MP Disqualifications: The Pathologies and Consequences of Section 44 of the Constitution

Electoral Regulation Research Network Seminar

Thursday 28 September

RMIT University

About the Seminar:

Whilst most electoral democracies are living through ‘interesting times’, Australia is enjoying farcical times.  In 2017, the High Court will rule on at least 10 cases involving the qualifications of members of the Commonwealth Parliament.   

Does the thicket of disqualifications locked into section 44 of the Constitution – but largely absent from State/Territory electoral law – capture meaningful conflicts of interest?   Or is it a painful appendix of fuzzy and outdated concepts?  

Are MPs peculiarly slapdash?  Or are there unworkable pathologies in demanding that candidates, especially from the minor parties and in an unfixed election cycle, be able to prove a negative such as ‘I am not a citizen of a foreign power’ and ‘I do not hold an office of profit under the Crown’? This seminar will explore the history and context of these provisions, their practical and political consequences, and reform options including missteps taken by the Court and parliamentary workarounds.

Professor Graeme Orr

The Speaker:

Professor Graeme Orr is a professor at UQ Law School.  In the field of the regulation of democracy, he has authored or edited 6 books. These include The Law of Politics: Elections, Parties and Money in Australia (2nd ed, Federation Press, 2018), The Law of Deliberative Democracy (Routledge, 2016) with Ron Levy, and a monograph on elections as rituals.  His other research backgrounds are in labour law, the law of negligence, and legal language/symbols.

Formerly the international editor of the Electoral Law Journal, Graeme has also edited the Griffith Law Review, the Alternative Law Journal, LAWAsia and been columnist on work and law for the Australian Journal of Administrative Law and on sport and the law for the Alternative Law Journal. He is a regular public commentator on the law of politics and fellow of the Australian Academy of Law.