Canberra: Opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP) has launched a renewed push to have the country’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton disqualified from Parliament.
The ALP’s power in the lower house of Parliament, the House of Representatives, was bolstered on Tuesday when Julia Banks, MP for Chisholm in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, announced she was quitting the governing Liberal National Party (LNP) to become an independent, Xinhua news agency reported.
Tony Burke, manager of ALP business, confirmed that the party would use its new position to try and refer the case of Dutton’s eligibility to serve as an MP to the High Court.
Dutton’s eligibility to sit as a MP came under question in August when it was revealed that he was the beneficiary of a trust that received subsidies from the federal government via childcare centres.
Under section 44(v) of the Australian Constitution, anyone with a “direct or indirect interest in an agreement” with the government is ineligible to serve as an MP due to a possible conflict of interest.
Legal advice from the Solicitor-General in August found that Dutton was “not incapable” of serving as an MP but conceded there was “some risk” he could be disqualified by the High Court.
“The government should refer Peter Dutton to the High Court. The Solicitor-General’s advice made clear there is doubt that only the High Court can resolve,” Burke told reporters on Wednesday.
The ALP tried to refer Dutton’s case to the High Court in August but was foiled by the LNP, which held 76 of 150 seats in the House of Representatives at the time.
However, Banks’ defection left the LNP with only 74 seats and Labor with 69, with seven independents.
If the ALP was able to secure the support of all seven independent MPs it would be able to refer Dutton to the High Court.