The cost of the High Court case over the dual citizenship status of seven politicians, could cost Australian taxpayers up to $3 million.
The court is currently sitting at the Court of Disputed Returns and considering whether Nationals leader and deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, plus six senators, were in breach of the constitution when they stood for election in July last year. Section 44 of the Constitution prevents dual nationals from standing for office.
The Australian reports that the Commonwealth is picking up the bill for the three-day case involving some of the nation’s top barristers, including Bret Walker SC, representing Joyce, who is arguing that his Australian-born client was “ignorant” of the fact that he was a New Zealander because of his Kiwi-born father’s heritage and thus did not have any allegiance to a foreign country.
Walker’s fees are believed to be between $15,000 and $20,000 a day and 24 barristers are involved in the case, including former solicitor-general Justin Gleeson SC, representing Joyce’s political nemesis, the former independent MP for New England, Tony Windsor, who is seeking to have the Nationals leader ineligible for office.
The government, and thus taxpayers, are picking up the tab for both sides of the argument about Joyce. One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts, who the court has already been found to be a UK citizen at the time of office, has three barristers representing him.
South Australian senator Nick Xenophon, who is quitting federal politics little more than a year into his six-year term to stand in next years state election, also has three barristers.
The Australian estimates the total cost of the silks alone to be $130,000 a day for appearing in court, backed by legal teams costing a similar amount on a daily basis,
Legal experts estimate the total cost to be at least $2 million, but it could be as high as $3 million.
Those hoping to keep their $200,000-plus jobs include three Nationals – Joyce, former minister Matt Canavan and deputy leader Fiona Nash, and One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts. Former Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters resigned when they discovered their citizenship status, sparking a series of embarrassing investigations and revelations that led to the court case.
Section 44 of the Australian Constitution says a person is ineligible to stand for election they are “a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power”.
The government is arguing that five of the seven – the exceptions being Waters and Roberts – should be allowed to remain in parliament.
The Australian has more here.
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