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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 3707

Qualifications of Members and Senators

Mrs SUDMALIS (Gilmore) (14:26): My question is to the Attorney-General. Will the Attorney update the House on whether the recent High Court judgement in the Gallagher case set a new test under section 44 of our Constitution?

Mr PORTER (PearceAttorney-General) (14:27): I thank the member for her question. The best way to explain the recent High Court decision is to simply read directly what they said. At paragraph 21:

The principal submission of the Commonwealth Attorney-General is that it is not enough for a candidate merely to have taken steps to renounce …

And then at paragraph 22:

The Attorney-General's primary submission is clearly correct. It reflects the law as stated in Sykes v Cleary and Re Canavan.

The court was at pains to set out that this was not a new test and that it reflected the test previously set out in the 1992 precedent. Ten times in the judgement the court explained how the Gallagher decision applied the same test as was set out only last year in the Canavan decision. So whose description should we accept as correct—that of the seven judges of the High Court or that of the Leader of the Opposition? Sadly, the opposition leader's track record of being straight and correct on the citizenship issue is not very impressive.

In November last year he was asked on the Today show: 'Can you guarantee that no Labor members will be caught up in this?' He said: 'Yes. Yes, a rolled-gold guarantee.' 'Yes,' he said. How did he get it so wrong, Members? Was it shiftiness? Was it a propensity to say whatever he needs to to get out of trouble at the time? Was it a willingness to deliberately mischaracterise the law in a cynical delaying tactic? No, Members, it was the lawyers' fault! That's how it all went wrong! 'That's what our lawyers were saying to us. We followed the legal advice.'

What we all want to know, Leader of the Opposition, is: who were this team of crack counsel who were giving this remarkable legal advice? These legal avengers, these legal eagles—who were they? Was the shadow Attorney-General part of the crack team? I'm beginning to suspect not, because, when the pivotal press conference happened, he was spookily absent—or present with his invisibility coat on. So who were they? Who were the lawyers that read the Canavan decision and then provided advice to the Leader of the Opposition that she was a rolled-gold sure thing to be found eligible? We need to know. It is now a matter of consumer protection. Our constituents need to know who not to go to for legal advice in the future. You can't trust him on the law. You can't trust him on the economy. You can't trust him on the budget. It is shifty, shifty, shifty.

Mr Rob Mitchell interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for McEwen is warned.