Both major parties should have seen this coming


It’s as if that conga line of House of Representatives by-elections between December 2017 and July 2018 never happened.

And it is as if no one noticed those senators who had to leave parliament, because they should not have been there in the first place.

The drama, turmoil and huge taxpayer expense involved in seven members and seven senators failing to satisfy section 44 of the constitution, which demands they not have dual citizenship, seems to have passed some by.

Well, the Victorian Liberal Party at the very least.

This weekend the Liberals have had to acknowledge three of their preselected candidates in Victoria had to pull out of the election because of section 44, the constitutional career killer the Australian Electoral Commission has specifically warned candidates about this year.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison appeared to dismiss the withdrawals as the sign of a well-oiled party machine in action today, although he suggested it was still a “complicated” section of the constitution.

“We’re doing the due diligence. The Labor Party have their own problems with candidates. Their star candidate didn’t last a week, it would seem, over there in the seat of Curtin. And it had nothing to do with section 44. It had to do with the views they held,” Mr Morrison said.

“And look, you know, parties are getting it right as they get close to nominations and there’s a much higher awareness of section 44 issues,” he told reporters.

“What this demonstrates is just the party doing its job of further proper vets and checks.”

The three seats involved were unlikely to shift from Labor anyway.

“These are candidates were selected in not what I call highly contested seats,” Mr Morrison said of the suicide squad who had been destined for Wills, Lalor and Cooper.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison today. Picture: AAP/Mick TsikasSource:AAP

The Prime Minister preferred to talk about Labor’s candidate problem. And he had a valid point.

“The Labor Party have their own problems with candidates. Their star candidate didn’t last a week, it would seem, over there in the seat of Curtin,” Mr Morrison said of the withdrawal of former Labor minister Melissa Parke.

“And it had nothing to do with section 44. It had to do with the views they held.”

Ms Parke’s views about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians were well known in Labor and political circles.

But it was only when they hit a wider audience that Ms Parke had to stop being the Labor candidate for Curtin, former Liberal minister Julie Bishop’s former seat.

“She has done the right thing. She doesn’t want to be a distraction in the campaign,” said Labor Leader Bill Shorten today.

“She has very strong views. I don’t share those views but she felt she would become a distraction in the campaign. Melissa, like all our candidates, would prefer to see the Labor Party succeed, rather than just an individual.

“What we have is a candidate who has determined that her views might distraction the election and she doesn’t want to do that. I respect that.”

But the criticism of Israel went beyond Labor policy and had been there for some time.

The problem, and the risk of upsetting the Australian Jewish lobby, should have been obvious long ago.



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