TONY Windsor will hold fire for now on making expansive public comments about the aim of his High Court submission in joining the legal action over Barnaby Joyce’s dual NZ citizenship case.
Reports out of the High Court directions hearing being held in Brisbane today, where Mr Joyce‘s case is being assessed along with other members of parliament with questions marks hanging over their constitutional eligibility, say Mr Windsor’s application has been successful.
It’s understood he’s the only third party that’s been granted permission by the Court to make an appearance in the citizenship case that’s been set for October 10, 11 and 12.
Mr Windsor’s claim will potentially set the scene for a fascinating, high profile legal battle against his arch political rival, Nationals leader and Agriculture and Water Resources Minister who now holds his former NSW rural seat of New England.
Mr Joyce won the seat at the 2013 election after switching from the Senate to the Lower House when Mr Windsor retired after 11 years, having held the balance of power in the previous parliament supporting Labor.
Mr Windsor returned to farming after retiring from politics but challenged Mr Joyce at last year’s election to try and regain his old seat.
But he lost the contest, after a feisty and bitter campaign.
On Twitter yesterday, Mr Windsor said, ”Made submission to the Court of Disputed Returns regarding candidate eligibility at 2016 election. Court will decide standing tomorrow”.
Today, Mr Windsor said he wouldn’t comment on the matter because he had no intention of pre-emoting the High Court and was waiting until it had formally released confirmation of its decision, following today’s hearing.
Mr Windsor’s position to the matter of Mr Joyce’s eligibility is critical, given he finished second at last year’s election for New England.
Speaking to Fairfax Media earlier this week, Mr Windsor pointed to the potential for a recount, rather than a by-election, if Mr Joyce was ruled ineligible due to his citizenship matter.
“All I’ve said is I wouldn’t rule anything out,” he said.
“There may or may not be a by-election - there could be a whole range of things happen that have nothing to do with a by-election.
“I’m not preparing for a by-election on the basis of pre-judging the High Court – that’s as bad a Malcom Turnbull pre-judging what they’re going to say.
“This will go on for months and if there’s a by-election it probably won’t take place until next year, and what that means in terms of who stands and who doesn’t, that’s for people to nominate at the time.
“At the moment there isn’t a by-election so I’m not spending too much time worrying about that.”
But asked if he’d taken any legal advice on the matter or made moves to clarify what his options were, Mr Windsor said “not really”.
“There are things running around that the High Court could find that a recount could be done,” he said.
“And in Barnaby Joyce’s case in the Lower House, if it was found that he was an ineligible candidate, the High Court could determine that a countback occur.
“I don’t know how likely that would be - but there are different people suggesting that in different articles around the traps.
“So if that was the case, whether I like it or not, I’m in play.
“Everybody else wants to determine what the High Court does and they’ll determine it and all the players who are interested, or not interested, will respond.”
It’s understood Mr Windsor’s lawyers requested the right, or least, or reserved their right to ask the court permission to cross-examine Mr Joyce at a later date, during today’s proceedings.
But he former independent MP was granted permission to join the legal claim, given he was an interested party, having run second at last year’s New England poll, to Mr Joyce.
Attorney General George Brandis said a request was put to the Court by the government’s solicitors to deal with the matter urgently and the dates had been set for the “soonest” and most “practical” time slot available.
“We look forward to a speedy resolution of the matter,” he said.
“We’re grateful the High Court has listed the matter at the next practical opportunity.
“By the standard of listing matters in the High Court, this is a very swift hearing.”
Mr Windsor also warned against assuming Mr Joyce and other members facing the High Court would somehow return to parliament; regardless of the Court’s ruling.
“That’s sort of prejudging the High Court, that they’ll just say ‘you’re in breach, go out and put clean underwear on again’,” he said.
“You wouldn’t know what would come out in a High Court hearing - I don’t - so (I’m not) presuming everything will be the same and it’s only a little bit of an administrative road block you’ve got to pass your way through.
“These people haven’t done their homework and whether they like the law or not, they’re in breach of it.”