Turmoil ahead as Larissa Waters and Fiona Nash plan for comeback

High court decision leaves the Greens as well as the Liberal and National parties facing tricky internal pressures

The former Greens senator Larissa Waters could be back in Canberra within months, despite having had to resign because of her dual citizenship, under Greens internal processes that allow preselected candidates to take their place in the Senate before facing the voters.

Andrew Bartlett is expected to replace Waters after Friday’s adverse high court decision, but it is possible Waters could return via a casual vacancy if she is preselected late this year or early next year at the top of the Greens Queensland Senate ticket.

The handover, which may be pushed by members, can happen only by agreement. The swap-out could also happen in other states, such as New South Wales, where Mehreen Faruqi will run for Greens preselection for the Senate in 2019, in a challenge to Lee Rhiannon.

When asked by Guardian Australia on Friday if she hoped to come back to parliament after gaining preselection, Waters said: “Hopefully yes.”

For his part, Bartlett said his intention was to “hit the ground running” after the court ruling.

“Having done it before I know what’s involved. We’ve had a lot of disruption and uncertainty for the last three months so we need to get on with it,” Bartlett said.

“We’ve got a state election happening soon, a party preselection after that for the next election, so some time down the track after a lot of discussion with members we’ll think about things, but I’m certainly intending to take up the seat if that’s how things pan out, and get on with the job.”

Asked if he would challenge Waters for the party’s Queensland Senate spot in the coming preselection, he said that was too far into the future to think about.

“It’s a long way down the track, we’ve got a state election to focus on first so I’m really just wanting to get a Greens representative back in [federal parliament] and get on with the job for the moment.”

The Greens are not the only party facing complicated internal pressures as a consequence of Friday’s high court decision.

The court knocked out the Nationals deputy leader and New South Wales senator Fiona Nash, but she wants to remain in politics.

It is understood that if Nash doesn’t return as part of the resolution of the high court decision, she is highly unlikely to contest the federal election in 2019, which will leave the Nationals short of a senior woman with ministerial experience.

The Liberal party’s Hollie Hughes, who held the sixth spot on the NSW Senate ticket, will seek to retain Nash’s seat if the looming recount shows she has won it. The Nationals want Hughes to vacate that spot in favour of Nash.

The looming dispute will have to be hammered out between the NSW Liberal and National parties.

The Nationals want Malcolm Turnbull to intervene in an effort to shore up Nash, but the situation is delicate, given the relationships between the Coalition partners, and the government’s precarious political position in the parliament.

A senior National pary member said: “We aren’t going down without a fight, but we don’t want to blow up the farm, either.”

The prime minister spoke about Nash on Friday in the past tense, paying tribute to her service.


Katharine Murphy and Gareth Hutchens

The GuardianTramp

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