Clover Bad, Joanna Good?
So the Coalition government in New South Wales passed their "It's not really about Clover at all" legislation through the upper house last night. This legislation will make it verbotten for State Members of Parliament to hold both the office of MP and the office of Local Government Councillor at the same time.
The justification presented is that by occupying both roles the person is not able to give either job the attention that it deserves. Also it's somehow not fair that one person should be able to draw two wages (though lets be honest, what Councillors get for their efforts is pretty piddling unless they're the mayor of a major town).
However there is a slight fly in the ointment for the Coalition as it tries to present this as something for the good of the people of NSW.
That fly is one Joanna Gash. Joanna Gash is the current federal member for the seat of Gilmore (located on the south coast of NSW) however she has decided that she wants to stand down at the next election, sometime in 2013. In the mean time she wants to get more involved with local politics by running for Mayor in the September elections, and she wants to run without stepping down from her seat in federal parliament.
So Barry O'Farrell now has to justify why it's a bad thing for state mps to be councillors, but it's perfectly okay for federal mps'.
The latest reasoning that I've heard is that there might be some sort of constitutional issue preventing the state from legislating federal mps, however the only "constitutional issue" I can find is clause 4 of section 44 of the federal constitution that states:
Anyone who holds any office of profit under the Crown, or any pension payable during the pleasure of the Crown out of any of the revenues of the Commonwealth:
Is ineligable to hold federal office. However there is a bit of conjecture as to whether Local Government Councillors hold an office of profit under the Crown.
I've had a look in the NSW constitution and Section 51 is the bit that deals with Local Government and there is nothing in there that would prevent the State Government from banning federal mps from holding Councillor positions. In fact clause 2 explicitly states that:
The manner in which local government bodies are constituted and the nature and extent of their powers, authorities, duties and functions shall be as determined by or in accordance with laws of the Legislature.
Which to my non-lawyerly mind pretty much says "the State legislature can do what they want with local government". It's this clause that forms the foundation for much of the power that the State has over the Local Government sector.
Anyway the legislation is passed and Clover has already stated that she's going to be leaving Parliament in favour of remaining the Mayor of the City of Sydney. I'm not really sure what the Coalition thinks it's won with this, but there ya go.