'Josh Frydenberg Is As Much A Hungarian Agent As Barnaby Joyce Was A Stooge For The Kiwis'
To the surprise of no-one, the High Court will soon be back in action deciding whether elected politicians are entitled to sit in Parliament.
As 10 News First reported last month, a legal brief was being prepared against Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on the grounds that “he is a citizen of the Republic of Hungary” through his mother Erika.
That initial action stalled when the lawyer behind the brief, Trevor Poulton, was revealed by Ten News First to have unconventional views on neo-Nazis and to have been in contact with Holocaust deniers. Poulton denies he’s a Holocaust denier. He says the suggestion is disgusting.
But Poulton wasn’t the only lawyer taking an interest.
The High Court petition formally lodged on Wednesday, came from another lawyer. Former Tasmanian Greens candidate Vanessa Bleyer filed on behalf of environmental activist and Kooyong resident, Michael Staindl.
Josh Frydenberg claims to have “clear legal advice” he is not a citizen of another country.
But ANU constitutional law professor Kim Rubenstein believes he is “vulnerable.”
The Treasurer says his mother was “stateless” when she arrived in Sydney in 1950. But in his declaration to the Australian Electoral Commission in April, Frydenberg revealed his mother was born a Hungarian citizen and remained one even under Nazi control.
Frydenberg must now make his case to the judges. The High Court has taken a strict line on dual citizens in recent years, never hesitating to throw them out of Parliament.
So much for law; what about politics?
Let’s say it goes badly for Frydenberg in court. He is disqualified. His seat is declared vacant. It is hard to imagine him losing the subsequent by-election. If any taint of anti-semitism is perceived in the action against him, he is likely to increase his margin.
Voters have not punished politicians who have been found to be dual citizens. Of the 15 MPs and Senators who lost their jobs in the last Parliament, every one who sought re-election was voted back in.
No-one believes Josh Frydenberg is a Hungarian agent any more than Barnaby Joyce was a stooge for the Kiwis.
The Frydenberg case is likely to do nothing more than distract and disrupt the Treasurer from running the economy. Still, as the Prime Minister likes to remind us, “no-one is above the law.”
The other High Court challenges could bring a more lasting check to political practices. They relate to dodgy campaign advertising in Kooyong and neighbouring Chisholm.
Liberal polling place signage used the same purple and white colour scheme as the Australian Electoral Commission.
In Chinese script, voters were informed “the correct voting method (is to) put 1 next to the Liberal Party candidate.” Some Chinese speakers – it is being argued - might have taken that as official guidance.
Josh Frydenberg won Kooyong by a margin of more than 11,000 votes. About 15,000 voters in the electorate speak Chinese languages at home.
In Chisholm the arithmetic is far tighter. More than 20,000 people of the electorate speak Chinese at home. The winning margin was just 1090 votes. If 546 voters were confused into voting Liberal when that was not their true choice, the seat was arguably stolen.
If the High Court was to come to that conclusion it would have the great benefit of discouraging cynical campaign directors on both sides from using such dirty tactics.
A by-election in Chisholm could be tough for the Coalition to win, especially with voters aware a Liberal loss would not cause a change of government.
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