Recently the High Court ruled that Bob Day was ineligible to be a Senator because he had an indirect pecuniary interest in the Commonwealth. The Liberals choose to bring that action and were successful in having Bob Day disqualified.
So fast forward to the present.
Labor has launched High Court action against Assistant Health Minister David Gillespie after a decision by the national executive today.
If Dr Gillespie, a Nationals MP from NSW, were to be disqualified from parliament it would threaten the Turnbull government’s slim majority.
Dr Gillespie owns a small shopping centre in Port Macquarie and one of his tenants has an arrangement with Australia Post, a government-owned business. Labor are questioning whether this means he has an indirect pecuniary interest with the Commonwealth.
I am a firm believer is poetic justice and on the facts and my understanding I suspect David Gillespie has a problem. It is going to be very interesting to watch the High Court either wriggle its way out of bringing down the government with a very nuanced argument or watch it actually bring down the government.
My views are mixed. On the one hand I understand the mischief that could occur if an MP did have a pecuniary interest in the Commonwealth. On the other hand, the founders did not envisage a Commonwealth that has such an intrusive and ubiquitous presence in our lives.
As John Quiggin suggests this has become an absurd technicality. But nonetheless it is a technicality written into the constitution and the Liberals used that very technicality this year. The Liberals also tried to use this technicality to bring down the Gillard government. So it is unsurprising that Labor should repay the effort.
All up, however, this suggests that our friends in Canberra are not interested in the big picture – the flourishing and prosperity of Australia – but rather in playing silly buggers. As I once said on Radio National, unfortunately we can’t throw them all out at the same time.
The other point that I should point out is that this represents the increasing Americanisation of our politics. Our American friends are used to settling their political disputes in the courts. I think this is a mistake – we should settle our disputes through the political process, in the Parliament, or at the ballot box.