Is Hollie Hughes in the wrong in the latest edition of Parliament’s constitutional soap opera?
Almost 500 days ago, voters queued up outside their local primary schools and community halls to cast their votes in the July 2 double dissolution election.
New South Wales Liberal Senate candidate Hollie Hughes was eligible to contest the election.
The result of the New South Wales Senate vote was declared 463 days ago, and Ms Hughes didn’t snag a seat in the Upper House.
A fair amount of psychic ability would have been needed for Ms Hughes to have known that in the year following her defeat, there would be a constitutional catastrophe over citizenship.
But it is what happened in that gap between missing out on a Senate spot and that has created a potentially major problem for Ms Hughes.
She accepted a job that would disqualify her from being in the Senate, but she did that when she believed she would not be a member of the Upper House.
Then-deputy Nationals leader Fiona Nash would announce she was a dual citizen, would be referred to the High Court, booted into unemployment, and a recount ordered to find her replacement.
Hollie Hughes was appointed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) 136 days ago.
For the purposes of questions over Ms Hughes’ eligibility to enter the Senate, discussion over whether this is an example of a “friendly” appointment by the Coalition Government is immaterial.
But it is considered an “office of profit under the crown”.
Section 44(4) of the constitution bans a prospective politician who:
… holds any office of profit under the crown, or any pension payable during the pleasure of the crown out of any of the revenues of the Commonwealth.
There’s the issue — does that apply to Ms Hughes considering she lost the original election?
Many would argues she’s entitled to still earn a crust after thinking she’d lost a potential job, and it may not be fair to consider her ineligible now given all that’s gone down.
But does former senator Ms Nash’s disqualification have the legal effect that the 2016 campaign never ended?
Ms Hughes resigned from the AAT on the day Ms Nash was disqualified, and before the recount occurred.
Constitutional law expert Anne Twomey told the ABC’s AM program this is unchartered legal territory.
The High Court will have to decide.