Another barrier has been put in front of Tony Abbott forming a minority government.
A constitutional provision prohibits anyone holding “an office of profit under the crown” from being elected to the federal Parliament.
In the 1990s, this saw two cases where members of the House of Representatives lost their seats: Phil Cleary lost the seat of Wills after a 1992 by-election before winning it back at the 1993 election, and Jackie Kelly lost the seat of Lindsay after the 1996 election before winning it back at a by-election.
There has yet to be a case to determine whether this criteria covers local government councillors. While many councillors get elected to state parliaments, the last local councillor I can think of who was elected to federal Parliament was Mark Latham, who resigned as Mayor of Liverpool shortly after being elected to Parliament in 1994.
Last Saturday, three local councillors were elected as Coalition members of Parliament. Palmerston Deputy Mayor Natasha Griggs was elected as the Country Liberal Party’s Member for Solomon. Campbelltown councillor Russell Matheson was elected as the Liberal Member for Macarthur, and Mackay Regional Councillor George Christensen looks on track to win Dawson for the Liberal National Party.
It is entirely unclear whether such a High Court case would succeed. If it did succeed, the candidates would be very likely to win by-elections with swings towards them. Even still, it injects an element of unpredictability and instability. Without those three seats, Abbott would be unable to govern in a minority government.