Australia

Dutton dismisses reports he’s ineligible to sit in Parliament

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Questions have been raised about the eligibility of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to be in federal parliament. But the Home Affairs Minister has hosed down the speculation.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says he has legal advice he is eligible to remain in federal parliament, despite reports he may be in breach of the constitution.

Ten News reported on Monday night Mr Dutton has an interest in two child care centres in suburban Brisbane through the RHT Family Trust.

Mr Dutton's parliamentary register of interests shows he is a beneficiary of the RHT Family Trust, along with his wife and children.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has dismissed reports he may be in breach of the constitution.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has dismissed reports he may be in breach of the constitution.
AAP

From July 2 this year child care centres receive a direct subsidy from the federal government.

This could put the minister in breach of section 44 of the constitution, which bans from parliament anyone who has "any direct or indirect pecuniary interest with the public service of the commonwealth".

Constitutional expert Anne Twomey was quoted as saying the case would fall into the "fuzzy edges" of the law.

Peter Dutton, right, and Malcolm Turnbull. There's speculation the Home Affairs Minister will make a leadership bid.
Peter Dutton, right, and Malcolm Turnbull. There's speculation the Home Affairs Minister will make a leadership bid.
AAP

She points to the case of former Family First senator Bob Day who was disqualified after the High Court examined an agreement with the commonwealth he had through a family trust.

However, a spokesman for the minister told AAP on Monday: "Mr Dutton's legal advice clearly states there is no breach of Section 44."

The claims come as speculation mounts Mr Dutton will embark on a leadership bid.

Mr Turnbull said he had seen Mr Dutton at a meeting earlier on Monday morning. "He is a member of our team, he has given me his absolute support," the prime minister said. 

Senior cabinet ministers rallied around Mr Turnbull on Monday amid growing speculation he may face a leadership challenge, urging internal critics to “think about the consequences” of undermining the leader.

Sky News reported the president of the Queensland LNP, Gary Spence, was urging MPs to dump Mr Turnbull. 

Cornered by reporters later in the day, Mr Spence said he would not comment on private discussions with MPs and would not be drawn on who he would prefer as leader. 

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten used the Section 44 speculation about Mr Dutton as an opportunity to attack the government over its lack of clarity.

“I don’t know anymore than what you’ve seen,” Mr Shorten told reporters at Parliament on Monday evening.

“I think it’d be helpful if the Prime Minister clarified the status of Mr Dutton.”

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