News, Culture & Society

Former minister set for Senate return

Former Liberal minister Richard Colbeck looks set to be declared elected as early as Friday to replace ousted speaker Stephen Parry.

Mr Colbeck won a recount in December to replace Mr Parry after he was disqualified over dual citizenship.

But his case was held up when it emerged Steve Martin, who was due to replace Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie in a separate citizenship snafu, would need to have his own eligibility tested before a court.

Mr Martin faced a constitutional challenge over whether he held an “office of profit under the Crown” as the mayor of Devonport.

However, the High Court unanimously ruled on Tuesday afternoon that Mr Martin was eligible to sit in parliament, meaning Mr Colbeck was in the clear.

Earlier, a mathematician was enlisted to help the High Court determine whether Mr Colbeck should return to parliament, in the latest quirky twist to the long-running dual citizenship saga.

Mr Colbeck told AAP the maths was now a moot point.

Mr Colbeck finished above Mr Martin and another Jacqui Lambie Network candidate in the December recount.

Lawyers for the commonwealth and Mr Colbeck both argued that given his strong primary vote and preference flows from Liberal Party running mates, his position was effectively unassailable.

However, the court heard there was a remote possibility the “transfer value” of Mr Colbeck’s votes may diminish if the men were disqualified, leaving him short of the quota of votes required for a seat in the upper house.

Justice Geoffrey Nettle ordered computer simulations be run to determine whether the disqualification of either man could potentially exclude Mr Colbeck.

Justice Nettle said there was at least a theoretical possibility the Tasmanian Liberal could be affected.

The court heard the Australian Electoral Commission would be reluctant to run such a simulation, concerned that doing so may stray into the hypothetical realm and exceed their charter obligations.

Justice Nettle asked a lay mathematician who developed the software required to perform the task instead.

It was not clear whether the simulations would still be required given the outcome in Mr Martin’s case.

Mr Colbeck’s case was adjourned to Friday morning in Melbourne, with Justice Nettle indicating he hoped to gather the required evidence and make a declaration then.

Sorry we are not currently accepting comments on this article.