ALLIANCE: The Prime Minister has treated Senator Matt Canavan and deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce very differently in the citizenship furore, Mr Fitzgibbon argues. In my 21 years in the federal Parliament I’ve experienced some very interesting sitting weeks. For balance, many of them occurred during the 43rdParliament when Labor was in minority-government and Tony Abbott was making the most of every opportunity.
But I believe last week’s sitting takes the prize as the most bizarre.
Behind all the political battle lines lay some very serious issues. When the two Greens declared their dual citizenship they immediately left the Parliament.
The Prime Minister admonished them for their “sloppiness” and declared their departure the right thing to do.
But he was happy to embrace somewhat of a lower standard for the National Party’s Senator Matt Canavan.
He was asked to step-aside from his Cabinet post and declared he would not exercise his vote in the Senate until the High Court determined his fate.
For the time being, he remains in the Senate.
When Barnaby Joyce rose to his feet in the Parliament to declare he is a citizen of New Zealand, the Prime Minister adopted a different and lower standard.
Joyce was allowed to retain his roles as deputy Prime Minister and cabinet minister.No satisfactory explanation was given to explain the different treatment for Canavan and Joyce.
Of course, the difference can only be their respective parliamentary chambers.
Governments are made and unmade in the House of Representatives. It’s where the numbers matter most.
Subjecting Barnaby Joyce to the same standard as Matt Canavan would have cost the government a vote in the house where it has the barest of majorities, just 76 of the 150 seats.
After providing the Speaker the number is just 75 seats.
Allowing the number to fall to 74 seats poses an existential threat to the government, and the Prime Minister was not prepared to take that risk.
This political expediency puts the government’s political interests ahead of the national interest.
We already have somethingof a crisis of confidence and a lack of community trust in our political system and institutions. Allowing members who appear to be in breach of the Constitution to continue to exercise their vote threatens to undermine that trust further.
It is likely to be late October before the High Court rules on the validity of Barnaby Joyce’s election.
In the meantime, he plans to vote on a number of crucial bills which affect all of us. He should not.
I’m yet to speak with a constitutional lawyer who believes Joyce’s prospects in the Court are good.
Like Matt Canavan, he should not exercise his vote until the verdict is known.
Just when we thought the Parliamentary sitting week could not grow crazier, Pauline Hanson donned the burqa.
Senator Fiona Nash also declared herself a Scot.
Like her party head, the Nationals’ deputy leader has no intention of giving up her vote or her cabinet post.
And we wonder why people are shaking their heads!
Joel Fitzgibbon has been the federal member for Hunter since the 1996 election. He is Labor’s shadow minister for rural and regional Australia, spokesman for the country caucus and shadow minister for agriculture, fisheries and forestry.