A CLOWN BETWEEN TWO THORNS
Four-time Walkley Award winning political commentator and Churchill Fellow, has returned to the fray over concern that the integrity of news dissemination is continually being threatened by a partisan media.
I didn’t think it possible to ever side with Clive, but Lazarus and Lambie should be run out of town for using the Senate as they have. But they are not on their own, with Bjelke Petersen’s Albert Field being the most notable.
So what is Clive up to suing these two bogans for millions? It can’t be for the money, they don’t have any, and I doubt it’s for revenge, no businessman wastes good money on revenge and the cases have little hope of success anyway. Both Lazarus and Lambie appear to be acting within their Constitutional rights.
But if the litigious Clive can prove a breach of contract he may have a case. And this is where it gets interesting because he is clearly thinking, if neither Lambie nor Lazarus can settle, he can bankrupt them and they will no longer be able to sit as Senators.
So, if that were to happen, two casual vacancies could be up for grabs. Now, convention requires that the State (Premier) accepts the nomination of another person from the same Party to fill that vacancy. But both Lazarus and Lambie are Independents, so it comes down to who the State (Premier) decides to nominate.
Clive would be okay with Tasmania (Libs) but he may have a problem with Lazarus’s Queensland vacancy because the new Premier, Annastacia Pluckachook, may not be that accommodating.
Clive is unlikely to be able to nominate a friendly PUP replacement anyway because neither seat is a PUP seat, both are Independents. This is where Section 15 of the Constitution becomes a veritable dog’s breakfast and it led to a Constitutional change in 1977. A modernised version of Section 15 was then carried by referendum.
Bob Carr’s unelected appointment by Gillard as Foreign Minister, after Mark Abib shot through leaving a Senate vacancy, has revealed a surprising consequence of the 1977 Constitutional change.
Where Section 64 of the Constitution requires that a Minister must become a Member of Parliament, and Sections 7 and 24 insist the Parliament consists of Members "directly chosen by the people", the amendment of Section 15 has created a new dodgy mechanism for Foreign Ministers like Carr and dodgy Prime Ministers like Gillard.
The Constitution required a Minister of the Crown to be elected by the people, and not simply parachuted into a casual vacancy.
But there are numerous instances where the Senate has been manipulated for crass political advantage by both sides of Parliament. It comes down to the Senate being a States’ House and convention being followed.
But what convention can be attached to an Independent where no other Party has influence?
The current volatile mix of State and Federal politics could see some interesting developments if Clive successfully sues Lambie and Lazarus.
Clive clearly intends to bankrupt both to get them out of the Senate but that may not be to Clive’s advantage unless he can prove a contractual arrangement existed between them and the PUP. And it’s doubtful any contractual arrangement would supersede the Constitution.
Poor old Clive has a right to be angry but he hasn’t pulled the right rein in a long while and he probably hasn’t this time.
CORRECTION: the Senate vacancy should be filled from the originally elected Party, but the State (premier/executive) is the final arbiter. When Gillard appointed Nova Peris to the top of the senate ticket, Peris wasn't even a member of the Labor Party. So anyone can sign up to the PUP and be appointed by the State, and then revert to ALP membership. There is nothing in the Constitution that prevents that happening. Clive can nominate, but cannot appoint, a replacement. The Senate needs a bloody good overhaul.