Bit of a dad joke I know, but it sums up the situation quite well.
There is certainly good reason for many of us to cheer The High Court’s decision yesterday that determined five of our national parliamentarians were invalidly elected.
To the lay-person it seemed hard to believe that a legal defence of not knowing the relevant laws would stand up well- when is it effective in any other area of law, after all- yet I still wondered if they would find a way to weasel out of facing consequences.
Aside from this, many people will also cheer this verdict as what they see as a rightly deserved smackdown for the government’s self-righteous hubris and hypocrisy when this scandal originally broke. You will probably recall the gleeful enthusiasm with which Turnbull and other Coalition MPs- along with their media cheerleaders- ripped into the Greens for breaching the Constitution, before suddenly going very quiet on the topic once the focus turned to their own party.
Aside from this, there was also a clear difference in the integrity on display, which I wrote about at the time. This difference in class was obvious in the way The Greens’ senators accepted they were in breach of the Constitution, while The Coalition and One Nation (have we got to the point that the term “Coalition” includes the Liberals, Nationals and One Nation yet?) members tried any desperate undignified excuse they could come up with.
Yet, there is more than just schadenfreude and a sense of karma that makes us smile at this decision. We have been failed and cheated in every way by this pathetic self-serving government, so any development that further weakens their tenuous grip on power is positive. The by-election in Barnaby Joyce’s seat of New England has the potential to remove the government’s one-seat majority and could even be a trigger for an early election. I agree that would be the second early election in a row from Turnbull and I find lining up at a polling station as inconvenient as many others, but to get rid of this corrupt government I would line up all day and night.
So by all means enjoy the moment, but a word of warning to not rejoice too soon. Aside from banking on his high public profile as Deputy Prime Minister and incumbency, Joyce has been unashamedly pork-barrelling his own electorate for years, whether it be relocating the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority in its entirety from Canberra to Armidale at obscene public expense or through the procurement of grant money for projects within his electorate. To many who value the integrity of our democracy, this behaviour is both disgusting and simultaneously wholly in keeping with what we might ironically term ‘Coalition ethics.’ But it also may well be successful.
Much as I would love to see the government lose their majority after the by-election and to be deservingly consigned to opposition in the election this could precipitate, this is definitely only the best case scenario. There is a strong chance that Joyce could retain the seat and failing that, it could fall to a Liberal candidate or one their proxies like One Nation. In which case, the High Court decision is little more than a black eye for the government and short hiatus before business returns to normal. On the other hand, there is a chance it could be much more and it never hurts to hope.