Malcolm Turnbull may no longer have a place in Canberra since he decided to step back from politics after being rolled as prime minister and leader of the Liberal party last month, but that doesn’t mean the former PM will be keeping his mouth shut when it comes to discussing issues within Parliament House.
Turnbull, who is currently overseas in New York with his wife Lucy, made a public dig at the architect of his downfall, Peter Dutton, on Twitter on Wednesday and admitted he’d offered advice to his successor Scott Morrison on how to deal with the current drama surrounding the member for Dickson.
The 63-year-old revealed he believes that Home Affairs Minister Dutton should be referred to the High Court over the recent debate about his eligibility to sit in parliament after it was revealed that two Brisbane childcare centres, run by his family trust, received $5.6 million in taxpayer-funded rebates over the past eight years.
He said: “The point I have made to @ScottMorrisonMP and other colleagues is that given the uncertainty around Peter Dutton’s eligibility, acknowledged by the Solicitor General, he should be referred to the High Court, as Barnaby was, to clarify the matter.”
The point I have made to @ScottMorrisonMP and other colleagues is that given the uncertainty around Peter Dutton’s eligibility, acknowledged by the Solicitor General, he should be referred to the High Court, as Barnaby was, to clarify the matter.
— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) September 12, 2018
Questions were first raised about Dutton’s conflict of interest following the fallout from the leadership spills, with Turnbull asking Attorney-General Christian Porter to order Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue QC to investigate the matter.
Donaghue revealed he could not “conclusively find” Dutton eligible to sit in parliament, however the 47-year-old Queensland MP retaliated by publishing the legal advice he sought himself over the matter, claiming it proved he was in fact eligible and had not broken any rules.
Under section 44(v) of the Constitution, a person who has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the federal public service cannot be elected or sit in the House of Representatives.
This advice is in addition to my original advice from Guy Reynolds SC which also confirmed I was not in breach of s.44(v).
Mr Bennett’s unequivocal advice puts to rest the spurious & unsubstantiated allegations raised against by eligibility. 3/3 pic.twitter.com/Eb90HvzOew
— Peter Dutton (@PeterDutton_MP) August 23, 2018
Prime Minister Morrison has since commented on the advice dished out by his predecessor, telling The Australian: “I think people have had enough of the lawyers’ picnics on these sort of issues and they want to focus completely and totally on what the nation needs here and now and that’s to keep our economy strong and guarantee the essential services that Australians rely on.”
Dutton has also come under fire in recent weeks over claims he had abused his ministerial powers to grant visas to foreign nannies during his time in charge of the immigration portfolio.
Labor minister Anthony Albanese described Turnbull’s tweet as an “extraordinary intervention”, saying the time has come for Morrison to “show some leadership” and deal with the issue head on.
“The tweet from Malcolm Turnbull is an extraordinary intervention,” he said on Thursday. “What should happen today is that Scott Morrison should show some leadership. He has shown none in the first few weeks of his prime ministership. He is unable to explain why he was elected Prime Minister and why Malcolm Turnbull was removed.
“What he needs to do today is to go to Peter Dutton and say: ‘Listen, it’s not appropriate that the person who is responsible as Home Affairs Minister for administering a range of serious laws relating to national security is himself the subject of doubt when it comes to his legal status to sit as a Member of Parliament in the House of Representatives’.”