Malcolm Roberts and me
The news is out that I have sued Malcolm Roberts under the Common Informers (Parliamentary Disqualifications) Act and had a bit of a win. I won $6000 and court costs, for me the money was the least important thing, though it will be nice for my wife and I to get an electric bike each. The most important thing was being the first to successfully use the act and win.
I quite often get asked why I bothered and the answer is pretty simple, Peta Credlin. In 2013 I asked Tony Abbott, our then newly elected Prime Minister, to show his renunciation of British citizenship papers. He refused to answer my letters so I contacted his parliamentary office and suggested to his Chief of Staff that a Freedom Of Information request could get the information he refused to show the world. She told me that she would become the FOI clerk if I dared lodge an FOI asking for Mr Abbott's renunciation of British citizenship paperwork.
I was irked. Good old fashioned irkdom took over and I started looking at our constitution, in particular S44 and asking questions of those MPs who were born overseas. None replied so a Twitter ordeal began which helped contribute to so many MPs being removed form parliament for breaching our constitution. I wasn't the only person doing this, many others took up the fight and it was pleasing to see the court actions finally happen. One man in Perth drew up a petition asking Mr Abbott to show his renunciation papers and it got 60,000 signatures. That petition was given to several politicians and they used the paperwork to line their kitty litter trays, it was never mentioned in parliament. Unfortunately my whole history of Twitter activism in the S44 process was deleted by Jack Dorsey the boss of Twitter when he decided my calling a rich bitch a rich bitch in a discussion about franking credits was bullying and not allowed.
Two petitions to parliament put by me asked for audits of S44 compliance, one in parliament 44 and then again in parliament 45. Senator Cormann refused both petitions saying it is up to the voter to take MPs to the Court of Disputed Returns.
Apologies to my readers, I tend to type like I talk, pretty much none stop and drifting a little off topic.
Back to Mr Roberts. When I learned he was standing for parliament I wrote and asked him to make sure he had renounced his foreign citizenships. His Indian citizenship seemed the most likely to cause problems and the associated British citizenship was the one that did him over. I was mentioned in the High Court chronology for him and this in my mind tied me to his case.
During my irkdom about Peta Credlin I had looked at the penalties in the constitution for breaching S44 and thought this might be good for Mr Roberts. The original part of the constitution says the penalty is £100 per day and any person could sue for that amount. When the constitution was written the £100 was a quarter of an MPs annual salary. That part of the constitution was replaced by the Common Informers (Parliamentary Disqualifications) Act in 1974 because at that time Malcolm Fraser was trying to overthrow the Gough Whitlam government and Mr Whitlam had a few pommies and other nationalities in his government. The act seems to have been designed to save those MPs money if they were ever taken to court.
And so to Mr Roberts. I asked nearly all of the major legal companies in Queensland to take on the case but they all seemed terrified of upsetting any politician. I drew up my own thoughts on the matter and spoke unofficially with Clem van der Weegen who had stood as a Palmer candidate in 2013 and we had tweeted each other at that time. He had a bit of a political bone in his body and suggested I get a lawyer to represent me in discussions with him which is the proper legal way of doing things. Roweena Ferral in Caloundra took on my case and the rest is judicial history. The first to successfully put and win a Common Informers (Parliamentary Disqualifications) Act case.
Anyone planning on taking the MPs removed from parliament should realise the action can only happen within 1 year of the MP being removed and then it times out. Starting an action may be legally expensive, especially if you aren’t successful. The payouts aren't great, $200 a day for each day they sit in that parliament is getting less and less as our parliament decides it doesn't need to sit as much as the Canadian or normal English parliament. They sit 140-160 days a year, ours sat 29 days last financial year. After starting my action against M Roberts I lodged a petition in parliament asking the penalty reflect what was originally in our constitution, a quarter of an MPs annual salary or about $50,000 per day which would be a significant deterrent to anyone signing a false declaration on their nomination forms. Barring that I suggested in the petition that the £100 could be adjusted for inflation which would make it about $15,000 a day. Attorney General Mr Porter refused both ideas saying the penalty was a sufficient deterrent. The deterrent is approximately the food allowance each MP gets on sitting days.
Now for the future. The AFP has declared the law is the law and Mr Dutton has declared nobody is above the law, but that seems to be for everyone except politicians.
Two high profile MPs signed false declarations on their nomination for election forms and the new qualifications check lists. The AFP have refused to look at those commonwealth crimes.
The Australian Electoral Commission doesn't have the authority in their legislation to prosecute anyone for anything, but in a press release related to another One Nation S44 problem, Mr Culleton, they asked “for compelling evidence that other candidates in the 2019 federal election may have also signed a false declaration we will consider whether similar referrals to the AFP are warranted to ascertain if the candidate has committed an offence.”
I wrote to Mr Tom Rogers, Chair of the AEC, pointing out two who had signed false declarations and his response was the matters were dealt with in last parliament. It wasn’t the last parliament I was writing about it was signing false declarations to nominate for the 2019 election.
Mr Dutton has an indirect pecuniary interest in the family trust his wife and children benefit from and that trust runs two companies that get Commonwealth funding.
Mr Frydenberg said his mother stopped being an Hungarian citizen in1948 when Australian Department of Immigration documents form 1951 show she was Hungarian then. A little lie but still not the truth. Hopefully these two MPs will be taken to the Court of Disputed Returns and the AFP will determine that the law really is the law and prosecute them for signing false declarations to nominate for election.
Earlier I apologised for typing like I talk, it seems I have taken no notice of that apology. Thank you for your time and I hope you enjoyed my journey through some bits of the constitution and our laws.