The Morrison government is secretly threatening a tit-for-tat referral of crossbench MP Kerryn Phelps and Labor MPs to the High Court if the Parliament moves on Peter Dutton.
Pyne communicated the threat to cross bench MPs on Tuesday night in a move designed to shut down a push to force the High Court to examine the Home Affairs Minister’s eligibility to sit in Parliament.
Mr Pyne “named names” according to those familiar with the discussions, including the Member for Wentworth Kerryn Phelps, SA Labor MP Tony Zappia and NSW Labor MP Mike Freelander, on the grounds that his work as a doctor could invoke section 44 because of Medicare payments.
An Independent cross bench MP, Dr Phelps is in the same boat as Dr Freelander over questions about whether her work as a GP also involves section 44 of the Constitution.
The high-stakes brinkmanship followed the defection of Ms Banks to the cross bench after she complained of a culture of bullying and vindictive power plays inside the Liberal Party.
Questions over Mr Dutton’s eligibility have swirled for months over whether government payments to his family’s childcare centre could represent an office for profit under the Crown for the purposes of section 44 of the Constitution.
In February, Mr Pyne also named western Sydney Labor MP Emma Husar, the Member for Lindsay, as a potential referral to the High Court on the grounds of her Polish ancestry.
The Turnbull government previously engaged in similar threats of mass referrals as it attempted to head off a push to refer Barnaby Joyce and other Coalition MPs to the High Court.
Any High Court referrals could also hypothetically include the new independent Ms Banks, who has previously faced questions about her Greek ancestry that is notoriously difficult to relinquish.
If the Morrison government chose the “nuclear option” of referrals on the grounds of Greek citizenship, the referrals could also include SA Labor MP Steve Georganas.