Continuing chaos in Canberra

Australia’s Upper House is in chaos, with Senator Bob Day’s resignation and Senator Rod Culleton’s eligibility in question and both cases being referred to the High Court for adjudication.

The Bob Day bombshell
After tendering his resignation yesterday, the Upper House is reeling after it was revealed that Senator Bob Day may have been illegally voting in Parliament for more than two years.

Bob Day’s problems stem from a constitutional point that says an election candidate cannot have any pecuniary interest in the Commonwealth. The Family First MP had his electorate office in a building which was owned by a company to which he was linked. So, in effect, he was earning salary from taxpayers as well as collecting rent from them.

The former senator’s financial fiasco may well be putting Government legislation at risk, which is especially troubling when he has supported the Government in 95 per cent of votes in the Senate.

The Bob Day drama also shines a light on the spat between Attorney General George Brandis and the recently departed former Solicitor General Justin Gleeson who warned Mr Brandis of Bob Day’s issues and questioned the composition of the Senate.

As of next week, for the remaining three weeks of sittings, the Upper House will have 75 sitting Senators, instead of 76. But that is the least of our problems. The big issue is what to do next.

The High Court sitting as Court of Disputed Returns could recount the South Australian vote from the last Federal Election to find a replacement, or the South Australian Parliament could appoint a replacement.

Labor Senate Leader Penny Wong is all for the former option.

“If he was not (legally elected), Mr Day’s resignation would not create a casual vacancy because he was never validly elected in the first place,” said Senator Wong. “Precedent suggests the appropriate method for replacing Mr Day in the Senate would therefore be through a recount of the SA Senate vote rather than through the SA Parliament appointing a replacement.”

Labor is currently seeking legal advice on the matter.

Read more at The Age

Senator Culleton’s dark cloud
The Bob Day bombshell preceded allegations about One Nation Senator Rod Culleton’s eligibility for election on 2 July.

The Senate has been asked to consider challenging Senator Culleton’s election, after he pleaded guilty to larceny in a New South Wales court earlier this year.

The Western Australian Senator was charged with stealing a $7.50 key to a tow truck that, at the time, was removing his leased vehicle. Although the conviction was annulled in August, that was after his election on 2 July.

Former Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson was again consulted for advice on the matter and he suggested that Mr Culleton’s eligibility be tested in the High Court.

Senator Culleton, who spoke at a press conference in Perth yesterday, played down the charges, saying, “Just because I turn around and say that I took a key, it’s no different to taking a scone off someone’s plate.”

Senator Culleton could also be disqualified from the Senate if he is found to be personally responsible for the debts of his company Elite Grains, which is being liquidated with debts of $6 million. Under the constitution, a senator can be dismissed if he/she is found to be bankrupt or insolvent.

The High Court is being asked to rule on whether Bob Day was eligible to stand on 2 July and is now being called upon to rule on whether it was appropriate for Senator Culleton to stand.

Senator Culleton sent word to George Brandis saying that he would refrain from voting on any legislation until the High Court ruling on his eligibility.

The so-called ‘dark cloud’ that hangs over Senator Culleton’s head also hangs over the Government, with Labor only two crossbench votes shy of controlling Senate voting for the rest of the year.

Read more at www.abc.net.au

Do you think this is just a storm in a teacup? Does the credibility of these two politicians worry you? What, if anything, can be done to test the trustworthiness and integrity of our politicians and candidates putting themselves forward for election?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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