Mark Latham’s bid to leave NSW parliament to run again a question of ‘ethics’, not legality

One Nation MP will reportedly resign, with party able to fill vacant seat if he’s elected to a new one

Legal and election experts say there is likely to be no barrier to One Nation MP Mark Latham’s bid to increase the party’s contingent in the New South Wales upper house, after he said he would quit parliament and run again at the March election.

Latham, who is midway through an eight-year term, this week revealed that he plans to resign from the upper house and renominate at the top of One Nation’s ticket.

Under parliamentary rules, One Nation would be able to fill his seat with another One Nation member via a casual vacancy.

Latham told the Sydney Morning Herald he wants to run again in order to “renew” his mandate, saying he believed eight-year terms in the upper house are too long.

But the move is likely to increase the party’s chances of adding to its contingent in the state’s upper house.

At the 2019 election Latham and another MP, retired police officer Rod Roberts, were both elected under the One Nation banner. The former federal Labor leader believes that by running at the head of the ticket again, he will be able to increase the far-right party’s contingent to four.

While upper house MPs have previously resigned to contest lower house or federal elections – in some cases returning to fill their old seats when unsuccessful – experts could not recall a parliamentarian doing it to recontest a vote in the same house of parliament.

Electoral law expert Graeme Orr from the University of Queensland said there was likely no legal impediment to the move, though there was a question over “whether it’s proper and ethical”.

“Really the story is that this is a vote of no confidence in his own party,” Orr said.

“One Nation would only need six or seven percent to get two MPs up, but the logic of it seems to be that he thinks he’ll get elected and a weaker or unknown running mate will be able to get elected on his coat-tails,” he said.

“It would be highly unethical [but] it is fascinating because it’s not as if One Nation is a new party, they’ve been around for 25 years, you wouldn’t think they would need to rely on one character or a couple of characters to get votes.

“The appearance to people who think about things in terms of, we should be choosing our elected representatives, is this is all of it is a bit of a boondoggle.”

According to the ABC’s election analyst Antony Green, there is “almost certainly” no constitutional or parliamentary block to Latham taking the action.

“It seems that an MLC elected to an eight-year term can resign after four years to contest election for the alternate Legislative Council term,” Green wrote on his blog.

“The member would effectively be elected to two over-lapping positions in the council created by their two elections, though it would be impossible for one person to hold both positions.”

Contacted for comment about the ethics of the plan, Latham responded with two crying laughing emojis.


Michael McGowan

The GuardianTramp

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