Transcript – Drive with Tom Elliott – 3AW

Topics: High Court judgement

 

E&OE….

 

TOM ELLIOTT:

Special Minister of State Scott Ryan, good afternoon.

 

SENATOR SCOTT RYAN:

Good afternoon Tom, thanks for having me.

 

ELLIOTT:

Difficult day for you?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

It is a very tough day actually. I just came from speaking to a group of staff and Fiona Nash, who is my Senate colleague, who, of course, was ruled ineligible today by the High Court. It is a difficult day.

 

ELLIOTT:

Ok, you’ve had a number of MPs from both the Government side and the Greens ruled ineligible.  First question, in the future, will you tighten up your criteria? When you look into prospective MPs will you look into their backgrounds to make sure this doesn’t happen again?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Well we do. I can’t speak on behalf of other parties, Tom. What I will say is the decision today does take the law – I’m not a lawyer – to a very strict step, a bit further than has previously been the interpretation. The court hasn’t previously had the circumstances of someone who unknowingly inherited citizenship before them. But obviously that is something that all parties will now look at very carefully and as the Prime Minister made clear in his statement of nearly an hour ago, he has asked one of the parliamentary committees that oversees this, to look at whether or not this section needs to be updated to reflect a modern, multicultural Australia.

 

ELLIOTT:

So you’re saying, so the question is will you and the Liberal Party at least check into the backgrounds more closely of potential candidates, yes or no?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Oh absolutely.

 

ELLIOTT:

Right, section 44 you’re saying maybe you’ll have to change it, if you do that, will that require a referendum?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

It would. There was a recommendation to change it about 15 years ago that was never put forward to a referendum. But the real issue that comes out of the court today in laymen speak, if you unknowingly inherit citizenship you can still be held to be invalid and that hasn’t been tested before.

 

ELLIOTT:

  1. Do you think that the public, that’s all of us who would vote on a referendum, would say yes to something that would make politician’s life a bit easier?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Referenda don’t have a great record in Australia and the Prime Minister didn’t go there. What he said was ‘let’s look at this, it’s been looked at previously and there are implications of today’s judgement’. Forty per cent of Melbourne was born overseas or has a parent born overseas and he specifically said we have to look at the impact on multicultural Australia where people might inherit the citizenship they didn’t know about.

 

ELLIOTT:

OK, now we have learnt that there is one sitting week of Parliament between now and December 2, which is the New England by-election date, and presumably Barnaby Joyce will win that seat so he can be back in the Parliament straight after that. But you’ve got one week of Parliament where you don’t have a majority in the lower house, how will you govern?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Well as the Prime Minister made clear, we will keep legislating our agenda. There will be 149 Members to go through the mathematics in the House. There will be 74 Government Members, plus the Speaker. Cathy McGowan, the independent Member for Indi said in this morning’s Herald Sun that she is inclined to continue to support the Government on supply because she didn’t think her constituents really wanted to run to an early election. And if the Labor Party tries to cause chaos, I have never seen a reward for people causing chaos for the sake of politics. People will frown upon it.

 

ELLIOTT:

You know they will try and cause chaos.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

They may. I think the people may judge them, but I’m confident in our ability to continue to legislate our agenda. There is a workable majority there.

 

ELLIOTT:

Will you avoid anything controversial during that week without Barnaby Joyce?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Well from the Labor Party, they seem to be trying to make everything controversial, so we will continue with the plan we have been implementing over the past few weeks: energy, education changes …

 

ELLIOTT:

Business as usual?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Business as usual.

 

ELLIOTT:

Right-o. Well that will be interesting to watch.

Tanya Plibersek has been quoted today, the Labor MP. She has said, and I quote “every decision made by Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash since October last year is now under a legal cloud”. Is that true?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Not as far as I’m aware, no. I haven’t seen Tanya’s comments, but in Parliament at least, this has happened occasionally and more than a century ago, with respect to votes in Parliament, the High Court held that the votes remained valid, that was in 1908, I think.

 

ELLIOTT:

So even though it has been proven today that Barnaby Joyce was actually ineligible for the seat of New England and Fiona Nash was ineligible to sit in the Senate, the votes that they have cast up until this day remain valid.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Absolutely.

 

ELLIOTT:

Do you think someone might try and contest that? Someone like Tanya Plibersek?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Well again, if the Labor Party are just trying to cause trouble, ask them, but this is a long-standing High Court precedent and this has happened before and it’s never been tested again and I think it’s from 1908.

 

ELLIOTT:

OK, now we’ve also learnt that Malcolm Turnbull has appointed himself the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. These were portfolios previously held by the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Can he mange these portfolios and run the country at the same time?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Well Malcolm Turnbull was previously a minister for water and environment in the Howard government.

 

ELLIOTT:

But he wasn’t Prime Minister as well.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

No, he wasn’t Prime Minister, but I also think it indicates the priority we place on these issues and it’s about keeping the Government implementing the promises we made, as we have over the last 12 months, while there is a by-election and Barnaby is running and asking the people of New England to send him back as Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister.

 

ELLIOTT:

What happens to Fiona Nash now? I know that in the lower house Barnaby Joyce will run for, and probably win, the New England by-election, what happens to Fiona Nash?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Well she has been ruled ineligible so she is effectively out of the Senate and with Senators, of course, there is not a by-election, they re-count the ballot papers. In the case of the joint National and Liberal ticket in NSW that is likely to elect a Liberal, rather than Fiona Nash, so unless she runs again at a future election she is no longer in Parliament.

 

ELLIOTT:

One of your jobs is to go and wind up the offices of people like Fiona Nash and Malcolm Roberts, who I believe is out of it and going to run at the next Queensland state election. What do you do? Do you turn up with a box and put all their pictures and books and things in it?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Well the one thing about politics is there is regular turnover of Members of Parliament so there are longstanding rules about this. In essence, for those in local MPs’ offices, in the local community – what we call an electorate office for Senators and Members of the House of Representatives – the staff keep the office running, but they work for the Department of Finance, not the former member of parliament. That’s to allow people who might have a Centrelink, a health or a housing issue, currently underway to continue to get that addressed, not just to cut citizens off. With Ministerial offices, the staff move to the new Minister because it’s the same side of politics. They can leave if they want, but effectively, Barnaby Joyce’s staff will now work for the Prime Minister and Darren Chester will take over Fiona Nash’s staff.

 

ELLIOTT:

And Fiona Nash’s office that is full of stuff and everything, she just has to put that in a box that you give her and leave?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Yeah, she will have to pack up her office. She will be given a little bit of time to do that. We’re not going to take the keys off her at 5pm tonight. She’s got an electoral office in regional NSW and she’s got her ministerial office here.

 

ELLIOTT:

Does she get whatever pension and whatever else is owing to her if she has now been declared ineligible for the Senate?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

None of the Members who were up before the court today are members of the old parliamentary superannuation scheme. They don’t collect a parliamentary pension like that at all. They just have normal superannuation like you or I.

 

ELLIOTT:

Senator Scott Ryan, Special Minister of State, thank you for your time.

 

[ENDS]

Author: senatorryan

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