Constitutional Refresher Required

There have been many calls in recent days from members of the current federal government, including the Prime Minister of Australia, for the Leader of the Opposition to sack a Labor Senator from the Senate.

It is probably right that the said Senator should depart the Senate given his actions and behaviour that have come to light, but whether one agrees with that assessment or not, one thing remains clear.

Members of the current federal government need a refresher course in basic constitutional issues: no one can force any elected member to leave their elected office except via due process. Members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate are elected by the people of Australia, either their federal electoral division or their state/territory respectively, and only they can eject an elected representative at a duly constituted election.

The worst a parliamentary leader of a political party can do is sack a Member or Senator from any parliamentary positions they might have that are within the gift of the political party or institigate internal party disciplinary action that may result in the said Member or Senator being expelled from the political party. But even in that latter case, the elected Member or Senator would remain a member of the House or Senate because they were elected not by the party by the people.

The Leader of the Opposition can no more insist that Senator Sam Dastyari leave the Senate or ‘sack him’ from the Senate than the Prime Minister can do the same for a member of either the Liberal or National parties.

And if members of the current federal government can’t grasp that fundamental constitutional reality, then perhaps they are the ones who need to resign from the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia.