Who will fill the vacant seat in the Senate?

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Ex-Senator Bob Day has had his day, with his re-election to the Senate being ruled ‘unconstitutional’ by the High Court. But what does this mean for the Government?

The former senator resigned in November last year, after it was revealed that he may have been illegally voting in Parliament for more than two years.

The ex-Family First MP had his electorate office in a building which was owned by a company to which he was linked, effectively receiving a taxpayer-paid salary and taxpayer-paid rent.

The High Court ruling now leaves a vacant seat in the Senate. So, who will fill it?

The Family First party originally thought that the court would allow it to choose its own replacement, either Mr Day’s former chief of staff Rikki Lambert or Family First’s Lucy Gichuhi. But the High Court quickly quashed that notion by ordering a special recount of Senate ballots in South Australia.

Labor anticipated this High Court decision, because political parties require two tickets to stand, and Bob Day’s expulsion effectively meant that Family First only had one, so the ALP expected to pick up an extra seat in the Senate.

But the High Court rejected that argument saying that “there is nothing to suggest that the votes cast above the line in favour of Family First were not intended to flow” to Lucy Gichuhi.

The ABC psephologist, Antony Green, believes that Ms Gichuhi is certain to win the seat.

But her election may be complicated.

The Opposition claims that Ms Gichuhi, who was born in Kenya, may not have renounced her Kenyan citizenship. However, Ms Gichuhi has denied the claims, saying she is not, and never has been, a dual citizen.

Ms Gichuhi’s election could also spell trouble for the Government, as Bob Day was a staunch supporter of Coalition policy, having voted in favour of its legislation around 95 per cent of the time.

On the other hand, Ms Gichuhi may not be so predisposed to support the Coalition. It is believed that she will most likely not favour any push to curb spending and she has also publicly stated that she will take a different approach to her mentor, Mr Day.

“I have an independent mind and I have a different experience to Bob. Definitely I’m different,” she said.

If the Government thought it had trouble corralling the crossbenchers before, it may soon be in for a rougher ride.

Also, in light of the High Court ruling on Mr Day, the Opposition is now calling for the head of Assistant Health Minister David Gillespie, after it was revealed that he may have an indirect financial interest in a property leased to the Commonwealth.

Mr Gillespie owns a block of commercial buildings, one of which is leased to Australia Post – a Government-owned corporation.

But the Government is confident that Mr Gillespie’s situation is not a conflict of interest. And its position is backed by constitutional law Professor Anne Twomey.

“The key aspect of the Day case is that the purpose of section 44(v) [of the Constitution] is to prevent a conflict between a member’s personal interest and public duty,” said Ms Twomey.

“I don’t know enough about the facts in the case of Mr Gillespie to say [if there’s a conflict].

“But if, theoretically, it is simply a matter of an ordinary commercial lease to a lessee, who then sub-leases to an Australia Post franchise on ordinary commercial terms, and there is no conceivable exercise of ‘influence’, then it is probably okay.”

Does the High Court ruling on Bob Day satisfy you? Should any legislation pushed through the Senate, supported by Bob Day’s vote, also be reviewed? Do you think Mr Gillespie’s situation is a conflict of interest? Or is the Labor Party clutching at straws?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca


Total Comments: 16
  1. 0

    Why don’t they all concentrate on running the country rather than their pathetic little swipes at each other. They, and the labor party particularly, must be spending a lot of taxpayer funds in developing and maintaining their dirt file. GROW UP the lot of you little kiddies!

    • 0

      Hi Pablo, I do not see the relevance of your comment. Where does a dirt file come into this? Or are you against transparency of funding and in favour of politicians making money out of renting premises to themselves?

      Supposing there was a “dirt file” it would not be funded by the taxpayer, but by the political party.

      I agree with your suggestion they should GROW UP. Use their maturity to uncover frauds in politics like Bob Day and the WA dude Culleton Full marks for that.

    • 0

      Batara, I think you would find plenty of “dirt” in Hansard (sorry , not sure about the spelling). reports of what is said in Parliament

  2. 0

    My concern would be the voting above the line system for the Senate. Here we have a failed candidate, in fact a candidate that should not have been allowed to stand, about to be replaced by an unknown quantity because she was on that “ticket”. Personally Lucy sounds 1000% superior to Bob Day, but that is not relevant. The relevant point is that many people voted for Family First thinking they would get Bob Day, now they get a far superior representative. Could have gone the other way and they get a bigot to represent them.

    I looked at the Family First site for the first time to see their policies. Holy cow! How could Bob Day have possibly been on that ticket. Some items: “Family First believes in the importance of values. Values like telling the truth, living within your means,” So people who go bankrupt in business – are they living within their means? People who stand when not eligible – are they telling the truth?

    Full marks to Lucy for standing when she had so little chance of getting a seat. Now it appears she will, but the process really troubles me. Great to see Bob Day turfed out – he should never have been allowed to stand. Now if Bob Day had been refused registration as a candidate, as he should have been, how would the Senate election in SA have gone? Most likely very differently.

    For my money it needs a re-run of the election because the result has been unacceptably distorted by the illegal inclusion of an inelligble candidate.

  3. 0

    The Parties including the Greens crack me up with their hypocrisy towards each other and independents such as Family First’s Lucy Gichuhi accusing her of may not have renounced her Kenyan citizenship. What a crock when numerous pollies were duplicitous in having dual citizenship being citizens of both Oz and Israel! Bob Hawke springs to mind among others of all sides

    • 0

      Thanks for informing me Flagman. I was never aware that Bob Hawke held Israeli citizenship. Do you have any substantiation of the assertion?

      The prime example of a dual national being elected to an Australian parliament is Eric Abetz. He was also a German citizen when first elected. Tony Abbott appears to be quite reluctant to prove that he renounced his British citizenship, which he maintained until at least around 20 years of age.

  4. 0

    Regardless of who gets the nod, what I’d love to see is senators doing the job as it was originally designed. All they are required to do is review proposed legislation and make any changes that are required to make it work as it was intended. Instead we have a second House of Representatives, wanting to propose legislation and voting against proposed legislation just because they can. It is sheer hypocrisy when a party goes to an election with a policy but when they become opposition, the very same policy put forward by the new government is voted down.

    • 0

      Old Man,

      The Senate was there to protect the interests of the States – a States house of review.

      It has become a jungle making it difficult for Governments to Govern effectively. We have a government getting 50+% of the popular vote in the House of Representatives and claiming a mandate and yet they are opposed by The Greens (almost having a power of Veto) who get 10 – 15 % of the Senate Vote and say that their minority vote gives them a mandate to stop the Government from implementing their 50+% mandate because they (The Greens) know what is good for the country even if they can’t get anywhere near a majority.

      When Governments rely on minorities to get legislation through it comes at a political cost and the pandering to the interests of a few Senators. This does not make for good Government.

      The Senate needs to be a House of Review and do its job of ensuring that the legislation implementing a Government mandate is the best that it can be and does not have unintended negative consequences. It can have negative consequences – a tax hike does that and there are some welfare programs that can and should be better targeted to those who really need them.

    • 0

      Old Man, I really do not understand your line of criticism. The Senate is doing a national service by putting a stop to bad legislation. Surely that is review.

      If the neo-conservatives had open slather to pass whatever turns on their distorted ideological view of dog eat dog we would be in the world of deep hurt.

      Remember the people elected one member to go to the House of Reps to represent their home patch, and they elected several senators. The people were wise enough to vote in a Senate that would control the ideological excesses of the Abbott inspired and controlled Government.

  5. 0

    Thank God for the Senate, you can say what you like they do keep our Federal Pollies in check.Can you picture what the Country would be like if they had free reign.The top end of town would really rape the country far more than it has already.Wages would be third world and the country would be sold over seas

    • 0

      Right on Looney. Very seldom has a party had control of both House of Reps and the Senate at the same time. It is a system that has worked well over the years in protecting us from the extremes of Government.

    • 0

      You are both right Looney and Tommy. Remember when Little Johnny Howard, who holds the distinction of being the second PM to be rejected by his own electorate at a general election, had control of the Senate? What did he do? Introduce Works Choices. The system that could not stand the pub test and was soon repealed once we had a Senate with half a brain.

  6. 0

    “The ex-Family First MP had his electorate office in a building which was owned by a company to which he was linked, effectively receiving a taxpayer-paid salary and taxpayer-paid rent.” So why haven’t the pollies who charge hundreds of dollars to stay in accommodation that they or their wife owns also get the chop? Or is the government just focussing on getting the minor parties and independents out to save their own seats?

  7. 0

    Bob Day was never an elected Senator (High Court determination)
    His senate votes (95% with the government) were not valid
    In cases where a bill was passed in the Senate by a single vote where Day voted with the government – that Senate vote should be negated and a re-vote taken.
    Why is such action not taken?

  8. 0

    Bob Day was never an elected Senator (High Court determination)
    His senate votes (95% with the government) were not valid
    In cases where a bill was passed in the Senate by a single vote where Day voted with the government – that Senate vote should be negated and a re-vote taken.
    Why is such action not taken?

  9. 0

    Whatever the outcome let us hope it is constitutionally correct. Whether any legislation on which Mr Day voted is valid is a question for the High Court to answer, and I am sure some pieces of legislation will be challenged on these grounds. I suggest a recount of the SA Senate election to determine who is the replacement for Mr Day is probably the most pragmatic way to resolve the issue who will be the replacement. Again I am sure there will be legal challenges which ever way the recount goes. Since we live in a democracy under the rule of law I have no issue with anyone taking to the courts to argue their case. However I hope the resolution is not too convoluted as to deprive SA of a voice in the Senate.



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