 1680, gave Labor its fifth consecutive 53-47 lead. Primary votes were 37% Labor (up 1 since last fortnight’s Newspoll), 36% Coalition (up 1), 9% Greens (down 1) and 9% One Nation (down 2). This is the Coalition’s 16th consecutive Newspoll loss with Turnbull as PM.

34% were satisfied with Turnbull’s performance (up 2) and 54% were dissatisfied (down 2), for a net approval of -20, up four points. Shorten’s net approval was unchanged at -20.

The biggest political news last week was Peter Dutton’s appointment to head the new home affairs “super ministry”. Turnbull’s ratings and the Coalition’s primary vote may have improved as a result of the hard right’s approval of Dutton. Progressives detest Dutton, but people who do not follow politics are unlikely to have formed an opinion of Dutton yet. Turnbull has already lost politically engaged progressives.

Essential this week found strong approval of the new super ministry, but concern that Dutton was responsible for the various security services.

The Greens have lost one point, but can consider themselves fortunate not to have lost more after a shocking five days in which Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters resigned from the Senate after finding they had unwittingly violated Section 44 of the Constitution.

Resources minister Matt Canavan today became the latest victim of the dual citizenship fiasco. He has resigned from Cabinet, but not yet from the Senate, after finding he has Italian citizenship. If the courts rule him out, Canavan will be replaced by Joanna Lindgren, the No. 6 on the Queensland LNP ticket.

While Labor has comfortably led in all Newspolls since the beginning of the year, Newspoll uses the previous election method to distribute preferences. Respondent allocated polling from ReachTEL shows a reduction in Labor’s lead. It is likely that most hard right voters who have deserted the Coalition will return after preferences.

At the 2016 election, One Nation preferences split nearly 50-50 between the major parties. As some of the hard right has defected to One Nation, its preferences will probably be more favourable to the Coalition at the next election, provided that Turnbull is still PM.

This week’s additional Newspoll questions concerned Tony Abbott. By 58-23, voters thought Turnbull had the best leadership credentials compared with Abbott. Coalition voters backed Turnbull by 69-23, with Abbott ahead 44-34 only with One Nation voters.

48% thought Abbott should remain a backbencher and shut up, 23% thought he should be given a senior Cabinet position, and 17% thought Abbott should remain a backbencher but not shut up.

ReachTEL: 51-49 to Labor

A Sky News ReachTEL poll, conducted 19 July from a sample presumably about 2300, gave Labor a narrow 51-49 lead, a one point gain for the Coalition since the previous Sky News ReachTEL, in late June.

The primary vote figures included 9% “undecided”, but ReachTEL asks these people which way they are leaning. However, the preferences of these leaners were not included. If these 9% undecided are excluded, primary votes are 37% Labor, 36% Coalition, 12% One Nation and 9% Greens. Applying 2016 preference flows would give a 53-47 Labor lead. The Coalition is benefiting from respondent allocated preferences, hence the narrower headline Labor lead.

Turnbull led Shorten by 54.5-45.5 as preferred PM, up from 54-46. Better PM polling without a forced choice favours incumbents, and a forced choice usually gives opposition leaders a better result.

In other findings, 75% favoured renewable energy over coal. 56% nominated power and gas prices as the biggest cost of living expenses, with other expenses at 16% or below. 47% supported a Constitutional change to create an indigenous advisory body, with 29% opposed.

Essential: 53-47 to Labor

This week’s Essential had the Coalition regaining the point they lost a fortnight ago, for a 53-47 Labor lead. Primary votes were 38% Coalition, 37% Labor, 10% Greens, 7% One Nation and 4% Nick Xenophon Team; the Coalition has gained two points since last fortnight. Essential used a two-week sample of 1800; additional questions are based on one week’s sample.

56% approved of the new national security ministry, and just 18% disapproved. 45% thought it would strengthen Australia’s national security, 28% thought it would make little difference and just 8% thought our national security would be weakened. 45% were concerned that Dutton would have responsibility for the various security services, and 35% were not concerned.

By 64-10, voters supported a clean energy target, requiring a set percentage of energy to be generated from clean sources. By 54-15, voters supported an emissions intensity scheme, where pollution over a certain level is taxed.

40% said they were connected to the National Broadband Network either at home or work. Of those who had an NBN connection, 48% thought it was better than their previous Internet service, and 22% thought it was worse.

Tasmanian ReachTEL: 43.0% Liberal, 32.9% Labor, 13.4% Greens

A Taxmanian ReachTEL poll, conducted 21 July from a sample of 2820, gave the Liberals 43.0% (down 8.2 points since the 2014 election), Labor 32.9% (up 5.6) and the Greens 13.4% (down 0.4). The next Tasmanian election is likely to be held in March 2018.

Tasmania uses the Hare Clark system with five 5-member electorates. In 2014 the Liberals won 15 of the 25 seats, to 7 for Labor and 3 for the Greens. The Liberals won 4 seats in Braddon, 2 in Denison and 3 in Bass, Franklin and Lyons. On current polling, the Liberals are likely to lose a seat in both Braddon and Franklin, and the final seat in Lyons will decide whether the Liberals cling to a majority.

After adjustment for bias towards the Greens and against Labor, Kevin Bonham interprets this poll as 43.0% Liberal, 36.7% Labor and 10.7% Greens. If the adjusted figures are replicated in Lyons, there would be a three-way race between the Liberals, Greens and Labor for the final seat.

The ConversationOverall, Bonham thinks the most likely outcome using this poll is 12 Liberals, 10 Labor, 3 Greens, but his Tasmanian poll aggregate has the Liberals ahead in Lyons, and thus more likely to win a majority.

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

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

Greens resignations show a need to change dual citizenship requirements



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The Greens have lost their two co-deputy leaders, Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, in a matter of days.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Lorraine Finlay, Murdoch University

On Tuesday, the Greens’ Larissa Waters became the second senator in under a week to resign from parliament, after discovering she held dual citizenship and was therefore ineligible to hold her seat. Her Canadian citizenship revelation followed Greens co-deputy leader Scott Ludlam’s resignation, after he was found to hold New Zealand citizenship.

It is expected that the Senate will refer both matters to the High Court, sitting in its capacity as the Court of Disputed Returns. The court will almost certainly find both senators ineligible based on their dual citizenship. It will declare the resulting vacancies should be filled by a recount of the ballot papers from the 2016 federal election.

What does the Constitution say?

Section 44 of the Constitution sets out several disqualifications that result in a person being:

… incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.

One of those is Section 44(i). It disqualifies any person who:

… is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power.

Section 44(i) effectively means that dual citizens are not ordinarily eligible to be elected to parliament.

The High Court has previously held that becoming naturalised as an Australian citizen is not enough on its own to escape this disqualification. A person must also take “all reasonable steps” to renounce their foreign citizenship. Exactly what this requires will depend on the circumstances of each particular case and will, in particular, depend on the law of the relevant foreign country.

In the case of both New Zealand and Canada the process is straightforward. Specific government websites provide clear advice on how to apply to renounce your citizenship.

So, by failing to make a request for release from their foreign citizenship, neither Waters nor Ludlam took reasonable steps to satisfy the requirements of Section 44(i).

Not only does Section 44(i) mean the two Greens senators are unable to remain in the parliament, but they were never actually eligible to be elected in the first place.

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Why are dual nationals ineligible?

Section 44(i) was originally designed to ensure MPs had a clear and undivided loyalty to Australia, and would not be subject to any improper influence from foreign governments.

This reflected the position in the UK. Those born outside “the Realm” were disqualified from holding office in the Privy Council or parliament.

The history and context of this section is important. At the time of the first Australian parliament, nearly half of all members had been born overseas – and any person born in Australia was a British subject. The legal concept of Australian citizenship did not exist until 1949.

Before 2002, any Australian citizen who became a citizen of another country automatically lost their Australian citizenship. Much has changed since Section 44(i) was first drafted.

Should Section 44(i) be reformed?

Several expert bodies and parliamentary committees have considered Section 44(i) over the years and recommended reform. The section has been criticised on several grounds, including its archaic language, unclear scope, and the sheer number of Australian citizens who are potentially disqualified under its terms.

Of particular note, given the events of the past week, has been the criticism that many Australian citizens are likely to be unaware that they are actually dual citizens.

This is not simply an academic concern. Several potential MPs have been ruled ineligible in the past on the basis of holding dual citizenship, including the two major party candidates in the 1992 Wills by-election and a One Nation Senator elected for Queensland at the 1998 federal election. And earlier this year the Court of Disputed Returns rejected a challenge to the eligibility of independent senator Lucy Gichuhi that was based around her previous Kenyan citizenship.

Figures from the 2001 Census show approximately 3 million Australian citizens were born overseas. Among the 224 MPs who currently remain in parliament, 23 were born overseas.

While not every Australian who is born overseas remains a dual citizen, these figures do highlight the significant number of people who are potentially impacted by Section 44(i).

But reform can only be achieved through a constitutional referendum, which is itself a challenging exercise.

There are arguments weighing against any change. The principles that underpin Section 44(i) are still of continued importance. There is no doubt that the integrity of parliament and the loyalty of MPs are vitally important. This issue has been highlighted only recently with claims about the influence of foreign donations in Australian politics.

The ConversationWhen considering changes to Section 44(i), the key is to strike the right balance between maximising participation by Australian citizens while also safeguarding the national interest. Given the events of the past week, now is an opportune time to engage in that conversation.

Lorraine Finlay, Lecturer in Law, Murdoch University

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

Greens senator Larissa Waters forced out of parliament



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Larissa Waters is the second Greens senator to resign in less than a week.
Dan Peled/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Greens have lost a second senator in less than a week for having dual citizenship, with Larissa Waters forced to resign on Tuesday after she discovered she was still a citizen of Canada.

Like Scott Ludlam, who quit last week when he found out he had dual New Zealand citizenship, the Queensland senator had been co-deputy leader of the Greens.

She said she had left Canada as an 11-month old baby; she’d been born to Australian parents studying and working briefly in Canada.

She had all her life thought that “as a baby I was naturalised to be Australian and only Australian, and my parents told me that I had until age 21 to actively seek Canadian citizenship. At 21, I chose not to seek dual citizenship, and I have never even visited Canada since leaving.”

After Ludlam’s discovery, she sought legal advice, and was “devastated to learn that because of 70-year-old Canadian laws I had been a dual citizen from birth, and that Canadian law changed a week after I was born and required me to have actively renounced Canadian citizenship”, she said.

“I had not renounced since I was unaware that I was a dual citizen. Obviously this is something that I should have sought advice on when I first nominated for the Senate in 2007, and I take full responsibility for this grave mistake and oversight. I am deeply sorry for the impact that it will have,” she said.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale, heaping praise on Waters, said he was “gutted” by her announcement, coming just a few days after Ludlam’s.

He was initiating an overhaul of the party’s processes.

“I have immediately spoken to our two national co-conveners and we are committed to a thorough root-and-branch review so that we strengthen our governance, improve our internal processes and we make sure that this never happens again,” he said.

“I won’t sugarcoat it, we need to make sure that our internal party processes are up to the challenge,” he said. He did not believe there were any other Greens senators in breach of Section 44 of the Constitution, which prohibits a person with dual citizenship being eligible for election to parliament.

The resignation of Waters opens the way for the possible return to the Senate of Andrew Bartlett, who represented the Australian Democrats from 1997 and 2008. He led the Democrats from 2002 to 2004, and was deputy from 2004 and 2008.

On earlier precedents, the High Court would order a countback which would see Bartlett elected.

It is not clear whether he would then remain in the seat or resign so the Greens could fill it again with Waters.

Bartlett said on Facebook that the party’s membership “will be having many conversations over the next few days as we process what has happened and determine what is the best way forward to ensure we remain a strong voice for the essential values the Greens promote”.

Other foreign-born Greens senators hit Twitter to declare their citizenship credentials were in order. Tasmanian senator Nick McKim said he renounced his UK citizenship in 2015, before being nominated by the Tasmanian parliament to the Senate. Fellow Tasmanian Peter Whish-Wilson, born in Singapore, said he did not have dual citizenship.

The ConversationFor good measure, One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts, born in India, and Labor’s Sam Dastyari, born an Iranian citizen, also tweeted they were in compliance with constitutional requirements. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who migrated from Belgium, said in a statement that he automatically lost his Belgian citizenship when he became an Australian citizen in 2000.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/b9kr9-6cf745?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Greens senator Scott Ludlam forced to quit because of dual citizenship



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Scott Ludlam has quit as a senator immediately.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Greens are in shock after their co-deputy leader, Scott Ludlam, discovered he is ineligible to sit in federal parliament because he has dual New Zealand citizenship.

Ludlam, 47, who entered the Senate for Western Australia in 2008 after being elected at the 2007 poll, said he had not thought of the possibility he was a NZ citizen. He left the country with his family when he was three, settled in Australia shortly before his ninth birthday, and was naturalised in his mid-teens.

He had “assumed that was the end of my New Zealand citizenship”, but he accepted that it was his error and apologised “unreservedly”. He was “personally devastated” that an avoidable error was forcing him to leave parliament.

He was quitting immediately. “I have no wish to draw out the uncertainty or create a lengthy legal dispute.” The Constitution bans anyone holding dual citizenship being eligible for election to federal parliament. People holding dual citizenship must take active steps to renounce their other allegiance before standing.

The Senate will refer the matter to the Court of Disputed Returns. Fellow Greens senator from Western Australia Rachel Siewert anticipated there would be a recount and the next candidate on the 2016 Greens ticket, Jordon Steele-John, would be elected to replace Ludlam.

But the party faces further uncertainty, with Steele-John indicating on Facebook on Friday that he may then quit, creating a casual vacancy, to allow the party to pick another candidate.

Ludlam said his dual citizenship was brought to his attention only about a week ago. The Greens said their understanding was that the person who raised it was a “very interested member of the community” but neither a journalist nor an opponent. It is believed the person was a barrister.

The government is considered certain to confirm there will be no attempt to reclaim Ludlam’s back salary. It recently announced that Bob Day and Rod Culleton, who were both found ineligible, would not be pursued over back pay.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale said Ludlam’s decision to deal with the issue directly and immediately showed “his absolute integrity and character”.

Ludlam did not entirely rule out seeking a later return to parliament but said it was way too soon to think about that. “This is a departure, not an announcement of a potential candidacy some time into the future.”

He pointed to the irony of the constitutional situation. “What it is telling us is that I am owning allegiance to a foreign power, which is the sovereign of New Zealand – which is also the same Queen’s crest that flies over this parliament. It is a bit on the silly side. It is also black-letter law. You can’t wriggle away from that.”

Steele-John, 22, who has mild cerebral palsy, is very active as an advocate on disability issues. He posted on Facebook: “If it comes down to it, I’d be happier putting the choice of candidate back into the hands of our party membership.

“But like everyone else in the party I’m going to be spending the next week in sad shock and/or swearing loudly into a pillow. We can worry about who, and how the hell we try to substitute someone else in for Scott later.”

Among his achievements Ludlam pointed to his work on preventing an internet filter, and in getting “the threat of a radioactive waste dump off the shoulders of some old Aboriginal women in the Northern Territory”. Last week he was at the United Nations, making a speech before the sign-off on a global nuclear weapons ban that was endorsed by 122 countries though not the nuclear powers (and Australia), which boycotted the negotiations.

The Conversation“It’s been quite a ride. I will miss that, absolutely,” he said of his time in parliament.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/b9kr9-6cf745?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Disagreement within the Greens shows the price of doing politics differently



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Lee Rhiannon and every other federal Greens MP have the right to dissent on matters of policy.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Narelle Miragliotta, Monash University

Over the weekend, Greens New South Wales declared that the partial suspension of senator Lee Rhiannon from certain federal partyroom discussions was “unconstitutional”. The state party requested Rhiannon be “fully reinstated without restriction”.

Federal Greens MPs were ultimately discomforted by their decision to exclude Rhiannon, and were at pains to point out that the action was designed to tackle “a structural issue” and ensure the partyroom had “faith and trust” in party processes.

The other resolution passed by the partyroom in that same session implored the National Council – the party’s highest decision-making body – to work with Greens NSW to end the practice of binding its MPs, even if its vote was against that of the federal partyroom.

Rhiannon expressed her disappointment with the outcome, and went further to suggest that the partyroom’s decision masked a more insidious agenda, which was to:

… reduce the democratic power of members in the Greens NSW.

For all concerned, this matter turns on a fundamental disagreement over process and principle.

Debates over decision-making

For the Greens’ federal parliamentary leader, Richard Di Natale, the NSW practice of binding its MPs restricts the work of the national party room. He said:

If each state binds their senator we won’t have an Australian Greens party room, we’d have a collection of independent states arriving at independent decisions.

In contrast, the NSW party rejects the idea that “all wisdom lies with MPs”. Its view is that policies adopted by members following a process of consensus decision-making should dictate the voting behaviour of the party’s elected MPs in parliament.

Putting aside the matter of personalities and the ethics surrounding the conduct of those involved, to what extent does this incident reflect deep-seated ideological difference over the practice of binding MPs?

The practice of binding elected officials under the Greens NSW Constitution can be located in three main sections:

Section 12.1: The actions, activities and public statements of all members of The Greens NSW who are elected to public office shall be consistent with the charter, constitutions, policies and decisions of the party.

Section 12.6: Elected representatives shall consult with the delegates council regarding positions to be taken in their legislative activity.

Section 13.6: … elected representatives … shall express public opinions and vote in public fora in accordance with the charter of the Australian Greens and ratified policies of the Australian Greens and The Greens NSW, where a party policy exists.

The Greens NSW Constitution does not appear to include a reference to MPs having the right to exercise a conscience vote.

By contrast, other members of the Greens’ national partyroom are not bound by similar requirements under their state party constitutions. MPs are permitted to exercise a conscience vote. Otherwise, the partyroom operates according to the principles of consensus decision-making.

This process requires participants to reach common agreement on matters. If such agreement cannot be reached, a vote may be taken to determine the outcome.

Intra-party difference

Consensus decision-making is fundamental to the decision-making practices of the Greens, including the NSW branch and the federal partyroom. In this regard, the two bodies are identical. However, the difference over process turns on three matters:

  • To whom or what are MPs ultimately accountable: the federal partyroom or their state organisation?

  • Which level of decision-making should be allocated priority over matters of policy: the partyroom or the state organisation?

  • Is party unity more important than the persistence of diversity in state organisational decision-making practices?

These are not inconsequential points of difference – and they should not be dismissed lightly. But would disagreement over schools funding – the policy issue that ostensibly ignited this affair – have been avoided if Greens NSW did not bind Rhiannon? The answer is probably no.

The federal partyroom rules allow MPs to exercise a conscience vote. Rhiannon – and every other member of the partyroom, for that matter – have the right to dissent on matters of policy.

To what extent would Rhiannon’s position have been viewed differently had she exercised a conscience vote, instead of invoking a constitutionally mandated obligation to dissent?

The current situation owes as much to politics as it does any deep unworkable ideological schism within the Greens. While binding might well complicate the partyroom’s efforts to present a united front in relation to legislative negotiations some of the time, the NSW practice seems to do so rarely.

The ConversationAnd when it does, this might just be the price of doing politics differently.

Narelle Miragliotta, Senior Lecturer in Australian Politics, Monash University

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

ReachTEL: One Nation voters prefer Abbott to Turnbull by over 3:1


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

A ReachTEL poll for Sky News, conducted Thursday from a sample of 2390, has Labor leading by 52-48, a one point gain for the Coalition since the previous Sky News ReachTEL, just after the May budget. Assuming the 7.1% undecided are excluded, primary votes are 36.5% Coalition (down 1.3), 35.6% Labor (up 1.4), 10.3% Greens (steady) and 9.8% One Nation (down 0.4).

The primary vote changes suggest Labor should have gained after preferences, but ReachTEL is using respondent allocated preferences. According to Kevin Bonham, using previous election preferences, Labor leads by 52.8-47.2, a 1.3 point gain for Labor since the previous ReachTEL.

At the 2016 election, One Nation preferences split almost 50-50 between the two major parties. However, this poll has evidence that One Nation is now attracting the hard right of the Coalition, and thus that their preferences will be more Coalition-friendly at the next election.

Turnbull is preferred as Liberal leader to Tony Abbott by 68-32, with Coalition voters favouring Turnbull 73-27. However, One Nation voters prefer Abbott by a massive 77-23. It appears that as Turnbull has become more centrist over the last two months, the hard right has moved towards One Nation.

In ReachTEL’s forced choice better PM question, Turnbull leads by 54-46, a two point gain for Turnbull since the May Channel 7 ReachTEL. Same sex marriage is supported by 62-26, with 59% in favour of a plebiscite to decide the issue, while 41% prefer a parliamentary vote. 64% thought penalty rates should be higher on Sunday than Saturday.

Essential 52-48 to Labor, YouGov 51-49 to Labor

In this week’s Essential, primary votes were 39% Coalition, 36% Labor, 10% Greens, 7% One Nation and 3% Nick Xenophon Team. After surging to 9% last week, One Nation’s vote has fallen back. This poll was conducted over the last two weeks from a sample of 1790. Additional questions are based on one week’s sample.

Turnbull’s attributes were relatively unchanged since February, while Shorten’s were a little worse. Turnbull had double digit leads over Shorten on “intelligent”, “capable leader” and “good in a crisis”, but also on “out of touch” and “arrogant”.

By 79-6, voters supported the proposition that politicians should publicly disclose meetings with lobbyists, and by 78-5 they supported continuous reporting of political donations. Over 60% were in favour of bans on foreign donations, donations of over $5,000 and company and union donations. However by 46-30, voters opposed a complete ban on donations, with all political campaigning taxpayer-funded.

UK pollster YouGov has entered the Australian market. Polling will be conducted every fortnight from Thursday to Tuesday by online methods with a sample over 1000. The first YouGov poll, conducted from 22 to 27 June from a sample of 1125, has Labor leading by 51-49. Primary votes are 34% Labor, 33% Coalition, 12% Greens, 7% One Nation, 4% Christian parties and 3% NIck Xenophon Team.

Labor’s narrow two party lead was obtained using respondent-allocated preferences. Using the previous election method, Labor would lead 54-46. Christian parties are not included in the readout in any other poll, and it is likely that most of them are Liberals.

Victoria and ACT to gain seats, while SA loses a seat

On 31 August, the Electoral Commission will determine the number of House seats each state and territory is entitled to, based on the latest population figures.

The 2016 Census was released on 27 June. As a result, according to the parliamentary library, SA’s seats will be reduced by one to 10, while Victoria and the ACT will both gain one seat, to 38 and 3 seats respectively. Other states are unchanged, with NSW entitled to 47 seats, Queensland 30, WA 16, Tasmania 5 and the NT 2. Overall, the House will have 151 members after the next Federal election, up from the current 150.

Labor easily won both ACT seats at the 2016 election, so the creation of a third seat is good news for them. The political effect of redistributions in Victoria and SA will not be known until draft boundaries are released.

If an election is called before the redistributions are finalised, special arrangements are used to create or merge seats. These arrangements have never been used.

Tasmania should have only three House seats, but is entitled to five as this is the minimum entitlement for any of the six original states. As Tasmania has tended to give better results for Labor than the mainland, this malapportionment favours Labor.

More UK post-election analysis

The Guardian has analysis of a post-election study from pollster Ipsos Mori. In terms of swing from the 2015 election, the Conservatives performed best among demographics where the UK Independence Party (UKIP) had its highest vote shares in 2015: these demographics included those aged over 65 and lower social classes.

The Conservatives have adopted UKIP’s populist agenda regarding Brexit, and right-wing populism explains some of the swing to the Conservatives among demographics that were most likely to vote for UKIP and Leave at the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Labour performed best in swing terms among voters aged 18-44 and higher social classes. UKIP had low 2015 vote shares among these demographics. Although Jeremy Corbyn’s radical left-wing policies were also important in winning over young people, Labour’s unexpectedly strong performance can be seen as a rejection of right-wing populism among demographics that voted Remain at the Brexit referendum.

The swing to Labour in higher social classes, and the swing to the Conservatives in lower classes, has meant that the Conservatives narrowly won the top three classes, and Labour narrowly won the fourth class. At previous elections, there has been a far greater difference in party support by class.

On 26 June, the Conservatives committed to spend an additional £1 billion (about $AU 1.7 billion) on Northern Ireland (NI) in return for support on important Commons votes from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

The ConversationDuring the election campaign, PM Theresa May told a nurse who had had no wage increases for eight years, “There isn’t a magic money tree we can shake”. Every time the Conservatives now say there is no money for schools, hospitals, public sector wage increases, etc, people will remember the £1 billion “magic money tree” for NI.

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

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

Partial exclusion for Lee Rhiannon after marathon special Greens meeting


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The federal parliamentary Greens are taking on the power of the party’s hard left NSW branch.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Greens have imposed a partial exclusion from their partyroom on radical New South Wales senator Lee Rhiannon, after her behaviour over the schools legislation.

Her colleagues were angry that she authorised a leaflet urging people to lobby senators to vote against the bill, on which the Greens were negotiating with the government. The nine other Green MPs wrote to the party’s national council about her conduct.

While the letter cited the leaflet, the concern about Rhiannon went further. Party sources said they had not been informed that she had been bound by the party’s NSW branch to oppose the legislation. Eventually all Green senators voted against the bill, after the government did a deal with ten other crossbenchers.

The issues with Rhiannon involved trust in her and the ability of the hardline NSW branch to bind MPs – a power it is accorded under the party’s federal constitution.

At a marathon meeting of more than four hours in Melbourne on Wednesday, it was decided that the structural problem needed to be resolved.

The partyroom asked the national council to work with Greens NSW “to end the practice of NSW MPs being bound to vote against the decision of the Australian Greens partyroom”.

This was supported by all MPs except Rhiannon.

The partyroom also passed a motion “that NSW senators be excluded from partyroom discussions and decisions on contentious government legislation, including within their portfolio responsibilities, until these issues are resolved”. At present Rhiannon is the only NSW senator.

Rhiannon and Adam Bandt, the Greens’ only lower house member, voted against the motion.

In a statement after the meeting, acting whip Nick McKim said: “To function as a national partyroom, and to be a genuine alternative to politics as usual, we need to have faith and trust in our processes.”

The ConversationThere is some uncertainty about how a battle with the NSW branch – controlled by the “watermelon” faction, a description reflecting its hard left position – will play out. Some in the party fear the situation could be inflamed, while others will welcome the branch being finally taken on.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Former leader Bob Brown attacks Greens senator Rhiannon’s behaviour on schools



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All nine of Lee Rhiannon’s federal colleagues co-signed a letter of complaint that was sent to the Greens’ national council.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Former Greens leader Bob Brown accused Lee Rhiannon of “perfidious behaviour”, as the defiant Greens senator fought back against united condemnation from her parliamentary colleagues.

The other nine parliamentary Greens, including eight senators and lower house member Adam Bandt, have written to the party’s national council complaining about Rhiannon who, when the Greens were negotiating with the government on the schools bill, authorised a leaflet urging people to lobby senators to block the legislation.

Brown, a long-time critic of Rhiannon, repeated his previous description of her as “the Greens’ version of Tony Abbott”, and his call for the NSW Greens to replace her at the election with someone more popular and constructive.

He said that while he did not disagree with the Greens ultimately voting against the legislation – because Education Minister Simon Birmingham had done a special deal with the Catholics – the Greens in their negotiations had obtained $A5 billion in extra money.

Education was not Rhiannon’s portfolio – and for her to advocate against the Greens leader Richard Di Natale and its education spokesperson, Sarah Hanson-Young, was “untenable”, Brown said.

The Greens letter said: “We were astounded that senator Rhiannon was engaged with [the leaflet] production and distribution without informing party room at a time when we were under enormous pressure from all sides as we considered our position on the bill”.

It said the leaflet had the potential to damage the negotiations that Di Natale and Hanson-Young were having with the government about billions in extra funding for underfunded public schools.

The Greens’ parliamentary partyroom will consider Rhiannon’s action.

Despite prolonged negotiations with the Greens, the government finally concluded a deal with ten of the other crossbench senators to pass the bill. But the Greens had done much of the heavy lifting to obtain a series of amendments. This included the additional money, which takes the planned total extra federal government spending on Australian schools to $23.5 billion over a decade.

In a statement on Sunday Rhiannon said she rejected allegations she had derailed negotiations and breached “faith of the party and partyroom”.

“I am proud the Greens partyroom decided to vote against the Turnbull government’s school funding legislation. It’s clear that public schools would have been better off under the existing Commonweath-state agreements than they will be under the Turnbull package.”

She said that at all times her actions on education had been faithful to the party’s policy and process, and her work had not impacted on the negotiations.

She defended the leaflets she authorised, saying they were “a good initiative of Greens local groups.

“They highlighted the negative impact the Turnbull funding plan would have on their local public schools.

“Producing such materials are a regular feature of Greens campaigns. These leaflets urged people to lobby all senators to oppose the bill.

The Conversation“I was proud to stand with branches of the Australian Education Union, particularly as the Turnbull school funding plan favoured private schools,” she said.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/ivb89-6c3c98?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Electoral system flaws deny Labor and Greens WA upper house majority


Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

At the Western Australian election held 11 March, Labor won a landslide in the lower house, winning 41 of the 59 seats. However, in the upper house Labor and the Greens combined won 18 of the 36 seats, one short of an outright majority. There were two reasons for the left’s underperformance in the upper house: malapportionment in favour of rural regions and the group voting ticket system. The Conversation

There are six upper house regions, three in Perth and three in the rest of WA. Each region elects six members to the upper house, so the quota is 1/7 of the vote, or 14.3%.

I wrote here that Perth only has half the upper house seats despite having 77% of the state’s population. However, the problem is worse than this. As Antony Green wrote, a voter in the deeply conservative Agricultural region has almost 4 times the weight of a Perth voter. A voter in the Mining & Pastoral region, which is becoming more conservative, has almost six times the weight of a Perth voter.

At this election, about 49,000 formal votes were recorded in Mining & Pastoral region, 88,000 in Agricultural region and 194,000 in South West region. The three metropolitan regions had at least 334,000 formal votes each, more than the non-Perth regions combined.

Although Labor’s vote improved across the state from 2013, Labor and the Greens combined won two of the six seats in Agricultural region, and just barely three of the six in Mining & Pastoral. In all other regions, Labor and the Greens easily won at least three of the six seats per region. Here is the final upper house results table. Vote shares and changes from 2013 are from Wikipedia.

WA upper house.

The table shows the effect of malapportionment, with the Nationals, who only contested the non-Perth regions, winning as many seats as the Greens on half the Greens’ vote. Others in the table are the Shooters in Agricultural region and the Liberal Democrats in South Metro.

If all the non-Perth regions (South West, Agricultural and Mining & Pastoral) were combined, and non-Perth representaion reduced to six, Labor would have won 2.30 quotas, the Liberals 1.44, the Nationals 1.26, One Nation 0.80, the Greens 0.44 and the Shooters 0.33.

With One Nation short of a quota, so they would soak up right wing votes, and Labor’s surplus going heavily to the Greens, the Greens would have been likely to defeat the Liberals for the final seat, resulting in Labor 2, Liberals, Nationals, One Nation and Greens one each outside Perth, rather than the actual result of Labor/Greens 8, all Others 10.

There were three cases where a candidate who did not deserve to win won through the artificial preference flows under the group voting system, which is still used in WA. In Agricultural region, the Shooters, with 0.40 quotas, defeated One Nation with 0.82. In East Metro, One Nation, with 0.56 quotas, defeated the 2nd Liberal, who had 0.75 quotas. So much for some people’s theories that One Nation would not benefit from group voting tickets.

Most disappointing for the left, in South Metro the Liberal Democrats, with 0.27 quotas, defeated the Greens with 0.65 quotas. In that region, the Liberal Democrats were to the left of the Liberals on the ballot paper, and won 3.9% of the vote mostly due to name confusion. In all other regions, the Liberal Democrats were to the right of the Liberals, and won about 1%.

The table below represents what I think would have happened had the current Senate system been used for the WA upper house, and the malapportionment removed.

WA upper house fair.

This would give Labor and the Greens 14 of the 24 seats. In this scenario the Greens would win four seats, to one for One Nation. This may seem unfair on One Nation, but the Greens benefited from Labor surpluses, while the Liberals had no surpluses to spare to help One Nation. Individual “Others” did not receive many votes, and none would have won if not for the artificial preference flows that only happen when parties, not voters, direct preferences.

In the WA upper house, the President can only vote to break a tie. If Labor can persuade a non-Labor/Greens member to take the Presidency, Labor and the Greens would have 18 of the 35 votes on the floor. If a Labor member takes the Presidency, Labor will need the Greens and one vote from a right wing member to pass legislation.

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

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