INDEPENDENT Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie’s upset resignation from federal parliament over dual citizenship could open up a new avenue, to secure the ‘Barnaby Bank’ legislation.
Senator Lambie has today revealed she will quit the Senate due to her dual British citizenship with her likely replacement being Devonport mayor Steve Martin who was next in line at last year’s election, on the Jacqui Lambie Network’s Senate ticket.
Senator Lambie’s resignation comes as she was also holding the pivotal vote which was holding to ransom the government’s Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) legislation and blocking its passage through the Senate.
The RIC is a signature policy for Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce who was disqualified from parliament recently due to his dual NZ citizenship, linked to his father’s birthrights, and is now facing a by-election to reclaim his NSW rural seat of New England.
Mr Joyce was also Agriculture and Water Resources Minister before his disqualification for breaching Section 44 of the constitution with the portfolio currently held by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Mr Joyce said Senator Lambie’s Senate resignation could pave the way for the RIC if her replacement was swayed to do what was right for farmers, by voting for it.
“I bet Senator Lambie is wishing she had of supported the Regional Investment Corporation because now an unfortunate part of her legacy is that she’ll be remembered as someone who didn’t support the Regional Investment Corporation,” he said.
“Not to mention her position was to be making demands on a whole range of extraneous issues that had nothing to do with getting concessional loans to farmers who need some urgent assistance.
“I’m sure in Tasmania they’ll be very interested in the fact that now, the very reason they don’t have an Regional Investment Corporation, is because Jacqui Lambie didn’t support it.”
Mr Joyce said farmers in Tasmania supported the RIC that’s set to be based in Orange in regional NSW and provide a streamlined Commonwealth agency to deliver $2 billion in drought assistance and other support loans to farmers and $2b in water infrastructure funding to help boost agricultural, economic productivity.
“Tell me of a farmer who has gone through the dairy crisis or a drought, flood or fire and is going to say, ‘Oh I’m really happy that the former Senator Jacqui Lambie didn’t support a Regional Investment Bank which would have given me concessional loans’,” Mr Joyce said.
“And don’t forget, she joined with Labor and the Greens to not support a Regional Investment Corporation to provide concessional support loans to farmers.”
But Mr Joyce said the resigning Senator still had the opportunity to show her party’s support for the Regional Investment Corporation by advising her replacement to support the commonwealth agency, which she had previously said she supported, in principle.
“That’s the best way forward for her and her party and the Regional Investment Corporation and quite frankly to show the people of Tasmania and the farmers that she’s actually delivered something,” he said.
While Senator Lambie’s position and vote was holding up progress on the RIC, the legislation was parked in the Senate.
But Mr Joyce said “We want to get it through because it’s incredibly important and one of the biggest issues for people in the farming sector”.
“We don’t want it to fall over and we want to get it up and running,” he said.
Mr Joyce said he was also angered that other members of parliament were now coming out with revelations about issues with their dual citizenship status like Senator Lambie, former Liberal Senate President Stephen Parry and NSW Liberal MP John Alexander who will now face a by-election in his Bennelong electorate, in mid-December.
He said the Nationals had “fessed up” when he and cabinet minister Matt Canavan and deputy-leader Fiona Nash revealed questions about their eligibility and referred it to the High Court.
While Senator Canavan was exonerated, Ms Nash was ruled ineligible and is now set to be replaced by Liberal Hollie Hughes but she had her issue with holding a ‘commonwealth office of profit’ subsequently referred to the High Court, on Section 44, for clarification.
“The National Party was honest and fessed up and as soon as we knew we went straight forward to the High Court and two of us lost our jobs,” Mr Joyce said while also indicating Labor MPs were also in the firing line.
“That’s unfortunate and we accept that ruling but now others are coming out in dribs and drabs with their citizenship issues.
“The Labor party would not let me speak in the chamber because of their holier than though attitude, and have now been shown to be complete and utter hypocrites because they have their own people in the same situation.
“And Mr (Opposition leader Bill) Shorten, because of his shiftiness, is reinforcing the view in country areas that’s he’s a man whose not up for scrutiny, is not straight up and down and he’s not to be trusted.
“If they’d have all gone to the High Court with us originally, maybe the High Court would have a different view of it all.
“If the High Court saw 20 people walk in the day they’d probably have say, ‘oh hang on, we’ve got a bigger problem than we thought’ rather than just basically only one lower house member, two Nationals, two Greens a One Nation Senator and Nick Xenophon.
“I’ve very rarely good things to say about the Greens except this - at least they were honest and straight up and down like the National Party was, on this citizenship issue.”
Nick Xenophon Team Lower House MP Rebekah Sharkie – the party’s agricultural spokesperson – also has questions marks hanging over her head due to the timing of when she renounced her dual British citizenship ahead of last year’s election and indicated last week she’s willing to let the High Court assess the matter.
Farm industry sources have expressed frustrations that the growing citizenship crisis is a major distraction for the federal parliament, which could trigger an election and potential change of government, taking its attention away from working on major policy issues like escalating energy costs.
NSW Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm said he didn’t support the RIC legislation and nor fellow crossbench independent Senator Cory Bernardi - but even without Senator Lambie, the government didn’t have the numbers to pass a vote on the enabling legislation.
In a statement to the Senate today, Senator Lambie said her party’s current position on the Regional Investment Corporation should be “taken as that of the Leader of the Opposition”.
Disqualified by High Court citizenship ruling
- Barnaby Joyce - Nationals
- Fiona Nash - Nationals
- Malcolm Roberts - One Nation
- Larissa Waters – Greens
- Scott Ludlam – Greens
Cleared by High Court ruling
- Nick Xenophon – now resigned to pursue SA political career
- Matt Canavan – Nationals
Recently resigned due to dual citizenship issues
- Stephen Parry – Tasmanian Liberal Senator
- John Alexander – NSW Liberal MP
- Jacqui Lambie – Tasmanian independent Senator
Already disqualified from parliament due to Section 44
- Rod Culleton – One Nation/independent WA Senator
- Bob Day – Family First SA Senator
Some MPs with reported citizenship questions marks
- Rebekha Sharkie – Nick Xenophon Team
- Josh Wilson – Labor
- Susan Lamb – Labor
- Justine Keay – Labor
- Madeline King – Labor
- Julia Banks – Liberal
- Tony Pasin – Liberal
- Nola Marino – Liberal
- Alex Hawke - Liberal