The shock of Barnaby Joyce’s dual Australia-New Zealand citizenship is still reverberating around Parliament House. The Press Gallery are indulging in the obvious jokes about the pavlova and Phar Lap.
The biggest joke of all at this point is the serious possibility that Labor could take government without ever having had to clean up its act. Like them or hate them Labor leaders who win government from opposition are usually charismatic figures.
Malcolm Turnbull must be contemplating the worst case scenario which has the potential to bring down the government, as a National Party leadership spill would follow Joyce’s demise. The deputy leader Fiona Nash, the rogue George Christensen and the moderate Luke Hartsuyker would all be contenders (although Nash would have to switch houses, a doubly tricky manoeuvre at the moment). Senator Matt Canavan was considered a future leader, but he’s currently on the ropes with his own dual-citizenship dramas. This could only happen if the Nationals lost New England in a messy by-election, which would plunge the government into minority status. This would surely take place amidst leadership rumblings in both parties within the coalition. The government would be finished in its current form.
The above scenario assumes the High Court will rule Joyce ineligible and he then loses the resulting New England by-election. If Joyce resigned his citizenship he should be able to win. If we assume no more Nationals MPs are dual citizens the Coalition will bumble on. Only former country independent Tony Windsor could upset this story.
The people of Armidale and Tamworth have been pork-barrelled to the brim. Public Service agencies like APVMA have been moved to Armidale, and the region has enjoyed a wave of infrastructure projects. At this stage, it would be plain ungrateful for New England not to return Joyce.
The best case scenario would see the High Court follow the advice of the self-proclaimed greatest legal mind in Australia. The Prime Minister’s own ruling was pretty clear when he addressed the Joyce case in Parliament yesterday.
How this whole affair affects the government’s legislative agenda for the rest of the sitting week is anyone’s guess. In theory, Turnbull can push on, but the situation is unprecedented and the government is weak. The High Court’s ruling next Thursday can’t come quick enough. Bill Shorten is going to relish every moment. One Nation, the Greens and the Coalition have all suffered humiliating blows. Only Labor has been left unscathed.
The Labor Party remains the only other political party in Australian history to win majorities in its own right, the conservatives have always been a coalition, but for Labor to take government in such strange circumstances would move the country into unchartered political territory.
A faction leader who looks and acts like plank of wood Shorten is widely disliked. He could only ever have taken office on the back of his opponent’s failures.
The leader of the opposition and his supporters realise they are mediocre and extremely lucky, for Labor the next election can’t come quick enough.
The best case scenario for the Coalition is probably a hung parliament.
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