Australia’s new Senate could sit before legal challenges to the election result in Western Australia are determined, a High Court justice says. The High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, is hearing three separate petitions about the result of the fifth and sixth Senate places in Western Australia. But Senate contenders will be left to sweat through summer after Justice Kenneth Hayne today flagged the challenge to the upper house result in WA would not be heard until late January. And the matter may not be settled before the new Senate commences sitting in July. “I cannot dismiss the possibility that … after the first of July the Senate may not be properly constituted,” he said. “That possibility is best avoided.” The result in WA has already been the subject of a recount and an investigation by former Australian Federal Police chief Mick Keelty, after 1370 votes went missing.
The original WA Senate result saw Labor’s Louise Pratt and Zhenya Wang from the Palmer United Party win the final two spots in the state.
A recount demanded by the Greens then had their sitting senator Scott Ludlam and the Australian Sports Party’s Wayne Dropulich elected in their stead.
The 1370 votes found during the process to have gone missing have not been recovered.
An embarrassed Australian Electoral Commission has asked the court to overturn the election result and order a fresh election, a step likely to cost $13 million.