View from The Hill: Fleeing ministers fray hayband round embattled government



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Linda Reynolds was today sworn in as defence industry minister and promoted into cabinet.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government likes to issue the list of Labor MPs retiring at the election, to argue that Coalition senior people jumping ship is nothing out of the ordinary.

That, of course, is sophistry. However many ALP people are leaving, no-one can suggest it is because they are pessimistic about Labor’s chances in May.

It’s also implausible for the government retirees to maintain their coming exits have nothing to do with assessments of the Coalition’s prospects.

Kelly O’Dwyer might have sounded credible when she explained she wished for another child. Some might have sympathised with Michael Keenan wanting to see more of the four kids he has.

And no doubt politicians in their 40s (Steve Ciobo) and 50s (Christopher Pyne) can desire new fields after long parliamentary stints. (In Pyne’s case, it became clear last August, after Julie Bishop stepped down, that his political career would never include the job he’d always coveted, foreign affairs.)

Look at these retirements collectively, however, and ask one blunt question: would they all be departing if the government were leading Labor 55-45% in Newspoll?

Of the five who are going from the ministry (four of them from cabinet) only Nationals Senate leader Nigel Scullion, at 62, is within cooee of a workforce retirement age. (Scullion has said he doesn’t know what his future holds beyond some shooting and fishing.)

The loss of a batch of ministers leaves an even bigger hole because some of those remaining are wounded (think Small and Family Business Minister Michaelia Cash) or sub-optimal (think Environment Minister Melissa Price).

The overall impression left is of an administration held together with a frayed hayband.

Morrison has kept all the departees in their current jobs except Ciobo who has been replaced in the defence industry post by West Australian senator Linda Reynolds.

Reynolds, previously an assistant minister, has been elevated into cabinet (where Ciobo was) and promised the defence portfolio, now held by Pyne, if the government is returned.

Her military reserve background giving her a no-nonsense style, Reynolds has so far been a good performer. She chaired a parliamentary inquiry that sensibly highlighted the need to overhaul section 44 of the constitution (which the government ignored). She deserves promotion.

But Morrison’s motives were transparent. With this addition he can now point to seven women in cabinet, more than in any former government.

That won’t deal with the problem of too few women in Liberal ranks generally, or prevent gender arguments coming into preselections. But it gives him something positive to say. On Saturday, as he went to the swearing in of Reynolds, he promised that if he were re-elected he’d keep that many women in his new cabinet (just don’t call it a “quota”).

Reynolds will obviously be working full bore through the campaign (she also retains her previous responsibility for emergency management, which has come to the fore with the Queensland flood disaster).

But the departing ministers will be winding down, reducing the government’s fire power in the coming weeks.

And what about the efforts of that other high profile retiree, Bishop?

Bishop delayed her announcement about leaving parliament so she had the best chance of influencing the choice of her successor in her seat of Curtin. But now she and Senate leader Mathias Cormann, who’ve long vied within the WA Liberal party, are at odds over the preselection.

The field includes four women and a man. Bishop is understood to back foreign affairs specialist and academic Erin Watson-Lynn, but Cormann is believed to support former University of Notre Dame Vice-Chancellor Celia Hammond.

If Bishop, a superb fundraiser, does not see her preferred candidate win, will she be even angrier than she has been following her WA colleagues failing to vote for her in the leadership contest? As a safe seat Curtin doesn’t need much money but several WA marginals do. If Bishop dropped off the money trail the Liberals would feel the pinch.

And speaking of marginal seats, the Liberal Party is in the extraordinary position that in the Sydney seat of Reid (on 4.7%) Craig Laundy, a former minister, has yet to announce his future. He is widely expected not to recontest, making the electorate harder for the government to hold.

Whatever Morrison thinks privately about his thinning senior ranks, publicly he is stoic. “I don’t get flapped by things like this. I just keep going,” he said on Saturday. Not much choice really.

SUNDAY UPDATE:

Julie Bishop has reopened wounds in the Liberal Party with a
provocative interview declaring she could have beaten Bill Shorten if
she had become prime minister and attacking Christopher Pyne and
Mathias Cormann over their behaviour in last year’s leadership coup.

Bishop told Perth’s Sunday Times that at the time she was “confident”
she could defeat Shorten, and “that was Labor’s thought too”.

In the August ballot Bishop received only 11 votes, when the moderates
got behind Scott Morrison, judging he had the better chance of
stopping Peter Dutton winning. Bishop was angry at her colleagues’
behaviour, especially that none of those from her home state of
Western Australia voted for her.

In the interview she said that before the party meeting she believed
she had the support of at least 28 colleagues.

“I am now told that there was a view, led by Christopher Pyne and
others, that even though I would have 28 votes – which was many more
than Scott Morrison – it wouldn’t be enough to beat Peter Dutton. So,
they wanted to make sure that happened.

“If I had known that was what their thinking was, I could have
dissuaded them of it but also I would have pointed out that the
question was: Who could beat Bill Shorten? And I was confident that I
could”.

In a direct challenge to Cormann, whose decision to support Dutton was
one of the pivotal factors in Turnbull’s fall, Bishop said: “I don’t
understand his motives in seeking to change the leadership to Peter
Dutton last year.

“You still wish he would explain his motives in backing Peter Dutton
over Malcolm Turnbull and causing enormous instability within the
Liberal Party.

“He backed Peter Dutton who had very little support in WA and who
fought against WA getting a better GST deal.”

Bishop explained her decision to step down as foreign minister thus:
“I didn’t want to endorse what had happened and by continuing to
accept what had happened I would have been endorsing it.

“And also, there had to be a level of trust with your cabinet
colleagues and I thought that had broken down and it would be better
for them to have a new team and for me to step back”.

Bishop denied she was backing anyone in the preselection for her seat
of Curtin, despite the speculation she supported Erin Watson-Lynn. She
also denied she was pushing for a woman. “I didn’t say I want a woman.
I want the best person. I will back whoever the preselectors come up
with,” out of the field of four women and one man.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Cabinet ministers Pyne and Ciobo set to head out door



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Christopher Pyne (left) and Steve Ciobo are set to announce they will not contest their seats at the May election.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Defence Minister, Christopher Pyne and the Defence Industry Minister Steve Ciobo, both cabinet members, are set to announce they are quitting parliament at the election, in the latest of multiple high profile exits from the Morrison government.

These foreshadowed departures – in this case within the same portfolio area – open the government further to Labor’s criticism of being a lame duck administration.

Cabinet ministers Kelly O’Dwyer and Nigel Scullion, junior minister Michael Keenan, and former deputy leader and foreign minister Julie Bishop have earlier announced they are leaving at the May election.

Pyne, 51, Leader of the House and a moderate within the Liberal Party, has been in parliament since 1993 and is an active factional player. He holds the South Australian seat of Sturt which is on a margin of 5.4% Pyne only reached his long held ambition of becoming defence minister in the reshuffle after the removal of Malcolm Turnbull.

Ciobo, 44, holds the Queensland seat of Moncrieff and has been in parliament since 2001. His seat is on a safe margin of 14.6%.

Ciobo was demoted in the Morrison reshuffle last year, losing the trade job although remaining in cabinet.

Scott Morrison, in North Queensland to announce a relief package for farmers and graziers after the devastating floods, batted away questions about the expected announcements. The government had hoped to push the story into the dead Saturday news time but it leaked out.

Both ministers have been fending off questions about their futures. On the show they share on Sky on Friday, Labor’s Richard Marles asked Pyne about whether he was resigning.

Pyne told Marles: “Once I decide to announce my retirement you will be the first to know”.

Marles said Pyne had had a stellar career and if it were true that he was going, “I for one will miss you”.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Senior ministers deal death blow to Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership


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Michaelia Cash and Mathias Cormann have delivered the death blow to the prime ministership of Malcolm Turnbull.
AAP/Sam Mooy

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull has been delivered a political death blow, with the resignation of three senior cabinet ministers – Mathias Cormann, Michaelia Cash and Mitch Fifield.

They said in a joint news conference shortly before 10am that they had advised Turnbull on Wednesday and again Thursday morning that he no longer had party support.

Senate leader Cormann, whose position has always been considered crucial in the leadership battle, said he had been told by five cabinet ministers who had voted for Turnbull on Tuesday that he no longer had their support.

“It’s with great sadness and a heavy heart that we went to see the prime minister yesterday afternoon to advise him that in our judgment he no longer enjoyed the support of the majority of members in the Liberal Party party room and that it was in the best interests of the Liberal Party to help manage an orderly transition to a new leader.

“I can’t ignore reality”, Cormann said, who on Tuesday pledged continuing support to Turnbull in comments to the Senate.

A party meeting is now inevitable. The crucial question is whether Turnbull stands aside to open the way for Treasurer Scott Morrison and deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop to possibly run.

Early Thursday morning, Peter Dutton demanded Turnbull hold a second leadership vote, as the government was locked in crisis.

Dutton told reporters: “I called the prime minister to advise him that it was my judgment that the majority of the party room no longer supported his leadership.

“As such, I asked him to convene a meeting of the Liberal Party at which I would challenge for the leadership of the parliamentary Liberal Party.”

He said he would not have contacted Turnbull if he did not have majority support.

But Turnbull at that point was holding out, his camp arguing that Dutton supporters had not shown they had majority support – 43 MPs – for their call for a special meeting.

The Dutton camp circulated a petition on Wednesday night for a meeting. The canvassing has been accompanied by inducements and arm twisting by the Dutton campaign. The number who have signed the petition is unknown.

Victorian MP Sarah Henderson said she had been offered a frontbench position if she supported Dutton. “Just imagine if that was accepted and there was a change of leadership — to be rewarded for an act of treachery I think is a terrible thing.”

Senior ministers were bunkered down in Turnbull’s office before the press conference by the three ministers.

Two more frontbenchers resigned earlier Thursday – Zed Seselja, assistant minister for science, jobs and innovation, and Michael Sukkar, minister assisting the Treasurer. They were among the multiple ministers who offered to resign earlier this week but did not have their resignations accepted.

With serious doubt over his constitutional eligibility to sit in parliament, Dutton released legal advice that he had sought last year. This relates to whether his interest in childcare centres through a trust breaches section’s 44 provision on conflict of pecuniary interest.

The advice argues that Dutton has no conflict. Releasing it on Thursday morning, Dutton said “there has never been any doubt about my eligibility”. He said a “spurious and baseless campaign” had been waged against him on the matter.

Dutton supporter Craig Kelly said if there was any doubt about the matter it could be settled by selling the childcare centres.

Manager of opposition business Tony Burke said: “There are really serious question marks over whether or not the man who wants to be prime minister of Australia later on today is even eligible to be a member of parliament.”

A Labor move in the parliament to refer Dutton’s eligibility to the High Court was this morning defeated by 69-68.

11.11am

UPDATE: MORE MINISTERS RESIGN

Other ministers have flocked to the prime minister’s office to quit – Angus Taylor, Alan Tudge, Steve Ciobo, Michael Keenan and Greg Hunt all confirmed they had tendered their resignations.

Hunt said in his letter to Turnbull: “It has become clear to me in the last 24 hours that there has been, in my view, an irretrievable loss of support for the leadership and loss of party unity within both the ministry and broader party room.”

12.00pm

UPDATE: HOUSE SHUT DOWN

The government has cancelled the House of Representatives for the day. Leader of the House Christopher Pyne moved the motion for adjournment, which was carried 70-68.

Manager of opposition business Tony Burke told the House: “What is happening right now is the government have decided that this place has fallen apart so completely that they are dissolving the parliament for the day entirely.

“There will be no question time today because they don’t know who their ministers are. There will be no question time today because they don’t know who their prime minister is. There will be no question time today because those opposite have stopped governing.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor had been prepared not to call divisions while there was a Liberal Party meeting.

Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said: “Those opposite, they’re not conservatives, they are vandals.

“Not one of the three people that we’ve heard touted as prime minister deserves the job.

“We have one with no authority – that’s the member for Wentworth, no authority [Malcolm Turnbull]. We’ve got one with no legitimacy. That’s the member for Dickson [Peter Dutton]. We’re not even sure that he’s eligible to sit in this parliament. And we’ve got one with no decency. The member for Cook [Scott Morrison] has never had the courage to nail his colours to the mast. Is he a conservative? Is he a moderate? Where does he stand on all this division? He is like a hyena circling around the corpse of the modern Liberal Party waiting for his chance, waiting for his chance to come up the middle.

“And the foreign minister [Julie Bishop], well, she used to be discussed as a potential future leader. She doesn’t even have the courage to stand.”

The House now won’t sit until September 10.

12:30pm

UPDATE: DUTTON DECISIONS ON AU PAIRS SENT FOR SENATE PROBE

The Senate has voted 34-28 to refer questions about Peter Dutton’s intervention as immigration minister on the visas of two foreign au pairs to a Senate inquiry.

The motion referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report by 11 September “allegations concerning the inappropriate exercise of ministerial powers, with respect to the visa status of au pairs, and related matters”.

In one case an au pair whose visa was cancelled at Brisbane airport in June 2015 made a phone call and soon after Dutton approved a visa.

Reportedly Dutton went against written concerns from his department that giving a visa to a second au pair was of “high risk”, on the ground that earlier she had been warned about work restrictions.

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The Conversation

Dutton and his department have consistely blocked attempts to give a full explanation of his actions.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

The Barnaby Joyce affair highlights Australia’s weak regulation of ministerial staffers



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Barnaby Joyce has denied he breached ministerial standards with the employment of his partner, Vikki Campion.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Yee-Fui Ng, RMIT University

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce continues to face questions about the employment of his former media adviser – now current partner – Vicki Campion. Campion left Joyce’s office last year to take another ministerial adviser position with Resources Minister Matthew Canavan, and then with Nationals whip Damian Drum.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has claimed Joyce did not breach the Statement of Ministerial Standards regarding employment of spouses and family members as Campion was not his partner at the time of her appointment. Joyce has also denied he breached the ministerial rules.




Read more:
Labor moves in on the Barnaby Joyce affair


What is the role of ministerial staffers?

Ministerial advisers are politically partisan staff who are personally appointed by ministers to work out of their private offices.

These advisers have become an integral part of the political landscape in the last 40 years. The number of Commonwealth ministerial staff increased from 155 in 1972 to 423 in 2015.

The advisers undertake a wide range of functions. Tony Nutt, a former senior ministerial staffer, said:

… a ministerial adviser deals with the press. A ministerial adviser handles the politics. A ministerial adviser talks to the union. All of that happens every day of the week, everywhere in Australia all the time. Including, frankly, the odd bit of, you know, ancient Spanish practices and a bit of bastardry on the way through. That’s all the nature of politics.

How do they fit in our system of government?

The modern Westminster ministerial advisory system is built on the 1853 Northcote-Trevelyan report in Britain.

In the 18th and early 19th century, it was difficult to be appointed to a UK government office unless you were an aristocrat with the right connections to a very small elite. The Northcote-Trevelyan report rejected appointment based on patronage. It argued this led to difficulties in getting a good supply of employees in the public service compared to other professions.

This report forms the basis of the Westminster public service today. Public servants are expected to be neutral and apolitical, and recruited and promoted on the basis of merit. The intention was very much to purge the system of patronage.

Ministerial advisers pose a challenge to the Westminster system as they are largely recruited on a partisan basis and are expected to be politically committed to the government of the day. This undermines the intentions of having ministerial advisers who are recruited on the basis of merit, rather than patronage.

How are ministerial staff appointed?

Australian ministerial advisers are employed under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act as ministers’ personal staff.

The employing minister determines the employment terms and conditions of ministerial advisers; the prime minister can vary these. The law is sparse and does not stipulate any precise requirements in terms of staff appointments.

In practice, the appointment of ministerial advisers is based on a party-political network of patronage. The primary consideration is loyalty to the political party – not merit.

There have been notorious instances of the appointment of unsuitable staff. These include then deputy prime minister Jim Cairns’ appointment of his mistress, Junie Morosi, as his principal private secretary (although she was considered spectacularly unqualified for her position).




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Is Barnaby’s baby a matter of ‘public interest’ or just of interest to the public?


Some prime ministers have instituted a centralised process to reduce the appointment of unsuitable candidates. However, my research has shown that some senior ministers are able to circumvent such a process due to their position within the party.

Also, these processes primarily seek to filter candidates based on political danger – rather than on merit considerations.

Is there a breach of the rules in Joyce’s case?

Turnbull’s Statement of Ministerial Standards provides that ministers’ close relatives and partners are banned from being appointed to positions in their ministerial or electorate offices. They also must not be employed in the offices of other members of the executive government without the prime minister’s express approval.

Joyce and Campion claim their relationship started after her appointment – so the government has argued this clause does not apply.

However, the ministerial standards also specify that ministers must declare any private interests held by them or members of their immediate family. And under the Statement of Standards for Ministerial Staff, ministerial advisers have to disclose – and take reasonable steps to avoid – any real or apparent conflicts of interest connected with their employment. Staff are required to provide their employing minister and the special minister of state with a statement of private interests.

Therefore, the relationship between Joyce and Campion should have been disclosed when it arose, as there might have been an apparent conflict of interest connected with Joyce’s ministerial position. It is then up to the prime minister to decide what is to happen following this.

But both the standards for ministers and for their advisers are not legislated. They are not enforceable in the courts or in parliament. Enforcement is handled completely within the executive, which has an incentive to bury embarrassing material wherever possible.

This means any breaches of the standards by ministers and their advisers would be handled behind closed doors, without any formal scrutiny by parliament or any external bodies.

The enforcement of ministerial and adviser standards has been patchy. Whether a minister resigns depends on the prime minister of the day and if there is media furore and public outrage over an issue.

Are the rules too lax?

The legislation governing the employment of advisers is sparse and limited to affirming ministers’ powers to employ their advisers. Beyond this, there is no legislative requirement for ministerial advisers to adhere to certain behavioural rules.

The weak appointment rules have allowed Campion to be shuffled around different offices without a formal appointment process.

Other Westminster countries have stricter restrictions on the employment of advisers, either through a cap on the number of advisers (as in the UK) or a cap on the total budget for advisers (as in Canada).

The UK has a cap of two advisers per minister. Australia has no such limits.

Australia has the weakest regulation of ministerial staff when compared to other similar Westminster democracies. Other countries have stricter regulations that both restrict the actions of advisers and increase transparency.

The ConversationAustralian ministerial staff are now very important players in our democracy, but ministers and advisers are weakly regulated within our system. The law has lagged behind, but now is the time for reform.

Yee-Fui Ng, Lecturer, Graduate School of Business and Law, RMIT University

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

George Brandis suggests Joyce and Nash didn’t really make their ministerial decisions


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor says decisions made by Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash are open to legal challenge but Attorney-General George Brandis suggests the two former ministers were not the ones who actually made them.

Joyce and Nash were disqualified from parliament by the High Court on Friday for having been dual citizens when elected.

The opposition says at least 20 executive decisions and 47 ministerial announcements made by Joyce could be open to challenge.

These include the controversial decision to relocate the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to Armidale in his New England electorate, various grants and appointments, and any decisions under the Water Act, where he had power to determine claims for payment to water access entitlement holders.

The list comes from a paper Labor sought from the Parliamentary Library on the ministerial decision-making powers exercised by Joyce and Nash, and specific important decisions they made.

Joyce had ministerial responsibility for agriculture and water resources. Nash was minister for regional development and regional communications.

The opposition says at least eight executive decisions and 43 ministerial announcements made by Nash could be subject to challenge. These included elements of each of the regional NBN rollout, the mobile blackspots program and the rural decentralisation program, as well as grants under the Building Better Regions Fund.

Labor has as well released updated advice from senior silks Matt Albert QC and Matt Collins QC about the legal status of decisions made by the former ministers.

The Constitution allows a minister to hold office for three months while not being a member of parliament.

The legal advice says that any decision made by Joyce or Nash after three months had lapsed from their appointment as ministers was open to challenge.

“Any decisions made by Joyce and Nash, purportedly in their capacity as a minister, on and after October 20, 2016, are open to challenge.

“The likelihood of proceedings being brought to challenge such decisions is high, having regard to the significance and seniority of their relevant portfolios,” the advice says.

Brandis said the government was looking very carefully at the question of the validity of the former ministers’ decisions. But “I doubt that there are many if any decisions that would be relevant in any event”, he said on Sky.

“Most decisions that ministers make are in fact made by the cabinet on the recommendation of ministers. Appointments are made by the governor-general or the federal executive council on the recommendation of ministers. So I think you will find that there is no legal consequences here at all.”

Tony Burke, manager of opposition business, told the ABC there would be “vested interests” with an interest in challenging decisions of Joyce.

“When you’re in charge of Australia’s quarantine service, there’s importers and exporters who make or lose money depending on decisions you make.

“There’ll be a series of decisions there with vested interests now combing through, and there being a whole lot of legal doubt over those decisions on the simple basis that Barnaby Joyce didn’t do what Matt Canavan did,” Burke said.

“Matt Canavan turned out to have been legally in parliament. But at least he took the precaution to step aside so that there was no risk to there being illegitimacy to his decisions.

“Barnaby Joyce and Malcolm Turnbull decided, oh no, nothing to see here, let’s just ignore the last 25 years of how the High Court ruled on this and pretend that it’s all going to be different this time.”

The ConversationBurke said there was a reason why the government had not revealed the solicitor-general’s advice. “I don’t believe for a minute it was as strong as they were claiming,” he said.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/g8gar-796795?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.

If High Court decides against ministers with dual citizenship, could their decisions in office be challenged?



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It’d be better for ministers like Barnaby Joyce to have any potentially contentious decisions made by an acting minister until their citizenship issues are resolved.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Anne Twomey, University of Sydney

What would happen if the High Court found that ministers Barnaby Joyce, Fiona Nash and Matthew Canavan had not been validly elected at the last federal election in July 2016?

In the case of the senators (Nash and Canavan), the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, would most likely order a special recount of the votes, as it did in relation to senators Bob Day and Rod Culleton, with the seat then most likely going to the next person on the Coalition ticket.

This may disrupt the balance between the National Party and the Liberal Party in the Senate, as those most likely to replace the two National Party senators would be from the Liberal Party.

Joyce’s seat, being in the lower house, would most likely go to a byelection, as previously occurred in the cases of Jackie Kelly and Phil Cleary. Like Kelly and Cleary, Joyce could stand for his seat at the byelection, as he has now renounced his New Zealand citizenship.

A bigger question arises, however, as to the validity of decisions that they made as ministers since the last election. If they were not validly elected in July 2016, then Section 64 of the Constitution becomes relevant. It says:

… no minister of state shall hold office for a longer period than three months unless he is or becomes a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.

That three months ran out a long time ago. So, for a considerable time they would have been exercising powers conferred upon ministers by statute, without actually being ministers. Were those decisions valid? Could they be challenged?

This brings into play the “de-facto officer” doctrine. This is a common law doctrine that protects people who rely on acts done in the apparent execution of their office by an officer who appears to be “clothed with official authority”, even though they may not validly hold that office.

It is not aimed at protecting those who invalidly exercise power, but rather those who rely in good faith on the apparent authority of those who publicly exercise power. The doctrine is also relied on to give certainty concerning the validity of acts of persons whose appointment or election may later be challenged.

The public policy behind the doctrine is to avoid the chaos that would ensue if decisions of public officials were automatically rendered invalid because of a later discovered defect in their election or appointment. For example, the decisions of a Western Australian magistrate were upheld, even though they were taken after she had reached the compulsory age for retirement.

The application of the doctrine, however, is uncertain. It does not necessarily apply to all decisions of an invalidly appointed officer, and therefore is likely to lead to litigation if decisions are contentious.

Its application has also been doubted in relation to matters that concern a breach of the Constitution. For example, High Court Justice Michael Kirby observed in a 2006 case about the constitutional validity of acting judges that:

It is difficult to reconcile the [de facto officer] doctrine with the fundamental role of the federal Constitution as the ultimate source of other laws. Constitutional rulings can occasionally be unsettling, at least for a period. However, this is inherent in the arrangements of a nation that lives by the rule of law and accords a special status to the federal Constitution as its fundamental law.

Moreover, the doctrine ceases to protect the actions of the purported official at the point when they lose the cloak of authority, such as when the validity of their appointment is contested, or their lack of qualification to hold office is “notorious”.

It is quite possible that point arises when, in the case of a Commonwealth minister, they admit to being a dual national and refer to the High Court the question of their qualification to sit in the parliament, especially if the invalidity to hold parliamentary office exceeds three months.

For this reason, it would be prudent for those ministers who are currently under a cloud concerning their lawful occupation of office to cease to make decisions which are contentious or might give rise to legal challenges with significant consequences.

The ConversationInstead, such actions, if they need to be taken before the question of the status of these ministers is resolved by the High Court, could be taken by acting ministers to ensure their validity and avoid the financial and social costs of further litigation and uncertainty.

Anne Twomey, Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Sydney

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

Scotland: Accepts Ministers in Same-Sex Civil Partnerships


The link below is to an article that reports on another denomination of the church moving further away from biblical norms.

For more visit:
http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/may/16/church-of-scotland-votes-accept-ministers-same-sex-civil-partnerships

One Dead as Islamist Mobs in Ethiopia Destroy Church Buildings


Total structures razed at 59; at least 4,000 Christians displaced.

NAIROBI, Kenya, March 7 (CDN) — At least one Christian was killed and others injured when thousands of Islamic extremists set fire to 59 churches and at least 28 homes in western Ethiopia in the past five days, Christian leaders said.

More than 4,000 Christians in and around Asendabo, Jimma Zone have been displaced as a result of attacks that began on Wednesday (March 2) after Muslims accused a Christian of desecrating the Quran by tearing up a copy, sources said.

“The atrocity is still going on, and more people are suffering,” said a source in Addis Ababa who is in close contact with area church leaders.

The Christian killed, believed to have been a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, has not yet been identified.

“One Orthodox believer, whose daughter is a member of Mekane Yesus Church, has been killed,” an Ethiopian church leader told Compass. “Ministers were injured, and many more believers have been displaced.”

A pastor based in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa noted that evangelical church leaders have reported the attacks to authorities and asked officials for help, but no action had been taken at press time.

“The church requested more police protection,” he said. “The authorities sent security forces, but they were overwhelmed by the attackers.”

After the destruction began at Asendabo, it spread to Chiltie, Gilgel Gibe, Gibe, Nada, Dimtu, Uragay, Busa and Koticha, as Muslim mobs in the thousands rampaged throughout the area, sources said.

“Police at the site are not taking any action – they just watch what is happening,” said another source. “It is difficult to estimate the attack in terms of deaths, since we have no access to any location.”

Those displaced are in shelters in Ako, Jimma, Dimtu and Derbo, he said.

“We are very concerned that the attack that began on March 2 in Asendabo, which is the rural part of Jimma, is now heading to Jimma town,” he said.

The extremists also destroyed an Ethiopian Kale Hiwot Church (EKHC) Bible school building and two church office buildings, the source said. Of the churches burned, he said, 38 belonged to the EKHC; 12 were Mekane Yesus buildings; six were Seventh-day Adventist structures; two were Muluwongel church buildings, and another belonged to a “Jesus Only” congregation.

“Women and children are the most affected in this sudden attack,” he said. “It is needless to mention the believers’ houses and properties burned down. The overall estimated cost, may be worth over 60 million birr [US$3.55 million].”

Anti-Christian attacks in western Ethiopia in 2006 killed at least 24 people.

“Attacks on the church have been a common occurrence in predominantly Muslim areas of Ethiopia like Jimma and Jijiga,” the source said, adding that Christians are often subject to harassment and intimidation.

Asendabo, in Oromia Region, is about 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Addis Ababa.

The attacks erupted as heavy fighting was taking place at the borders of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. Ethiopian troops were trying to repel Islamic extremist al-Shabaab troops from Bulahawo, Somalia, near Mandera, Kenya, with several casualties and hundreds displaced.

Ethiopia’s constitution, laws and policies generally respect freedom of religion, but occasionally some local authorities infringe on this right, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2010 International Religious Freedom Report.

According to the 2007 census, 44 percent of Ethiopia’s population affiliate with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, 19 percent are evangelical and Pentecostal and 34 percent are Sunni Muslim.

Report from Compass Direct News

Tensions High after Christians Killed in Bombings


Islamic extremist Boko Haram sect attacks churches in Borno, Plateau states.

LAGOS, Nigeria, December 28 (CDN) — Tensions continued to mount in the Christian community in Maiduguri, capital of Borno state in northern Nigeria, following the killing of a Baptist pastor and five other Christians on Christmas Eve.

The Rev. Bulus Marwa and the other Christians were killed in the Dec. 24 attacks on Victory Baptist Church in Alemderi and a Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) congregation in Sinimari by the outlawed Islamic Boko Haram sect opposed to Western education.

Those killed at the Baptist church, which was set ablaze, included choir members Philip Luka, 22, and Paul Mathew, 21, as well as 50-year-old Christopher Balami and Yohana Adamu. Philip Sopso, a 60-year-old a security guard, was killed at the COCIN church while 25 other persons were said to have been injured during the serial attacks by the Islamic group.

“It is sad that when Christians were supposed to be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, some people, out of wickedness, would come to perpetrate such evil,” said Borno State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria the Rev. Yuguda Ndirmva.

The Boko Haram members reportedly first stormed the COCIN church in two vehicles and detonated bombs that shattered the gate of the worship center and killed the security guard.

Many Christians have taken refuge to avoid further attacks as soldiers and police keep watch at churches and other strategic locations in the state.

Danjuma Akawu, who survived the attack on the Baptist church, said “they hacked the two choir members using knives and petrol bomb before heading to the pastor’s residence, where he was killed.”

Borno Gov. Ali Modu Sheriff said he had alerted police to the possibility of an attack on churches during Christmas.

“It is very unfortunate and sad for the Christian community to be attacked and people killed without any genuine cause,” Sheriff said.

Speaking during a visit to the Baptist church on Saturday (Dec. 25), the governor noted that the attack on the Christian community was an attempt by Boko Haram to create conflict between Christians and Muslims in the state. Several Boko Haram bomb blasts in Christian areas of Jos on Dec. 24 that killed scores of people were said to be an attempt to create the same inter-religious conflict.

Borno state, in northeastern Nigeria, is largely populated by Muslims who have disowned some activities of Boko Haram as contrary to Islam.

Police Commissioner Mohammed Abubakar admitted a security lapse on the part of his divisional police officers, whom he said had been told to watch out for Boko Haram members.

The activities of the Islamic extremist Boko Haram, whose names means “Western education is sin,” were crushed by police in 2009 with the arrest of many of its members and the killing of its leader.

In retaliation, the group had killed policemen and was recently responsible for a prison break to set free its members in the Borno state capital.

Worried about the safety of Christians in Borno state, the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, asked the federal government to curb the growing trend of terrorism in parts of the country.

“We can no longer allow this group of disgruntled elements to get away with these acts of terrorism in Nigeria,” he said.

The general superintendent of Deeper Life Bible Church, Pastor William Kumuyi, demanded the arrest and prosecution of the Boko Haram members and others to serve as a deterrent.

“A situation in which feuds easily lead to the burning of churches and the endless killings of church ministers and innocent citizens is an abhorrent trend which must not be allowed to continue,” Pastor Kumuyi said. “The initiative rests on the doorsteps of the security agencies to bring this unfortunate trend to an end.”

Report from Compass Direct News

Iraqis Mourn Victims of Massive Attack on Church


Islamic extremist assault, security force operation leave at least 58 dead.

ISTANBUL, November 2 (CDN) — Amid questions about lax security, mourners gathered in Iraq today to bury the victims of Sunday’s (Oct. 31) Islamic extremist assault on a Syrian Catholic Church in Baghdad, one of the bloodiest attacks on the country’s dwindling Christian community.

Seven or eight Islamic militants stormed into Our Lady of Salvation church during evening mass after detonating bombs in the neighborhood, gunning down two policemen at the stock exchange across the street, and blowing up their own car, according to The Associated Press (AP). More than 100 people were reportedly attending mass.

A militant organization called the Islamic State of Iraq, which has links to al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, claimed responsibility for the attack. The militants sprayed the sanctuary with bullets and ordered a priest to call the Vatican to demand the release of Muslim women whom they claimed were held hostage by the Coptic Church in Egypt, according to the AP. The militants also reportedly demanded the release of al Qaeda prisoners.

“It appears to be a well-planned and strategic attack aiming at the church,” said a local source for ministry organization Open Doors.

About four hours after the siege, Iraqi security forces launched an assault on the church building, and the Islamic assailants blew themselves up. It was unclear how many of the 58 people dead had been killed by Iraqi security personnel, but the militants reportedly began killing hostages when the security force assault began. All who did not die from gunshots and blasts were wounded.

The dead included 12 policemen, three priests and five bystanders from the car bombing and other blasts outside the church. The Open Doors source reported that the priests killed were the Rev. Saad Abdal Tha’ir, the Rev. Waseem Tabeeh and the Rev. Raphael Qatin, with the latter not succumbing until he had been taken to a hospital.

Bishop Georges Casmoussa told Compass that today Iraqi Christians not only mourned lost brothers and sisters but were tempted to lose hope.

“It’s a personal loss and a Christian loss,” said Casmoussa. “It’s not just people they kill. They also kill hope. We want to look at the future. They want to kill the Christian presence here, where we have so much history.”

Casmoussa, who knew the priests who died, said that this attack will surely drive more Christians away from the country or to Kurdish administrated northern Iraq.

“Those who are wounded know that it is by the grace of God they are alive, but some of them don’t know exactly what happened,” said Casmoussa. “There is one hurt man who doesn’t know if his son is still alive. This is the drama. There are families that lost two and three members. Do I have the right to tell them to not leave?”

The attack was the deadliest one against the country’s Christians since Islamic extremists began targeting them in 2003.

“It was the hardest hit against the Christians in Iraq,” said Casmoussa, noting that no single act of violence had led to more casualties among Christians. “We never had such an attack against a church or Christian community.”

Memorials were held today in Baghdad, Mosul and surrounding towns, said Casmoussa, who attended the funeral of 13 deceased Christians including the dead priests.

“At the funeral there was the Shiite leader, the official spokesperson of the government ministers,” Casmoussa said. “All the discussion was flippant – ‘We are with you, we are all suffering,’ etcetera, but we have demanded a serious investigation. We can’t count on good words anymore. It’s all air. We’ve heard enough.”

The Rev. Emanuel Youkhana of the Church of the East told Compass that Iraqi Christians have been systematically driven out over the last five years. He said this attack came as no surprise to him.

“I’m not surprised, in that this is not the first time,” said Youkhana. “In the last five years, there has been a systematic terrorist campaign to kick out the Christians from the country. [They are saying] you are not accepted in this country. Christians should leave this country.”

Youkhana said that in the same way that the Jewish community has disappeared from Iraq, the Iraqi Christians, or Medians as they are called, “are in their last stage of existence” in Iraq.

The Iraqi government is to blame due to its lax security measures, Youkhana said.

“I’m ashamed of the minister of defense, who came on TV and said it was a successful and professional operation – 50 percent of the [congregation] was massacred,” said Youkhana of the assault on the Islamic terrorists by Iraqi security forces.

He said that in order for Christians to have any hope of staying in Iraq, the government must come up with a political solution and set up an independent administrative area, like that of the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq.

“Just now I was watching on TV the coverage of the funeral,” Youkhana said. “All the politicians are there to condemn the act. So what? Is the condemnation enough to give confidence to the people? No!”

It is estimated that more than 50 percent of Iraq’s Christian community has fled the country since 2003. There are nearly 600,000 Christians left in Iraq.

“More people will leave, and this is the intention of the terrorists: to claim Iraq as a pure Islamic state,” said Youkhana. “Our people are so peaceful and weak; they cannot confront the terrorists. So they are fleeing out of the country and to the north. This is why we say there should be political recognition.”

Five suspects were arrested in connection with the attack – some of them were not Iraqi, and today an Iraqi police commander was detained for questioning in connection to the attack, according to the AP.

“We can’t make political demands,” said Casmoussa. “We are making a civic and humanitarian demand: That we can live in peace.”

Following the funerals today, a series of at least 13 bombings and mortar strikes in predominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad reportedly killed 76 people and wounded nearly 200.

Report from Compass Direct News