Peter Dutton Could Be Ineligible To Sit In Parliament, And Please God Let It Be True

Section 44 strikes again.

Peter Dutton is still insulting Malcolm Turnbull, four months after losing his own leadership spill.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton could be ineligible to sit in Parliament due to his business interests, and please God, please please please let it be true.

According to an explosive report by Network Ten senior journalist Hugh Riminton, Dutton could be ineligible thanks to everyone’s favourite section of the constitution, section 44. That’s the one that got a bunch of pollies kicked out of Canberra for being dual citizens. But section 44 also says that MPs aren’t allowed to have “any direct or indirect pecuniary interest with the Public Service of the Commonwealth”, and that’s where the government’s chief potato could be in strife.

As reported by Riminton, Dutton, his wife and his children are “beneficiaries” of the RHT Family Trust, which owns two childcare centres in Brisbane. And as of July this year, thanks to a change in law that Dutton voted for, those two childcare centres are now receiving direct subsidies from the Commonwealth.

The change affects most childcare centres in the country, and Dutton was obligated to vote for it as a member of cabinet. Nevertheless, two prominent constitutional lawyers told Network Ten that the Home Affairs Minister could still face legitimate questions about his eligibility.

“On its face, Mr. Dutton is in a position where there are at least questions to be answered,” said Sydney University Professor Anne Twomey.

UNSW Dean of Law Professor George Williams agreed, saying there was an “arguable case against Peter Dutton.”

Of course for Dutton to get the boot he would need to be referred to the High Court by Parliament, which seems fairly unlikely given the Liberals have a majority of one, and losing Dutton would put that majority in jeopardy.

Asked about the Network Ten report on Monday evening, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told ABC radio that the case should be referred to the High Court “if there’s enough evidence”.

“There is a way, a method, a process, protocols that need to be followed,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll be followed in the usual way.”

Dutton, for his part, has dismissed suggestions he could be disqualified, with a spokesperson insisting that he received legal advice which “clearly states there is no breach of Section 44”.

Still, the report couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Home Affairs Minister, who rumour has it could be on the verge of challenging Malcolm Turnbull for the Prime Ministership.