find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Mayor’s dual role open to challenge

Mayor’s dual role open to challenge

The new mayor of Shoalhaven City Council could face a High Court challenge if she remains a member of Federal Parliament.

Joanna Gash, who was elected mayor in NSW council elections on Saturday (8 September), has announced plans to continue as the Liberal member for Gilmore until the next federal election. But her dual role could be deemed unconstitutional by the High Court, claimed George Williams (pictured), Professor of Law at the University of NSW.

“Gash is on uncertain ground,” he told Lawyers Weekly.

Under Section 44 of the Constitution, a person is disqualified from Federal Parliament if they hold an ‘office of profit’ under the Crown. This was applied by the High Court in 1992 to disqualify Phil Cleary, who had been elected as an independent member for the Victorian seat of Wills, because he was a state school teacher.

“This uncertainty has led political parties to exercise caution,” Williams said, referring to former Liberal senator Nick Minchin, who asked eight South Australian candidates to resign from their council positions and renominate in the 1993 federal election.

Williams argued that a dual role can give rise to a conflict of interest. Federal parliament is responsible for approving funding and enacting laws that affect local councils, he explained.

“The question that arises is whether Gash would vote in the national interest or on behalf of her local electorate,” he said.

There is also the question of capacity, Williams continued. “Being a mayor or parliamentarian is a demanding job ... it is hard to see how one person can do justice to both.”

Gash responded to critics in a statement in which she cited three precedents: Ben Chifley, who served on Abercrombie Shore Council during his time as treasurer and prime minister; Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury, who served as a local councillor for 12 months after his election, and Liberal Russell Matheson, who has served as an MP and local councillor for more than two years since coming to parliament in 2010.

But Williams warned that just because these politicians weren’t challenged does not mean Gash can predict how the High Court will rule on this matter. He added that Australia’s hung parliament gives Gash’s political opponents an incentive to challenge her tenure.

“This is an area that for some decades could have been challenged and it’s interesting that circumstances could give rise to a challenge on this occasion,” he said.

“[Political opponents] don’t have much to lose.”

They may, in fact, have much to gain, including cash. Williams explained that the Common Informers (Parliamentary Disqualifications) Act states that a parliamentarian who serves while disqualified is liable to pay $200, plus another $200 for every day they serve after the case is filed in court, to any person who sues for it.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Mayor’s dual role open to challenge
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
microphone
Oct 20 2017
Podcast: One of law’s most infamous alumni – in conversation with Julian Morrow
In this episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, Melissa Coade is joined by The Chaser’s Julian Morrow....
protest
Oct 20 2017
High Court overturns ‘excessive’ anti-protest legislation
Bob Brown’s recent victory in the High Court over the Tasmanian government was a win for fundament...
Blocked
Oct 20 2017
Changes to Australian citizenship laws blocked
Attempts to beef up the requirements to obtain Australian citizenship were thwarted this week, after...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...