???A woman once described as “the next Pauline Hanson” could snatch another Senate seat for One Nation – restoring Senator Hanson’s bloc of four – if the High Court heeds the party’s call to disqualify Jacqui Lambie’s replacement.
One Nation anti-Muslim campaigner Kate McCulloch could be the big winner from the section 44 fiasco that eliminated Ms Lambie and now threatens the No.2 on her Tasmanian Senate ticket, Steve Martin.
Despite winning only 141 first preference votes at the 2016 election, Ms McCulloch is considered the frontrunner to replace Ms Lambie if the court agrees that Mr Martin has an “office of profit under the crown” because he serves as a councillor and mayor in Devonport.
As One Nation defector Fraser Anning officially confirmed he was leaving the party to sit as an independent, lawyers for Ms McCulloch were fighting to win back a spot for One Nation.
In a submission to the court, the lawyers argued Mr Martin is “incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a Senator” because of section 44 of the constitution.
“While Mr Martin may have no intention of simultaneously sitting in the Senate and on the Devonport City Council, and while it is possible that he may well have intended to resign his two offices in Tasmanian local government prior to taking a place in the Senate, the law required that he resign from his current offices prior to nomination for the Senate,” the submission says.
“This he did not do. Additionally, he holds his twin local government offices while the election is not yet completed.”
The submission says the constitutional bar is designed to prevent “serious conflicts of duty and interest in simultaneously holding the local and Commonwealth office”.
“A person holding offices of public trust simultaneously in two tiers of government carries with it the capacity for an injurious effect on the proper functioning of all three tiers of government and damage to both offices,” the submission argues.
While Mr Martin believes he will survive the challenge to his eligibility, the disqualification of Liberal Hollie Hughes – because she took up a government-paid job after the election but before the recount was called – signals the High Court is taking a strict black-letter approach that could spell trouble for him.
Ms McCulloch was dubbed “the next Pauline Hanson” when she shot to prominence 10 years ago for railing against a Muslim school opening in her neighbourhood of Camden, on Sydney’s outskirts.
The farmer and small business owner subsequently stood for One Nation in the lower house and was top of the party’s Senate ticket in Tasmania in 2016. She is a fierce critic of multiculturalism, asylum seekers and Australia’s overseas aid program.
Senator Anning took formal steps to cut ties with One Nation on Monday, writing to Senate President Scott Ryan to say he intended to sit as an independent.
He was elected to replace Malcolm Roberts, who was kicked out of the Senate because he failed to renounce his British dual citizenship. But on his first day on the job he had a spectacular falling-out with Senator Hanson, who objected to his choice of staff.
The fiasco dealt a blow to Senator Hanson’s influence in the Senate, reducing her voting bloc from four to three. But if Ms McCulloch is elected, that could be reversed.
Ms Lambie quit the Senate last year after discovering she was a dual citizen.
Mr Martin and the government are due to make submissions next week, ahead of a hearing in February.
If Mr Martin is disqualified it could also spell trouble for Andrew Bartlett, the Greens senator who replaced Larissa Waters. He had a job with the Australian National University at the time of his nomination, which could also be considered an “office of profit under the crown”.
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