A Quarter Of The Senate Has Resigned Or Changed Parties Since 2016 Election

Some just didn't have the constitution for it.

The 45th parliament has been an especially tumultuous one. It will be remembered most fondly for the dual citizenship crisis that has so far turfed more than a dozen politicians out of office, with clouds of doubt still hovering over a few more -- but even more have resigned, or even changed parties.

In fact, almost a quarter of the 76 senators originally elected in July 2016 has either left the parliament or changed parties since the election, with even some replacements making major changes once they hit Canberra.

Section 44

Let's get the main issue out of the way first -- the federal constitution, specifically a little passage called section 44, which has tripped up at least 10 senators (and counting). Fiona Nash, Larissa Waters, Malcolm Roberts, Scott Ludlam, Skye Kakoschke-Moore, Jacqui Lambie, Stephen Parry and Katy Gallagher have fallen foul of dual citizenship restrictions.

Rod Culleton and Bob Day were also forced out of parliament following section 44 rules around criminal convictions and holding an office of profit under the crowd.

Fiona Nash left the parliament over dual citizenship issues (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

That's 10 senators gone thanks to just one section of our constitution.

Other resignations

Elsewhere, we saw Labor's Sam Dastyari quit the parliament over a donations scandal; Stephen Conroy unexpectedly resigning only two months after the election; and the government leader in the Senate, George Brandis, leave to take up a new post as  Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

Liberal senator Chris Back resigned in July last year, due to family and personal matters; while Nick Xenophon, the popular representative from South Australia, was cleared of any section 44 worries but resigning from the Senate anyway, to mount an ultimately unsuccessful bid for state parliament.

More changes

Looking at party changes, Cory Bernardi sensationally quit the Liberal Party and now sits under the banner of his new Australian Conservatives movement.

Brian Burston and Pauline Hanson, in happier times (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

On June 14, One Nation's Brian Burston also resigned from he party following an ugly public feud with Pauline Hanson. In a resignation letter, he called his relationship with Hanson "irrevocable" and said "the best way forward to represent the best interest of the constituents of NSW with honour and integrity is for me to resign from PHON party".

Greens senator Lee Rhiannon also announced last month she would resign from the Senate in August.

We're already up to 18 of the original 76 senators from 2016 either leaving the parliament, about to resign, or having changed parties. That's one in four senators.

That's only out of the original 76; the replacement senators seem to just as volatile than their senior colleagues.

The replacements

Fraser Anning, who replaced One Nation's Malcolm Roberts after he was ejected from parliament over his British citizenship, didn't even get one full day in the Senate under that party's banner. He was booted from One Nation on his first morning in parliament, after a dispute with Pauline Hanson. Sitting as an independent for some months, he this week announced he was joining Bob Katter's party.

Lucy Gichuhi joined the Liberals (AAP Image/Brenton Edwards)

Lucy Gichuhi, who replaced Family First's Bob Day, elected not to sit as a member of that party after it merged with Bernardi's Conservatives party. She first sat as an independent senator, then announced she would become a member of the Liberal Party. Similarly, Steve Martin -- Jacqui Lambie's replacement -- decided he would leave her eponymous party and become an independent, but recently joined the Nationals team.

Kakoschke-Moore's replacement, Tim Storer, also left the Nick Xenophon Team/Centre Alliance grouping and now is an independent member of parliament.

Adding these four party changes to the original 17, that's 21 changes since 2016 -- all up, 16 senators have left or will leave the parliament, and five more have changed parties.

We're still some months away from the next federal election, so don't bet against further changes and chaos happening in our federal Senate.

Changes to the Senate
  • September 2016: Stephen Conroy resigns
  • October 2016: Kimberley Kitching replaces Conroy
  • November 2016: Bob Day resigns, Rod Culleton's election ruled invalid
  • February 2017: Cory Bernardi quits Liberal Party, joins Australian Conservatives
  • March 2017: Peter Georgiou replaces Culleton
  • April 2017: Lucy Gichuhi replaces Day, starts sitting as independent after merger of Family First and Conservatives
  • July 2017: Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters resign, kickstarting the dual citizenship crisis
Larissa Waters was the second to leave over dual citizenship (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
  • October 2017: Malcolm Roberts and Fiona Nash found ineligible, Nick Xenophon resigns
  • November 2017: Jacqui Lambie, Skye Kakoschke-Moore and Stephen Parry resign; Jordan Steele-John replaces Ludlam, Andrew Bartlett replaces Ludlam
  • December 2017: Sam Dastyari and George Brandis resign; Jim Molan replaces Nash
  • January 2018: Fraser Anning replaces Roberts, then leaves One Nation
  • February 2018: Steve Martin replaces Lambie, then leaves Jacqui Lambie Network; Gichuhi joins Liberal Party; Tim Storer replaces Xenophon, leaves Nick Xenophon Team; Kristina Keneally replaces Dastyari; Richard Colbeck replaces Parry
  • May 2018: Martin joins the Nationals; Chris Back and Katy Gallagher resign; Lee Rhiannon announces she will quit the Senate in August
  • June 2018: Anning joins Katter's Australian Party; Pauline Hanson and Brian Burston feud over his position as a One Nation senator