News National The nation is in a political crisis … and we really don’t care anymore

The nation is in a political crisis … and we really don’t care anymore

Government citizenship saga
Not only has Malcolm Turnbull’s career seemingly flatlined, so has the political interest of voters. Photo: AAP
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If you’re interested in federal politics then you’re probably transfixed by the rolling omni-shambles that is the citizenship debacle.

But not everyone is watching, or even cares about the parliamentary existential crisis that’s unfolding.

It’s been two weeks since the High Court was meant to resolve uncertainty by ruling on the electoral eligibility of the Citizenship Seven.

Yet since then, we’ve seen a bevy of new potential dual citizens emerge. Other than Senate President Stephen Parry who outed himself, it looks very much as if the other MPs have been exposed by political adversaries.

All the Liberal MPs in question (John Alexander, Josh Frydenberg, Alex Hawke, Jason Falinksi and Julia Banks) are Turnbull supporters, and most were exposed by Murdoch media outlets. It’s not too hard to connect those dots and conclude the MPs were targeted by supporters of Tony Abbott.

Meantime, Malcolm Turnbull is doing his best to drag Labor into the mire, rekindling doubts over the eligibility of up to five opposition MPs (Justine Keay, Susan Lamb, Josh Wilson, Madeleine King and Katy Gallagher).

This week, the PM threatened to trash a gentlemen’s agreement that parties would only refer their own MPs to the High Court, after Labor leader Bill Shorten’s refusal to do so.

Mr Turnbull also took the fairly extraordinary step of calling lower house crossbencher Rebekah Sharkie to suggest that she should refer herself to the High Court for the same reason.

In doing so, the PM has not only attempted to diffuse any perceived responsibility for the chaos that’s enveloping the Parliament. He’s also trying to cause a non-government MPs to resign from the Parliament so that the numbers are once again in the government’s favour while the byelections are being conducted.

Depending on one’s politics, Mr Turnbull is either acting before Labor can deliver on its threat to cause havoc during the remaining weeks of Parliament while the numbers are closer than usual, or he’s just doing the right thing by acting on any MP that has questionable eligibility.

And so while the political dominos continue to fall, such as the High Court declaring on Friday that it would take a closer look at the eligibility of (Fiona Nash replacement) Hollie Hughes before declaring her elected, the PM and his opposition counterpart continue to wait for the other to blink.

One news outlet reported on Friday that up to 30 MPs may be found ineligible if the situation collapses into a free-for-all. Greens leader Richard di Natale even floated the possibility of asking the Governor-General to resolve the matter by dissolving the Parliament and calling a fresh election.

Bringing on an election might be just the thing to shake voters from the political torpor that seems to have gripped them. It appears that not only has Mr Turnbull’s career seemingly flatlined, so has the political interest of voters as expressed through the opinion polls.

If Australians are annoyed or concerned by the citizenship omni-shambles being restarted by Senator Parry and the conga line of potentially ineligible parliamentarians that have emerged since his confession, it’s not showing in recent opinion polls.

According to the weekly Essential poll, the Coalition’s primary vote has bounced between 36 and 37 per cent for the past month. Labor’s primary vote has similarly hovered around 36 to 38 per cent. And while Essential’s respondents believe the Coalition leads Labor on being divided, out of touch, and too close to big business, the major parties are also seen as being almost indistinguishable on (lack of) trustworthiness, (not) keeping promises, and promising anything to win votes.

If voters’ adverse reaction to the citizenship mess has been delayed, it may well be picked up in next week’s Essential poll or the next Newspoll, whenever that is.

But it’s also possible the general community, which is mostly disengaged from politics between elections, has become desensitised to the media’s claims of chaos and crisis, and completely written off all politicians as brawling carpet-baggers.

If roused from this grumblesome state to participate in an early election, those voters will likely be unhappy. They may be even more susceptible to the siren song of independent and minor/micro party candidates who claim to be above the grubby politics that got us into this mess.

If that occurs, Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten will have much more to fear than the High Court throwing their parties into disarray.

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