Can two people be one federal MP? It’s a question Lucy Bradlow and Brownen Bock are grappling with after they announced they would contest the Victorian seat of Higgins at the next election as independent candidates and a job-sharing team. The idea is that they would work week on, week off, with a handover at the end of the week.

But is this actually constitutional? Constitutional law expert Anne Twomey writes the pair would have to overcome several legal obstacles in order to make a job-sharing arrangement possible. In other words, it would take more than just updating candidate nomination forms to allow for two names.

While the Constitution does not stipulate if an electorate should be a single member or multiple member - it left that up to the parliament - it does restrict the number of people who can be in the parliament. If unknown numbers of job-sharers were allowed be elected, it would risk breaching the Constitution each election. And even if they were to be treated as fulfilling the duties of an “office” rather than as separate MPs, it still wouldn’t work, because the Constitution doesn’t provide for two people to be sworn in as a single member.

There are other hurdles too, which leads Twomey to conclude that at the very least, the idea of job-sharing MPs would need proper debate and legislation, and then constitutional amendment - meaning a referendum - on the issue. As Twomey says, “this would also be the most democratic course, as the people could have their say about how they wanted to be represented”.

Amanda Dunn

Politics + Society Editor

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