The High Court ruling is a crippling blow for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The High Court ruling is a crippling blow for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Worst possible outcome for PM

THE separation of powers between the executive government and the court system has decapitated the leadership of the junior Coalition party in Canberra, ejecting Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and his own second-in-charge Fiona Nash from Parliament.

This is the worst possible outcome for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has a face covered in egg after he said on day one of this crisis the High Court would "so hold" that his deputy would not lose his seat.

Now Joyce will face a by-election - likely to be held on December 2 - with a big field of contenders led by worthy opponent Tony Windsor.

The Nationals are going to have a senator as leader - the Northern Territory's Nigel Scullion - who will also be sworn in as deputy prime minister (a role he can only hold for three months without moving to the House).

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce (right) with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce (right) with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Turnbull is scheduled to fly out late today for a visit to Israel, but that trip could be in doubt - can he afford to get on his plane? It seems untenable.

No Prime Minister can jet off as his government is falling apart. The country will be stunned and understandably unable to come to grips with the full extent of what's happened.

To watch a deputy prime minister and his own party deputy lose their seats is as big a shock as we've seen in Australian politics.

The High Court had no real option but to rule as it has - that five of the seven politicians were not eligible to stand at the last election.

With the exception of Queensland's Matt Canavan and South Australia's Nick Xenophon (who had no possible reason to believe they were anything but Australian citizens) the others could have found out there was at least an element of doubt.

The rules are the rules and the easiest way to make sure you stick to them is to do the homework. This is a welcome and salutatory lesson for all politicians.


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