HE is on the cusp of nabbing the prime ministership, but Peter Dutton could be declared dead on arrival.
Serious questions about his eligibility to sit in Parliament have been referred to the Solicitor General, who will make a determination ahead of tomorrow’s party room meeting.
It could mean Mr Dutton, who launched a second leadership challenge against Malcolm Turnbull today, could be removed from the contest at the eleventh hour.
Mr Dutton’s RHT Family Trust owns two childcare centres in Brisbane, which have benefited from .6 million dollars in Federal Government subsidies since July 2.
It could put him in breach of Section 44 of the Constitution, which bans politicians from having “any direct or indirect pecuniary interest with the public service of the Commonwealth”.
Labor wrote to Mr Turnbull yesterday calling for the matter to be referred to the High Court, saying it had received legal advice that Mr Dutton was in breach.
The respected barrister Bret Walker SC assessed that the “preferable argument” was that Mr Dutton was ineligible because of an “indirect pecuniary interest”.
It lays out an explosive case for the former Home Affairs Minister and PM aspirant to be expelled from parliament.
“Mr Dutton was incapable of being chosen for the 45th Parliament and is not entitled to continue to sit,” the advice stated.
George Williams, the Dean of the University of New South Wales Law School, took to Twitter to say that Mr Walker’s conclusion seemed to be that Mr Dutton should be disqualified.
“The 17-page advice is a careful, forensic examination of the issues by the most authoritative member of the Bar on constitutional issues outside of the High Court,” Professor Williams said.
On Thursday, in the shadow of his fresh challenge and a string of frontbench resignations, Mr Dutton hit back and released his own legal advice.
He claimed it showed “there has never been any doubt about my eligibility to sit in the parliament”.
But critics said the advice could be out of date.
In an extraordinary press conference, Mr Turnbull demanded that renegade members of the government provide a petition with a majority of signatures to bring on a new party room meeting.
That meeting would take place on Friday at midday if there was enough demand for it.
But before that, Mr Turnbull said there were important questions to be answered over his rival’s eligibility.
The Solicitor General will now provide advice on the matter before tomorrow’s meeting.