Independent crossbencher Steve Martin joins Nationals, giving the party a Tasmanian presence


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government has picked up another Senate crossbencher to add to its numbers, with Tasmanian independent Steve Martin announcing he has joined the Nationals.

It is the first time the party has had representation in that state since the early 1920s, when William McWilliams was briefly leader of the Country Party.

Although it is to the Coalition’s advantage to have an additional senator locked in, and one less independent with whom to negotiate, in practice the change does not affect things significantly.

Martin’s move takes the Coalition to 31 in the Senate, out of a 76-member chamber. It means the government has to get eight of ten crossbenchers to pass legislation opposed by Labor and the Greens. Previously it was nine of 11. Martin has mostly voted with the Coalition and was already committed to supporting the government’s company tax cuts for big business.

He was elevated to Parliament on a countback, following the resignation of Jacqui Lambie in the citizenship crisis, but he never sat as a representative of the Jacqui Lambie Network, becoming an independent.

Earlier, Senator Lucy Gichuhi moved from the crossbench to the Liberals. She has come under threat for a winnable place on the South Australian Liberal ticket.

Martin said on Monday that what drew him to the Nationals was “their focus on key issues such as natural resources, teamwork and, of course, people”. He said the Nationals had a record of looking after rural and regional communities and Tasmania was rural and regional.

Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said Martin’s joining was “reinvigorating the National Party in Tasmania”.

Recalling the long period since the party had had representation there – before the Tasmanian tiger was last seen in the 1930s – McCormack said: “I liken Steve a bit to the Tasmanian tiger, inasmuch as he will be a tiger for regional development, an absolute tiger in there fighting for the interests of Tasmanians.”

Martin said he had no “deal” with the Nationals although “I hope I get the number one on their election paper”.

It is not clear how Martin, who is up for election at the next poll, would fit with the Liberals’ ticket. Although only Liberal Richard Colbeck is up for re-election next time, sources say Martin’s joining the Nationals does not mean there would necessarily be a joint Coalition ticket. There could be separate tickets.

Lambie, meanwhile, responded to the news with her own tweet on Monday: “I will be running to return the Senate seat to the people of Tasmania who want a truly independent voice in Canberra. Trust me, I am biting at the bit, looking forward to taking the Nats out!”

CORRECTION

The ConversationMalcolm Farnsworth on his blog, AustralianPolitics.com has corrected Michael McCormack, and The Conversation. McCormack (and we) said that before new recruit Steve Martin, the last federal representative of his party from Tasmania was William McWilliams. Farnsworth says it was Llewellyn Atkinson, who was the Country Party member for Wilmot from 1921 until 1928.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

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Lambie’s Senate replacement Steve Martin flags that he won’t stand aside


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The High Court has ruled that Steve Martin, from the Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN), is eligible to enter the Senate, dismissing the argument that his mayoral position disqualified him under the Constitution’s Section 44.

After the decision Martin quickly rejected any suggestion he might stand aside to allow Lambie to return to the Senate, despite her clear wish that he do so.

Lambie resigned from parliament last year because she had dual citizenship, inherited via a Scottish father.

Martin said he was excited at the case’s outcome and the prospect of taking up the opportunity to work for Tasmania in the Senate.

Asked whether he might defect to become an independent, as did a One Nation replacement senator, Fraser Anning, Martin said he was entering the Senate as a JLN candidate and there were still a few steps to be gone through. He would not be drawn on anything “hypothetical”.

The issue in the case of Martin, who was number two on the JLN ticket at the election, was whether, as mayor of Devonport, he held an office of profit under the crown.

Former One Nation candidate Kate McCulloch maintained that he did. The full bench decision, which was unanimous, has now clarified the constitutional position in relation to local councillors generally.

Lambie said at the weekend: “My heart is set on coming back to the Senate”.

Martin was “entitled to that second seat. If he wants to run through with it, well he’s entitled to do that. Unfortunately I broke the rules, whether it was intentional or not, and I have to sit on the sidelines and pay the price for that,” she told Sky.

“I’ll be brutally honest, if it was me in his position I would be extremely loyal and I would step down. That’s what I would do, but that is not up to me – that is up to him.”

Next week the court will hear the case concerning the successor to former Nick Xenophon Team senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore, who also resigned in the dual citizenship crisis.

Kakoschke-Moore is arguing the vacancy should not go to the next candidate on the ticket, Tim Storer, who, after a falling out with the party, is no longer a member of it. She maintains the seat should go back to her; she has now freed herself of her British citizenship.

The court also has before it the status of ACT Labor senator Katy Gallagher, who did not receive confirmation of her renunciation of British citizenship until after her nomination.

Meanwhile, the Coalition is awaiting the court’s judgment in the case of David Gillespie, an assistant minister.

At issue there is another part of Section 44, which prohibits anyone being chosen for, or sitting in, parliament if they hold a pecuniary interest in an agreement with the Commonwealth.

The ConversationA tenant in a Port Macquarie shopping centre owned by Gillespie’s family company has an Australia Post franchise. Australia Post is a government business.

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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