This last week or so, we’ve seen a frenzy and bloodletting, the like of which we haven’t seen for some time. All because some of our Senators were born overseas and didn’t renounce their citizenship granted at birth.
The section (44) of the Constitution which says you can’t be a dual national and sit in federal parliament at the same time is an antiquated piece of nonsense.
Let me give a few reasons why it’s rubbish. Firstly, the section was to protect the new nation from being taken over by those horrid people who owed their allegiance to a foreign power. It was put there not by people who were necessarily born here but by people who were in the main madly in love with Mother England, who marched off to the Boer War to fight for the English against those upstarts who wanted to forge a nation in South Africa and take it away from the Brits.
It was put there by the same people who owed their allegiance not to the people of Australia (as it is now) but to Her Majesty the Queen of England (Betty was not Queen of Oz at the time).
But those horrid foreigners didn’t take over the country through the Parliament, but they did settle here and make it the great place it is today.
What did not emerge was any threat to Oz from people owing allegiance to Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, even though we interned Germans and Italians who had migrated here to be part of a new country of hope.
Have a look at industry, banking, retail, mining, and all those in the big end of town. Look at those blue collar workers who built the Snowy Scheme and settled the land. Those industries and sectors didn’t need Constitutional protection from those from over the seas who were to make us a vibrant and polyglot success. In fact, it was those very migrants who made them a success.
I came to Oz as a kid aged three. I didn’t have any choice. Citizenship was not something I thought about when I was growing up. I just thought of myself as an Australian, albeit a New Australian. British Subjects were given the same rights and privileges as Australian born folks. Even down to having to register for National Service. Somewhere along the way, things changed.
When I joined the Nashos, I thought, hey! If I’m going to be asked to go to Vietnam and possibly get shot at, I think I would like to be an Australian citizen of its Army and so I applied for citizenship then. No one said, listen boy, you better renounce your Pommie citizenship! I just didn’t.
I owe no allegiance to anywhere else except Oz, which has given me a great schooling, a great living, great kids and a lovely wife, not to mention the grandkids.
I am an Australian by Choice.
I did check out renouncing my Pommie stuff once but they wanted to charge me for the privilege and I was broke and never really got around to it after that.
But… when I nominated for preselection for the ACT Legislative Assembly, I was aware that section 44 precluded dual nationals from sitting in the Reps or Senate and I sought advice on any application to the ACT because I would renounce my Pommie stuff in a blink of an eye if it was necessary. It wasn’t.
The sky didn’t fall in. I served for nearly 15 years in various capacities; I was voted in by people who had faith in my commitment to them and I didn’t need to prove it by showing that I had renounced my citizenship of Mother England. It should be the case in the Commonwealth Parliament.
But I have no sympathy for those Senators and Members who now find themselves embarrassed and unemployed. It is not only the Parties which have a duty of care, the individual candidates should think about the rules of the game.
One’s birthplace is on our birth certificate and our passports. It is well known to all of us exactly where we were born. Wouldn’t you think common-sense would prevail and a question arise about this? Particularly given the chasing Tony Abbott got a few years back. And the stories about Matthias Cormann and Eric Abetz. Nothing new here.
So where were Ludlam, Waters, Di Natale, et al during these campaigns? I don’t know about you but if I was them, I would have thought, hello! I better check myself here!
Finally, I reckon we should change it in the next referendum. Adding another question isn’t hard. In the meantime, these pollies have lost their jobs because they were slack. They were not awake. They lacked the due diligence in themselves we expect of our pollies.
I found out (the hard way) that there are two standards in Oz. One for the pollies and another for the rest of us. The pollies’ standard requires a greater attention to potential and actual conflicts of interest. That was what section 44 was all about. Conflict of allegiance.
It’s still an outdated notion and should be relegated to the dust bin of history but since we are stuck with it for now, all you aspiring federal pollies out there better check your birth certificates and passports and err on the side of caution.