Prime Minister Scott Morrison has begun implementing plans to save the seat of Kooyong for the Liberal Party.
The plans are to be implemented if either of two petitions filed in the Court of Returns succeeds and a new election is called for the seat.
If the Liberal Party were to lose the new election, it will lose its majority in the Parliament.
On 16 July 2019, Channel 10 publicised the ‘Legal Opinion: Frydenberg Case’ that provided an objective account as to why Joshua Frydenberg was likely a dual citizen. Prime Minister Morrison’s response during a doorstop interview was to angrily denounce the legal opinion.
A petition pursuant to section 44(i) (s44) of the Constitution – which prohibits dual citizenship – was filed in the Court of Returns by Michael Staindl* on 31 July 2019. A mutually exclusive petition was filed by Oliver Yates under the Commonwealth Electoral Act challenging the result in Kooyong on the basis of the display of misleading or deceptive electoral information.
On 1 August 2019, Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar was reported in an article in The Australian titled, 'Extremists on "get Josh"' crusade', as making a speech under parliamentary privilege concerning the Kooyong petitions. The sole point of the speech seemed to be to try and smash the reputations of the persons he deemed to be key players.
Victorian State Liberal Party Member for Kew Tim Smith expressed shock and outrage in the Legislative Assembly over the s44 petition, falsely claiming racism as a motive, on 14 August 2019. His electorate includes a part of the Federal Division of Kooyong.
In particular, Sukkar and Smith have mischievously sought to embroil Oliver Yates in the s44 dual citizenship petition.
Michael Sukkar stated in the Federal Parliament:
“... they seek to challenge the citizenship of the member for Kooyong.”
Sukkar included Oliver Yates by name among those endorsing the challenge, which Yates has dismissed as innuendo and untrue.
Tim Smith stated in the Victorian Parliament:
“Yates proclaiming he is not behind the citizenship challenge to Frydenberg, the facts tell us a different story. Yates has been exposed as a nasty liar.”
In fact, as early as 8 June 2019, I was informed by a constituent associated with the Kooyong Independents Group – who had contacted me to express interest in a petition under s44 – that
“Labor will probably stay away. Oliver too. Pity.”
Further, I have never spoken to or communicated with Oliver Yates, but from all accounts, he has maintained his position that he is not interested in the s44 petition.
On 17 August 2019, The Age newspaper reported that the Prime Minister had announced at a Liberal State Council meeting that there will be an
‘assault on the "shady" activist group GetUp, including fresh action that could curb its vast campaigning and fundraising potential.’
GetUp was active in Kooyong during the last election. Morrison’s sudden crackdown on GetUp is probably also in preparation for a possible new election for the seat.
Section 44(i) has certainly become a revelation to the nation for the uncivil way in which some elected members of parliament are willing to act.
* Note: the author has not been in contact with petitioner Michael Staindl.
Trevor Poulton is a lawyer, author of books 'The Holocaust Denier' and 'Brick Through The Window (Poems from the 1990s)', a champion for environmental causes, and has been a member of the Labor Party for 26 years.
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