Dear the Internet,
So, the Citizenship Seven’s fate will be announced in a barely any time at all – at around 2.30pm, specifically – and it’s important to know what’s at stake here.
First up, there’s the least-likely possibility in that everyone is found to be totes safe. Then the three Coalition MPS – deputy PM Barnaby Joyce and senators Matt Canavan and Fiona Nash – breathe a massive sigh of relief, One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts smugly declares that he would have formed his own parliament anyway, NXT’s Nick Xenophon shrugs and keeps packing to move back to SA, and Greens senators Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlum look foolish for resigning on principle but could theoretically return to parliament (which Waters would do and Ludlum seemingly would rather not).
So realistically this only affects the fate of four MPs: Joyce, Waters, Canavan and Roberts.
Roberts is easiest to surmise: he’s probably toast. His laughably inept attempts to “renounce” his UK citizenship via means other than the very clear and well-established process are unlikely to be read as being sufficient to the requirements of the Constitution, since “yelling I RENOUNCE THEE! to an obviously wrong email” isn’t one of the methods covered.
It’s the other three which are most interesting because they have the potential to be massive headaches for the government.
Let’s assume they’re all deemed ineligible. Then what?
First up, the government becomes a minority one: without Joyce they don’t have a majority in their own right in the Lower House. Depending on who is in the chamber, this means the government could have its own legislation thwarted, assuming the crossbench are up for a fight. Joyce will have to face a bruising by election which he will probably win, even with the current scandals surrounding his personal life, and things will go back to normal.
It’s the senators which are the big problem for the Coalition because they’re from Queensland: the state which doesn’t have Liberal and National MPs but one big mushed-up combination of both labelled LNP.
In practice what this means is that MPs and senators are all part of the one party, but in Canberra they either join the Liberal or National party room because they’re really not as close to each other as you’d think. And what happens on the Queensland senate ballot paper is that the LNP executive choose (for example) a Liberal at #1, a National at #2, a Liberal at #3, a National at #4, and so on down the list.
If Nationals Canavan and Nash are deemed ineligible, they’ll be replaced by the next person on the ballot. Except the person after each of them isn’t a National: it’s a Liberal.
That means that the Liberals suddenly gain two senators while the Nationals lose them – and both had frontbench positions, no less. And this puts the barely-stable balance between the parties wildly out of whack.
The Nationals will demand that they be given frontbench representation. The Liberals will look at which Nationals are there that don’t already have a ministry – George Christensen, for example – and say “…um, how do you see that happening, exactly?”
So the government will have a choice: elevate people who don’t even have the incandescent talent and brilliance of Matt “My Mum Did It” Canavan to the front bench, or risk splitting the already-unstable Queensland LNP alliance. You know, the one already rocked by Attorney General George Brandis described them as “very, very mediocre” when he didn’t realise his mic was on.
In any case, the results are nigh. Get the popcorn ready!
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