Mayor of Devonport Steve Martin today released an update on the process involved in taking up a seat representing Tasmania in the Senate.
Mr Martin said he wanted to help Tasmanians understand lingering questions over his own eligibility. ”Tasmanians voted in good faith at the election and they deserve to be kept in the loop as the citizenship saga in our Parliament gets ever more complicated,” Mr Martin said.
The move comes after the High Court today confirmed Mr Martin would be elected to the Senate, subject to eligibility, after a special recount of Senate votes in Tasmania identified him in ninth position out of twelve Tasmanian Senators. Mr Martin ran second on the JLN senate ticket in the 2016 election behind Jacqui Lambie, who was last week ruled ineligible due to her dual citizenship.
As part of that hearing Mr Martin took the proactive step of attaching himself early as an ‘interested party’ in the High Court deliberations. The next High Court hearing has been scheduled as a full-court hearing for the first available day after 25 January. That hearing is expected to finally decide the matter.
“I’m humbled and thrilled to be so close to representing Tasmania in the Senate, and I’m eager to take up the fight on behalf of my great state. But for now there are still a few legal hurdles concerning my eligibility to deal with and we need to tackle with those head-on,” Mr Martin said.
The issue is whether or not Mr. Martin’s position as Mayor is considered an ‘office of profit under the crown,’ according to Section 44 (iv) of the Constitution.
Commonwealth and State public servants have been disqualified by previous High Court rulings, but the status of aldermen and local councillors has never been determined.
“The reality is this issue has never been tested by the High Court,” Mr Martin said, “despite many Mayors and local councillors serving in parliament over the years. It’s now time we put this issue to the test then put it to bed once and for all – if nothing else, at least clearing the legal path for future local government representatives seeking Federal office.”
Mr Martin is being represented in the proceedings by barristers Mr Philip Solomon QC and Dr Charles Parkinson, instructed by solicitors from Corrs Chambers Westgarth.
In attaching himself as an interested party, Mr Martin hopes to clarify the operation of a law he believes is too murky. This confusion discourages local councillors and aldermen from seeking to adapt their unique skills and experience to the Federal Parliament.
There are around 537 local government bodies in Australia, consisting of about 6,600 elected aldermen/councillors.
“These are civic-minded people, many of whom work at the coal-face of community engagement and embody the best traditions of independent, non-partisan politics. They should be encouraged, and it is my sincere hope that this rare opportunity is used to help finally clear the air,” Mr Martin said.