AND THEY ALL FALL DOWN

At a Glance

The citizenship crisis continues to swing like a wrecking ball through the Federal Parliament – with ancestory.com no doubt the most popular website in recent times.

Despite months of denials by Bill Shorten, it would now appear up to 5 Labor members could be referred to the High Court.  Already Labor Senator Katie Gallagher has resigned from the frontbench and has been referred to the High Court.

The consequences have been far-reaching not only for political careers, and for the standing of the Government but the integrity of the Parliament.  The Parliament itself is fast becoming a farce, and its legitimacy as a duly elected body is increasingly being questioned by many.

This crisis has come to politically define 2017 and will no doubt be the one issue that will be most remembered.

In the Senate alone:

  •  Greens Senators resigned for being dual citizens;
  • 1 National Party Senator was found ineligible by the High Court
  • 1 Liberal Senator had to resign who was President of the Senate;
  • Senator Jacqui Lambie had to resign;
  • 1 One Nation Senator was found ineligible by the High Court;
  • Nick Xenophon Team Senator Kakosche-Moore has announced her resignation;
  • Nick Xenophon resigned to run in the SA election due in early 2018;
  • Katy Gallagher has been referred to the High Court;

Don’t forget, in November 2016 former Family First Senator Bob Day had to resign from the Senate for having a pecuniary financial interest with the Commonwealth which was a breach of section 44 of the Constitution.

The carnage to date is the Senate has lost 9 Senators from the 76 elected in July 2016, and has prompted 2 by-elections in the House of Representatives for seats held by Government MPs, John Alexander and Barnaby Joyce.

The prospect of a super Saturday of by-elections for impacted members in the House of Representatives is now a very real possibility.

Understanding the Fallout

With Labor well and truly caught up in the crisis, it guarantees this issue will extend into 2018.  Going into the new year the Prime Minister would have been hoping for a political reset and Bill Shorten would have been hoping it was only a Government problem.  How this has changed all in the space of a week.

The citizenship crisis has also changed the dynamic of the Senate crossbench.  Who would have thought an already complicated situation could have got even more complicated?

Let me explain…

Nick Xenophon Team (NXT)

Nick Xenophon, leader of the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) and responsible for the election of 3 NXT Senators is a true political force of nature.  He is to his party what Pauline Hanson is to One Nation – the total embodiment of their respective parties.

Those outside of Canberra may not be aware but Xenophon was a master negotiator and probably the most politically savvy of all the Senate crossbenchers who totally dominated the party that carried his name.

With Xenophon gone, how will the NXT Team in Canberra now approach its negotiations with the Government?  Quite often it has been the NXT Teams 3 Senators that were the key swing votes for the Government.  Without NXT support the first round of company tax cuts would not have passed and it was NXT that sunk the same sex marriage plebiscite that was replaced with the recent survey.

While Xenophon has committed to be the national leader, (based in Adelaide), the dynamic has well and truly changed.  The NXT Team just won’t be the same without the charismatic Nick Xenophon at the helm, leading negotiations, from his Senate office.

Added to this, there will be a new as yet unknown Senator to replace Kakoschke-Moore.

One Nation

During this parliamentary term, One Nation led by Pauline Hanson has consistently provided 4 solid votes in support of the Government.  The loss of Malcolm Roberts has been a significant blow for Pauline Hanson and One Nation.  After Hanson he had the highest media profile of ONP Senators and this served One Nation well.

Not only has One Nation lost a media-savvy performer, they also lost a Senator.  In an unprecedented move, on the very day Fraser Anning was sworn in to replace Malcom Roberts, he resigned from One Nation after a falling out with the party.

This saw One Nation go from 4 Senators to 3 and for the Government, this makes negotiating with the crossbench, that little bit more difficult.

In the Senate where every vote counts, a crucial block of 4 votes the Government could rely on is suddenly 3.  It also means aside from the crossbench parties with multiple Senators (being the Greens, One Nation and NXT), there are now 6 individual micro party/independent Senators for the Government to corral.

Jacqui Lambie

The loss of Jacqui Lambie has seen the Senate lose one of its more colourful, yet passionate and authentic members.  Jacqui Lambie was the battlers, battler.  While many disagreed with her- she had an undeniable commitment, driven by personal experience in helping the least fortunate from her home state, Tasmania.

Her expected replacement is the Mayor of Devonport, Steve Martin, but he himself may yet fall foul of the ‘office of profit under the crown provision’ of the Constitution.  Assuming he does get to take his seat, it is yet another addition to the Senate crossbench who will be an unknown quantity.

The Greens

Due to the loss of Senators from WA and Queensland the Greens now have 2 new Senators.  One can only assume Andrew Bartlett (a former Democrat Senator and party leader), as a Greens Senator from Queensland will hit the ground running.

Bartlett is a relatively known quantity within political circles.  The challenge for the Greens will be, who to endorse as their number 1 candidate at the next election.  Will they endorse the former Greens Senator Larissa Waters or Andrew Bartlett?

A preselection fight could well be looming for the Greens, a party who pride themselves on not being like the major parties and like to avoid such messy showdowns.

Conclusion

The citizenship crisis has consumed more than enough of the national debate.  However, it will continue into 2018.

Labor was hoping to avoid the crisis but is now knee deep in the political crisis that is the dual citizenship issue.

While Labor MPs had escaped the scrutiny of the High Court to date, there’s potentially a number to be referred to the High Court to have their eligibility to sit in the Parliament questioned.

The disruption this crisis has caused to the Senate and the Senate crossbench in particular is quite profound.  All 3 major crossbench parties have been impacted, although Nick Xenophon did resign of his own accord and Jacqui Lambie a micro-party Senator had to resign.

It means there are 5 new crossbench Senators, but within both NXT and One Nation, two key Senate balance of power parties, the dynamics of both parties have changed dramatically.  The NXT has lost its savvy political leader and One Nation has lost an actual Senator making him a free agent when it comes to voting.

For business, 2018 will present itself as a continuing unstable political and policy environment in which to run their enterprises.

2018 will see the start of campaigning for what will definitely be an election in 2019.  Malcolm Turnbull will want to put some wins on the board as campaigning begins.  This will continue to be overshadowed by the ongoing citizenship crisis and a more fractious Senate crossbench that this crisis has delivered.

For more information, regarding this or any other public affairs issue you may require assistance with please don’t hesitate to contact me or visit the Insight Strategy website at www.insightstrategy.com.au

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