Longman is a federal electorate in Brisbane’s north held since the 2016 election by Susan Lamb for Labor. Lamb was born in Mackay, Queensland of a British father and Queensland born mother. Her own legal advice confirmed that she obtained British citizenship by descent at birth. So, she applied to renounce her British citizenship before nominations for the 2016 election closed, but she did not enclose sufficient evidence of her British citizenship so her application to the UK Home Office to renounce British citizenship was rejected.
In a scenario reminiscent of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party she was told that before she could renounce British citizenship she first had to prove that she was a British citizen, which she couldn’t largely because she had never held a British passport or visited Britain. After the election, she provided some additional documents, but her application was still rejected as she couldn’t provide her parents Marriage Certificate – her mother was born in Queensland (in 1948), her father was born in Edinburgh in the UK (in 1945) so the need to prove that they were in fact married became a critical factor in establishing citizenship by descent : her father had passed and she had not had any contact with her mother since she was a child when her mother had left the marriage. She believed, in the circumstances, that she had taken all ‘reasonable steps’ to renounce a citizenship that she never really considered she had.
But constant haranguing from the government, in particular Christopher Pyne, forced her resignation and the by-election, now part of the Super Saturday by-elections to be held on 28 July ; she will again stand for the Labor party. Pyne was jubilant when she resigned and considers his role in her demise to have been the highlight of his political career and for once he could be right.
So, what makes a by-election in this Brisbane seat so important ? Well this seat together with Mayo (SA), Braddon (Tas), Fremantle (WA) and Perth (WA) were all held by Labor except Mayo which was Centre-Alliance and if they swing to the LNP it could be a trigger for Turnbull to go to an early federal election based on the rather spurious notion that the electorate are recognising the superior economic skills and popularity of this coalition government (and an endorsement of Turnbull’s tax cuts to all and sundry).
Normally the incumbent government would argue that a by-election is all about local issues and the local candidate but just the other day Turnbull whilst visiting Longman said this :
“The … contest is between me and Bill Shorten as the prime minister and the opposition leader.”
Now, did he say that because he wanted to distance himself form the coalition candidate or was he capitalising on his so called personal charisma with the electorate and Shorten’s lack of popularity ?
Trevor John Ruthenberg is the coalition, LNP candidate having previously been part of the Queensland state government led by Campbell Newman. When Newman was sent packing by the people of Queensland in 2015, Ruthenberg lost his state seat of Kallungar (again, in Brisbane’s north) to Labor. Newman’s government were about as popular as a dose of herpes and Ruthenberg, some consider, is tainted by that association.
Ruthenberg had been in the Royal Australian Air Force and completed a trade as an airframe fitter. Prior to being elected, he was an Executive Officer to the Lutheran Church of Australia in Queensland. He had already worried Liberal party bosses when he allowed himself to be drawn into a debate on climate change and had refused to clarify whether he believes climate change is happening, after saying that he had a different “understanding of the science” when confronted about the link between burning coal and global warming. His position, of course, is in line with Liberal party policy and the dictates of the IPA but coalition policy is not to discuss the issue : he should have taken his lead from Georgina Downer who is contesting Mayo in South Australia for the Liberal party and who just pulls up the doona whenever climate change is mentioned.
Big Trev as he is evidently known had also caused a ripple when the Courier Mail reported that he had not won an Australian Service Medal as he had claimed on a website but rather an Australian Defence Medal, which is awarded to people who have completed at least four years of service. The Australian Service Medal to those in the know is an entirely different decoration to recognise prescribed service in peacekeeping and non-warlike operations, in such places as Timor-Leste, Solomon Islands, Bougainville etc. Whilst Ruthenberg has apologised for his ‘oversight’ some consider that any former service person would have had a clear understanding of the difference between the two decorations.
So, Longman is going to be interesting and for Turnbull pivotal. How the preference deal between One Nation and the Liberals and the robocall endorsement of Mark Latham for Pauline Hanson and her candidate will work out remains to be seen. In typical One Nation style their candidate, Matthew Stephen, comes with baggage and has had his Queensland Building and Construction Commission wall and floor tiling licence suspended seven times for not paying his fees or his creditors. His most recent suspension was for February and March this year, while Pauline Hanson’s party were in the process of vetting his suitability to run at the election.
Watch this space and see how the good folk in Longman formulate their vote.
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