Never mind a week being a long time in politics, 48 hours is enough to make life embarrassing for Australia’s top lawmaker, Attorney-General George Brandis, the government leader in the Senate.
As Senate President, Stephen Parry, his Liberal parliamentary colleague, sits just metres away from Brandis in the chamber. When the whole debacle over dual citizenship began to emerge back in July, placing six senators – along with MP Barnaby Joyce – under a cloud, it was Parry who referred the matter to the High Court, while Brandis, as Attorney-General, oversaw the government’s ultimately unsuccessful case to try and keep Nationals senator Fiona Nash (and Joyce) in Parliament.
On Friday, the High Court ruled that five of the seven were ineligible to stand for election last year because they were dual citizens and they were booted from Parliament. Only Queensland Nationals senator Matt Canavan, and South Australian Nick Xenophon, who’s left the senate anyway to contest next year’s state election, survived.
Joyce is recontesting his NSW seat of New England in a by-election on December 2.
But just as the dust was beginning to settle from the whole debacle, Parry announced this afternoon that he may be a dual citizen because he had a British-born father. The Tasmanian Liberal began checking with the UK Home Office yesterday and says he’ll resign from the Senate if he’s a dual citizen, in a further embarrassing blow to the Turnbull government.
Parry’s predicament is even more embarrassing for Brandis, who was on Sky News on Sunday morning declaring that all’s well with the government.
“I have no reason whatever to believe that there is any other Coalition member who is in the same position,” Brandis said
“But they might be,” said The Australian’s editor-at-large Paul Kelly.
“I have no reason believe that anyone is,” Brandis replied.
He continued: “Nobody’s pointed to any evidence whatsoever and it’s not as if by the way, Paul, that this hasn’t been canvassed minutely, with minute scrutiny by the media and indeed by the Labor Party as well as third party groups… and nobody has found anything to suggest that any Coalition member or senator has a problem.”
Today, it looks like he should have asked questions a little closer to home.
Even if Parry survives this, making the government’s leader in the Senate look clueless, just a day before the Tasmanian started checking with UK authorities, is humiliating for Brandis.
In that light, it’s difficult to see how Parry position as Senate President will remain tenable with Brandis, a man with a reputation for not tolerating fools, front and centre, leading the government side in an unruly chamber.
Watch what the AG said on Sunday below:
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) October 28, 2017
* This is an opinion column.
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