One Nation boilover, citizenship deal and new Senate president share roiling day in politics

Liberal Scott Ryan’s election came at same time as deal on citizenship mess was reached, and shortly before Fraser Anning and One Nation parted ways

The Senate has a new president, One Nation has lost a senator, and a deal has been struck forcing MPs to prove by 1 December they are eligible to sit in parliament, during a tumultuous morning in federal politics.

On Monday morning, the Liberal frontbencher Scott Ryan was elected president of the Senate, triggering a ministerial vacancy for Malcolm Turnbull at a time when political difficulties are piling up for the prime minister.

Ryan’s appointment, replacing the departing Stephen Parry who was felled in the citizenship imbroglio, came as the Turnbull government and Labor reached agreement in the Senate on a new disclosure regime to ensure MPs meet the constitutional requirements to sit in the parliament.

The major parties attempted to move past days of threats and public finger pointing in the intensifying citizenship fiasco, agreeing on a procedural framework ensuring eligibility declarations to parliament will be made not later than 5pm Friday 1 December.

The agreed draft resolution will require MPs to provide information including their birth details, the place and date of birth for parents and grandparents, and what steps they have taken to avoid acquiring citizenship by descent.

The resolution requires MPs with dual citizenships to provide details and evidence of the date and manner of renunciation. If the required renunciation did not occur before people nominated, then evidence is to be provided of the steps taken to renounce the dual citizenship.

With several MPs still under a cloud, the agreed process is likely to trigger yet more referrals to the high court and potentially byelections beyond the two under way in New England and the Sydney seat of Bennelong.

As the disclosure process breakthrough was struck by the Senate leadership, the One Nation bloc descended into turmoil.

Fraser Anning was sworn in by the governor-general to replace the departing One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts, who was ruled ineligible by the high court because of his British citizenship.

But about an hour later, the One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson, said Anning had quit the party to sit as an independent.

Anning’s departure reflects a bitter factional feud within One Nation, which boiled over in Canberra. Anning was led into the chamber to be sworn in not by his One Nation colleagues but by two other rightwingers, Cory Bernardi and David Leyonhjelm.

After the swearing-in, Hanson issued a statement declaring Anning had “abandoned” his party, and was scoping out the potential of joining Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives.

But Anning later contradicted Hanson, issuing his own statement which said he had been expelled from One Nation by the party leader.

He said he had wanted to enter the chamber for his swearing in with One Nation colleagues Brian Burston and Peter Georgiou, “but at the last minute I gather that Pauline told them not to do so”.

“The next thing I knew, I saw on the TV that I has supposedly become an independent,” Anning said. “This was news to me.

“It seems that without even contacting me, Pauline has unilaterally kicked me out of her party. I have to say I am stunned.”

Settling Ryan as the new Senate president after Parry’s abrupt departure solves one problem for the Turnbull government but creates another.

The finance minister, Mathias Cormann, will assume Ryan’s portfolio responsibilities until the prime minister adjusts his ministry. Before taking on the presidency Ryan was special minister of state.

Ryan was backed by the opposition for the Senate president’s job. Labor’s Senate leader, Penny Wong, said the opposition took the view the government of the day was entitled to select the president, provided a suitable candidate was nominated.

But during an acrimonious session, the Greens contended the normal conventions should not apply because the Turnbull government had shown a lack of integrity during the citizenship controversy.

The Greens nominated the Tasmanian, Peter Whish-Wilson, for the role. The Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, told the Senate during debate the presidency of the chamber wasn’t “a gift to be handed between the major parties, an entitlement that belongs to either of you”.

“This is a position owned by the Senate,” he said.

Wong said Labor had backed Ryan because it wanted to preserve the efficient functioning of the chamber, but she warned respecting a convention was not equivalent to handing the government “a blank cheque”.

In a short statement from the chair, Ryan said he appreciated it was rare for a person to quit a frontbench role and take up the Senate presidency.

“With your support I am honoured to do so,” he said.

“I do emphasise I am now your servant and I represent all senators and I am no longer part of the executive government. I will treat every senator on their merits regardless of party or office held.”


Katharine Murphy Political editor

The GuardianTramp

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