How many more politicians will be ruled invalid?

Ross Greenwood speaks to Senator Nick Xenophon about the resignation of NXT Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore after receiving advice she’s a dual citizen.

Introduction: How many more politicians will be rules invalid?

Ross Greenwood:  Let’s start the program and talk with Nick Xenophon, the leader of the Nick Xenophon team and also in regards to the resignation today of the Nick Xenophon team Senator Skye Kokoschke-Moore, as a result of her discovering her dual citizenship. Many thanks for your time Nick Xenophon.

Interview with: Nick Xenophon, Nick Xenophon Team, Leader

Nick Xenophon: Gooday Ross good to speak to you.

Ross Greenwood:  Okay so in this case look. She is not alone. She will not be the last one who was discovered in this next two week period. You can feel sympathetic for her, no doubt, but there is still this situation about the validity of this parliament right now. Its ability to pass laws. As important laws that are going to go through our parliament in this period of time, is really right now, do you believe, the parliament pretty much invalid in terms of any laws it might be considering passing?

Nick Xenophon: Well from a technical point of view, no it’s not invalid because of various legal doctrines that I’m not going to bore your listeners with. But it depends on the declarations that must be completed, declaration of interests, that must be completed by the 1st of December Friday of next week. They’ll be made public by the 4th of December and, at that time, we’ll get a better idea of how many people are likely to be referred to the high court. If it’s going to be anything more than half a dozen, then you are in a very chaotic situation. As Super Saturday by-elections. Then we could be looking at a situation where the numbers of the parliament change materially so that it means that the coalition’s numbers on the floor could be affected. Look, who knows what’s going to happen?

But who would have thought that 120 years ago, when the founding fathers of the constitution drafted, and I only say founding fathers because there were no women involved, who would have thought that Section 441 would be such a disruptor?

Ross Greenwood:  Okay. Given the fact that it is, right now, is it a case whereby Australia really has to have some form of a referendum to try and clarify that part of the Constitution? Or is it a situation where, now every member that might potentially sign up, considering that one in two is born overseas or to parents born overseas, it really means that half the population that must vote, compulsorily must vote, is ineligible from sitting in our parliament?

Nick Xenophon: Well it’s something like that. We’re one of the most successful multicultural nations in the world. Your right it’s close to 50% of Australians either had a, were either born overseas or had one parent born overseas. If you include grandparents in that it’s even a higher proportion. So it’s a big deal. It is something that is very disruptive. But there’s another part of Section 44 that’s the office of profit under the crown with Dr. David Gillespie. Nationals Members, I understand is being challenged because he owns a shop that’s being leased to Australia Post. Literally, there are hundreds of thousands, if not well over a million Australians, who are schoolteachers in the public sector, ambulance officers, nurses in public hospitals, public servants in a local state or federal government level. They cannot run for parliament unless they resign from their position. I don’t think that’s fair. If they’re going to have any constitutional law reform it must also deal with that. Because that office of profit under the crown goes back to hundreds of years ago.

I think to Charles the First in the UK, where they were worried about people sitting in parliament that were basically there to do the king’s bidding because they were getting a stipend from the king completely anachronistic.

Ross Greenwood:  Let’s go to a few other bits and pieces. It’s about the functionality of this parliament right now. You’ve got members who, according to reports, are considering resigning from the government and maybe going to the crossbenches. You’ve got senators from the government side, who are seeking to put bills into banking royal commissions or banking commissions of inquiry into the Senate to try and get it through into the House of Representatives. The point is that it would give the distinct impression that the government has little or no control. The Prime Minister has little or no control. So impressions mean everything in politics. And it may not necessarily be of the Prime Minister’s making, but it’s exactly what he’s got to deal with right now.

Nick Xenophon: No. You’ve got to give the Prime Minister marks for gritting his teeth through this, smiling through this, and being as calm as possible. I think he’s now got this view, whereas expectations are quite low, as to the next catastrophe that will befall the government or indeed people like me. Because of the dual citizenship issue. But you’re right. Even though I think he has, to use that British phrase, he’s kept calm and carried on. It does look bad. I think the litmus test will be on December the 4th when all those declarations are provided. If those declarations acted as they should be, then the media and constitutional law experts from all sides will no doubt be having a good look at it. I’m not a betting man Ross, but if it’s less than six I’ll buy you a beer next time you’re in Adelaide.

Ross Greenwood:  Yes. If it’s less than six you’ll buy me a beer next time, you’re on that one. I want to ask you about South Australia. In particular, pertaining to the assisted dying bill that’s been passed in Victoria. You will be a key part of the South Australian election and potentially the next South Australian parliament. Just in regards to that, it’s an important decision that Victoria has made, the very first state that has allowed some form of euthanasia in Australia. Just explain to me how you think South Australia might deal with it in the future.

Nick Xenophon: I don’t know. There have been some attempts, clearly, that have failed. A number of attempts over the years. I’m very cautious in relation to that. But I also acknowledge that, as our colleagues in the team, Nick Xenophon team, which is going to change its name to SA BEST Federal, for the federal colleagues. They have very different views to me, who actually support the assisted dying voluntary euthanasia legislation. I support stronger palliative care, and I would want, at the very minimum, the strongest possible safeguards. But it’s a conscience issue, and it’s a very difficult issue, and if it’s going to be debated in South Australian parliaments, it’s got to be respectful based on the evidence, based on the facts. It can’t be rushed, It needs to be done in a very thorough way. Not filibustering, but if it does get passed, it needs to be monitored very closely. I think it’ll be a close run thing. But let’s wait and see what happens in Victoria now. Whether that sparks off a chain reaction in other states for similar legislation.

Ross Greenwood:  It’s going to be interesting to watch, no doubt about that. Nick Xenophon always great to have you on the program. We appreciate your time this evening.

Nick Xenophon: All the best Ross.

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