Government questions whether Dastyari fit to be a senator, in new row over Chinese donor


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is again under pressure over the behaviour of high-profile Labor senator Sam Dastyari, who warned a political donor with Chinese Communist Party links that his phone was likely tapped.

Fairfax Media on Wednesday reported that before Dastyari and Huang Xiangmo spoke, the senator “gave Mr Huang counter-surveillance advice, saying they should leave their phones inside and go outside to speak”.

The story said the meeting last year was at Huang’s home in Sydney and occurred some weeks after Dastyari had to quit the frontbench amid controversy over his dealings with Huang, who is a Chinese citizen and an Australian permanent resident, and his contradiction of Labor policy on the South China sea.

It also happened after ASIO briefed political figures including from Labor about Huang’s opaque links to the Chinese government, the Fairfax report said.

The new controversy about Dastyari comes amid deepening security concerns about increasing Chinese interference in Australia.

The government questioned whether Dastyari should remain in the Senate, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying Dastyari “has very, very grave questions to answer”.

“This is a very, very serious issue of national security.” Dastyari “should really be considering his position in the Senate”, Turnbull said.

Shorten indicated he had given Dastyari a warning but did not suggest he would take any more action against him.

“I have made it clear to senator Dastyari that this is not the first time his judgement has been called into question, but I certainly expect it to be the last,” Shorten said.

Dastyari’s demotion was followed by partial rehabilitation when he became deputy Labor whip in the Senate.

Turnbull asked rhetorically: “Whose side is he on?”

“Here he is, an Australian senator who has gone to a meeting with a foreign national, with close links to a foreign government and advises that foreign national, Mr Huang, to put their phones inside to avoid the possibility of surveillance,” Turnbull said.

“Why is he trying to alert Mr Huang that perhaps Australian security agencies may have an interest in him?”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said if the allegations were accurate, “they will show that senator Dastyari was acting against Australia’s national interest, against Australia’s national security concerns”.

This would make his position in the Senate “untenable”, she said.

Turnbull also challenged Shorten, asking why he told Dastyari “directly or indirectly, about possible interest from security services, in Mr Huang”.

Dastyari argues that his remark about the likely phone tapping was passing on press gallery gossip.

He said he had never been briefed by any security agency, or received any classified information about any matter.

“I’ve never passed on any protected security information – I’ve never been in possession of any,” he said.

He quoted a comment he had made to the ABC’s Four Corners some months ago, when he said: “After the events of last year, I spoke to Mr Huang to tell him that I did not think it was appropriate that we have future contact. I thought it was a matter of common courtesy to say this face to face. Neither my office or I have spoken to Mr Huang since.”

He said this information has been publicly available since June.

Shorten said he had not passed on any information from a security briefing to Dastyari. “However I do not believe the senator is the subject of any national security investigation.”

Dastyari had never made a secret of the fact that this meeting took place, Shorten said. “He has again confirmed that he did not pass on any classified information, because he didn’t have any.”

Peter Jennings, head of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said the incident was “as serious as it gets” and called for a public investigation.

He said that if, when he was a public servant, he had had a conversation with a foreign national warning them their phone was likely tapped, “it would have been a career-ending moment for me – probably leading to legal action”.

Jennings said over the past two to three years, “we’ve had a number of examples of Chinese involvement at senior political levels that are deeply questionable in terms of appropriateness. For the health of our democracy we have to get to the bottom of these issues.”

UPDATE

Late on Wednesday, in another damaging blow to Dastyari, audio was leaked of his remarks in June last year supporting the Chinese over the South China Sea, in flat contradiction of ALP policy.

Although a report of part of his comments had previously come out via the Chinese media, the audio, following hard on the heels of the revelation of his phone tapping warning to Huang, will be extremely damaging to him and put Shorten further on the spot.

The comments were made at a Sydney news conference for the domestic Chinese media, with Huang standing beside Dastyari.

Later, Dastyari was quoted as having said: “The South China Sea is China’s own affair, Australia should remain neutral and respect China on this matter”.

The audio indicates how deliberate his comments were and gives more precision and detail of what he said.

Dastyari says in the tape: “The Chinese integrity of its borders is a matter for China.

“And the role Australia should be playing as a friend is to know that with the several thousand years of history, thousands of years of history, where it is and isn’t our place to be involved.

“And as a supporter of China and a friend of China the Australian Labor Party needs to play an important role in maintaining that relationship and the best way of maintaining is knowing when it is and isn’t our place to be involved.”

In response to the audio, Dastyari said in a statement: “In September last year, I resigned from the ALP frontbench, over comments I made at a June 17 press conference which were wrong and not consistent with ALP policy.

“I have acknowledged this a number of times previously. I should not have made these comments at the press conference. I have acknowledged this, and I paid a price for this error.

“I expect Turnbull and the Liberals to smear me, but for he and his colleagues to suggest that I am not a true or loyal Australian is incredibly hurtful – and hurtful to all overseas-born Australians. I might’ve been born overseas, but I’m as Australian as he is.”

The ConversationHe said his last contact with Huang was 14 months ago. “I haven’t spoken to him since.”

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

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High Court strikes again – knocking out Hollie Hughes as replacement senator


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The High Court has ruled out Liberal Hollie Hughes as a replacement for former Nationals senator Fiona Nash on the ground that she had an office of profit under the Crown during the election period.

Once again, the court has taken a very literalist approach to the Constitution. Hughes was appointed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal this year but quit immediately after the court declared Nash ineligible to sit in parliament because she had been a dual British citizen when she nominated.

Hughes’ problem was that the election period is considered to extend until the seat is filled. The court did not accept the argument of Commonwealth Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue that “the process of choice ends with the poll”.

Hughes was the next candidate on the Coalition joint ticket for New South Wales for the 2016 election and was set to get the position on the recount. The seat is now expected to go to Jim Molan, the following candidate on the ticket.

There would be some irony in his election because he had been pushed to an unwinnable position on the ticket, but still managed to get more than 10,000 votes personally.

Molan, a former senior military officer, was key in the shaping of the Coalition’s border protection policy.

He has been one of those at the forefront of the move within the NSW Liberal division to get a more democratic structure. He has put himself forward as a candidate for state president when the party’s state council meets in December to consider reforms that were passed by a rank-and-file convention earlier this year.

Molan said late on Wednesday that it was too early to say much about the Senate seat beyond “I believe I am eligible and I would take the job if it were offered”. He had no citizenship problems nor did he have any office of profit under the Crown, he said.

The ConversationThe High Court will publish its reasons later.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/k3zus-7afe23?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.

Hanson loses replacement senator – before he is even sworn in



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Fraser Anning (centre) was escorted into the Senate by David Leyonhjelm and Cory Bernardi.
AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Pauline Hanson has lost one of her four Senate votes, in a dramatic blow-up with the man she unsuccessfully pressured to step aside to allow Malcolm Roberts back into the parliament.

On Monday, Queensland’s Fraser Anning replaced Roberts, who was declared ineligible by the High Court because he was a dual British citizen.

But just before he walked into the chamber to be sworn in, Anning flagged he would sit as an independent.

Anning later declared he had not left One Nation – it was Hanson who had kicked him out.

The setback for Hanson comes as One Nation’s vote is apparently surging in the Queensland election. Polling published in The Courier-Mail at the weekend showed strong support for One Nation in various regional and urban fringe seats with a vote of more than 20% in some, although it would not have won any of the seats on the figures.

The Anning defection follows weeks of tension with Hanson and her adviser James Ashby, and a bitter clash at the One Nation party meeting on Monday morning.

Hanson said in a statement that before the High Court decision she had tried to speak with Anning while he was overseas, but her efforts “fell on deaf ears”. She’d had to communicate through his brother Harry instead.

She had indicated to Harry Anning “that given the work Malcolm Roberts had achieved as chair of the banking inquiry and his role in challenging climate change, it would be in the federal party’s and Australia’s best interests” for him to be returned to the Senate.

Anning had made no attempt to contact her or any One Nation executive members after multiple requests to discuss his plans, she claimed – something Anning disputes. “Instead he chose to release scathing media releases demanding I pledge my support to him without even meeting or speaking to him,” she said.

The statement said Anning only spoke with Hanson on Monday morning “but those talks quickly failed when she refused to allow several Anning staff into the party meeting. The staffers had formerly worked for Roberts and she would not have them at the meeting “because of their disloyalty to their former employer and myself.”

Anning then walked out of the meeting.

One Nation senators Brian Burston and Peter Georgiou sought to mediate, but they were told “only minutes before he was sworn into the Senate” that Anning would sit as an independent, Hanson’s statement said.

Anning had a different version. He said he had been verbally attacked in the partyroom. “This was profoundly shocking to me as I had been a friend and supporter of Pauline for over 20 years … the attack was so vitriolic that I was obliged to simply walk out.”

He said Burston and Georgiou had told him Hanson demanded he not employ the staffers – he had said this was unacceptable. He believed these demands were actually coming from Ashby, “who had previously conducted a witch-hunt against anyone he thought supported me, and it was he who had turned Pauline against me”.

At the last minute, Anning’s office asked Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm and the Australian Conservatives’ Cory Bernardi to escort him for the swearing in, which his One Nation colleagues had been due to do. Anning said Hanson had told the One Nation senators not to do so.

“The next thing I knew, I saw on the TV that I had supposedly become an independent. This was news to me!

“It seems that without even contacting me, Pauline has unilaterally kicked me out of her party,” he said. “I have to say I’m stunned.” He said it was “simply false” to say he’d left One Nation. “If I’m no longer a One Nation senator, it is because Pauline has expelled me by press release.”

Hanson’s statement said she believed former employees of Roberts contacted Anning several months ago, encouraging him to move to Bernardi’s party if Roberts lost his seat.

She said before Roberts came under the citizenship cloud she had asked Anning to contest the state seat of Gladstone, but he dismissed the request on the grounds he and his wife were moving permanently to the US.

Leyonhjelm said Anning told him on their way into the chamber that he wouldn’t be sitting as a One Nation senator.

He had been aware of the tensions earlier but had been told by a One Nation senator at the weekend that all was well with Anning.

Asked if Anning might join the Liberal Democrats Leyonhjelm said he had not spoken to him about that. Anning would have to be comfortable with the party, he said.

The ConversationRoberts is running for a seat in the Queensland election.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/k3zus-7afe23?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 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.

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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.

Explainer: why has Rod Culleton been disqualified from the Senate?


Lorraine Finlay, Murdoch University

The ongoing legal controversies surrounding Western Australian senator Rod Culleton – described by a Federal Court judge as “something approaching a carnival, if not a circus” – took a new turn on Wednesday. Senate President Stephen Parry made the constitutional step of notifying the WA government of a Senate vacancy due to Culleton’s disqualification following a long saga over his eligibility to sit in the upper house.

Culleton’s disqualification comes after Parry received formal notification of Culleton’s status as an undischarged bankrupt.

Even before the 2016 election results were formally declared, questions were being asked over whether Culleton was actually eligible to be a senator. Since that time, two key constitutional issues have emerged.

The Court of Disputed Returns

The first issue relates to a larceny charge in New South Wales concerning a A$7.50 tow truck key. Culleton was convicted in March 2016. However, the conviction was annulled in August, meaning it “ceases to have effect”.

While Culleton later pleaded guilty at a rehearing in October, no conviction was ultimately recorded.

In November, the Senate referred this conviction’s constitutional impact to the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns. The issue is whether Culleton’s election was valid under Section 44(ii) of the Constitution, which provides a person is incapable of being a senator if they have:

… been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a state by imprisonment for one year or longer.

The larceny conviction falls squarely within this section’s scope. The critical question is whether Culleton had actually been convicted at the time of his election (and was therefore ineligible), given this was subsequently annulled.

The central issue concerns the word “annulment”. If the Court of Disputed Returns holds that the conviction never existed then this issue falls away. If, however, the effect of an annulment is not retrospective then Culleton was never eligible to be elected.

At the conclusion of hearings on December 7 the court reserved its decision. It is not scheduled to sit again until January 30.

There is no guarantee that a decision will be handed down at the next sittings, or before the Senate next meets on February 7. However, the court has previously recognised the public interest in this matter being resolved expeditiously.

Culleton’s bankruptcy proceedings

The second issue concerns bankruptcy proceedings filed against Culleton.

On December 23, 2016, a Federal Court judge ordered that Culleton’s estate be sequestrated (or seized to pay his debts). All proceedings under the order were stayed for 21 days; this stay was due to be lifted on January 13.

Culleton continues to assert he is not bankrupt, and is able to pay his debts. However, the Federal Court judge dismissed this. He noted that, despite assertions made before the court, there was “no material evidence” produced to support these claims. An appeal against the sequestration order was filed on January 11, but no date has yet been set for the appeal hearing.

The effect of a sequestration order is that the debtor becomes a bankrupt. In Culleton’s case, this then enlivens sections 44 and 45 of the Constitution. These provide that an undischarged bankrupt is incapable of sitting as a senator, and their Senate position becomes vacant.

Parry’s statement indicated he has received from the inspector-general in bankruptcy and the Federal Court registry documents recording Culleton’s status as an undischarged bankrupt. The necessary constitutional implication is that Culleton’s Senate position is vacant.

What happens next?

This saga still has some way to go before its conclusion. But it is almost certain that Culleton will not be able to continue as a senator.

Even if he successfully appeals the sequestration order and the Court of Disputed Returns rules in his favour, Culleton still faces further constitutional hurdles. Another creditor’s petition is yet to be heard by the Federal Court, and a stealing charge is listed for trial in Perth in September 2017. These could each result in Culleton being constitutionally precluded from sitting as a senator.

From a constitutional perspective, however, it is critical that the correct grounds for disqualification are established. This will affect how a replacement senator is chosen.

If the Court of Disputed Returns rules that Culleton was never eligible to be elected, then – based on precedent – the most-likely outcome is that the second-listed One Nation candidate from the 2016 election will be declared elected. This happens to be Culleton’s brother-in-law, Peter Georgiou.

If, however, Culleton was initially eligible but is subsequently disqualified as an undischarged bankrupt, then a casual vacancy would arise to be dealt with under Section 15 of the Constitution. In this case, One Nation would recommend a party member to fill the vacancy, and the WA parliament would formally appoint this replacement.

If the WA parliament is not in session – which is a distinct possibility given a state election will be held on March 11 – then the WA governor will make the appointment, which must then be confirmed at the next state parliamentary sittings. One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has already tweeted that she has selected a “great person” as a replacement if a casual vacancy is declared.

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Given these possibilities, it would be prudent to wait until both the existing bankruptcy appeal and the Court of Disputed Returns’ decision are finalised before taking any steps to fill the vacancy. This is far from ideal given both the close numbers in the Senate and that WA will be under-represented in the “states’ house” for as long as the position remains unfilled.

However, the removal of a senator who was duly elected by the people only six months ago is not something to be done lightly. And it is certainly not something to be done on anything other than conclusively determined constitutional grounds.

The Conversation

Lorraine Finlay, Lecturer in Law, Murdoch University

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

Australia: Mary Jo Fisher to Quit Senate


Scientology a criminal organisation says Australian senator


An Australian lawmaker has launched a scathing attack on the Church of Scientology saying, "Scientology is not a religious organization but a criminal organization that hides behind its so called religious beliefs," reports Ecumenical News International.

In a speech to the Australian Senate on 17 November, Senator Nick Xenophon said the Church of Scientology had a "worldwide pattern of abuse and criminality".

The Church of Scientology responded in a statement saying that the senator had presented unsubstantiated allegations as if they were factual evidence and by speaking under parliamentary privilege he had abused the powers granted to him as lawmaker.

Report from the Christian Telegraph