The Turnbull Government’s ability to hold power is under threat by a High Court challenge over Nationals MP David Gillespie’s right to be elected. Picture: Kym Smith
The Turnbull Government’s ability to hold power is under threat by a High Court challenge over Nationals MP David Gillespie’s right to be elected. Picture: Kym Smith Kym Smith

The Labor 'stunt' that could topple Turnbull Government

ONE of Malcolm Turnbull's frontbench team is facing a High Court challenge over whether he was eligible to be elected to Parliament.

The eligibility of Nationals MP David Gillespie, the assistant minister for rural health, is being questioned under the same law which saw the High Court rule crossbench senator Bob Day ineligible to be elected in April.

If the contest succeeds, it could potentially cost the Turnbull Government its one seat majority in the lower house.

Labor has begun High Court proceedings against Mr Gillespie, the member for Lyne, today over whether he has an indirect financial interest in the Commonwealth due to a small, suburban shopping complex he owns in Port Macquarie that includes an Australia Post office.

Section 44 of the Constitution prohibits all candidates for parliament from having a direct or indirect financial interest in any agreement with the Commonwealth.

 

David Gillespie in Question Time. Picture Kym Smith
David Gillespie in Question Time. Picture Kym Smith

Former Labor candidate Peter Alley, who has launched the proceedings with the backing of the ALP's executive, said he had not undertaken legal proceedings lightly.

"I don't believe I have a choice but to make this application," Mr Alley said in a statement today.

"Over 100,000 people who voted in Lyne last year deserve to know that the Member for Lyne was eligible to be elected.

"This is their democratic and constitutional right."

Mr Gillespie won the seat of Lyne with 61.6 per cent of the vote at last year's federal election against Mr Alley's 38.4 per cent, after preferences.

He claimed 49.6 per cent of the vote on first preferences, compared to Mr Alley's 26.6 per cent.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus first wrote to Attorney-General George Brandis to question Mr Gillespie's eligibility in February this year and again following the High Court decision on to disqualify Bob Day.

"The Attorney-General has not bothered responding to either of these letters," Mr Alley said.

"I note the government was prepared to take the question of the constitutional qualifications of not one but two crossbench Senators to the High Court.

"But now there is an apparent lack of interest in Dr Gillespie's case.

"While the Government wants to turn a blind eye, I won't."

It's understood that if the case were successful, it would trigger a by-election for the seat of Lyne.

The Turnbull Government would lose its one seat majority if the seat was not won by a National or Liberal candidate.

It has traditionally been held by the Nationals.

Sky News reports Mr Gillespie has obtained independent legal advice from a QC over whether his election could be invalid, and has been advised his election was valid.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has labelled the challenge a Labor stunt.

News Corp Australia


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