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Australian by choice

By John Hargreaves - 24 July 2017 11

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.

What’s Your opinion?


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11 Responses to
Australian by choice
tim_c 9:22 am 27 Jul 17

TrevaQ said :

John, I wholeheartedly disagree that it is an outdated notion. For those who are representing us to make the laws of our country, debate on international issues, and particularly negotiate on agreements with foreign powers, we should definitely remove any potential or actual conflicts of interest. As with the ruling of Sue v Hill, even UK dual citizens are considered ineligible. Consider the new trade agreements we will have to negotiate with the UK once they leave the EU. Their allegiance to Australia in these negotiations must be undivided.

+1

Maryann Mussared 1:50 pm 26 Jul 17

I await with interest the outcome of the Italian Government (someone was calling for the Italian Consul-General to assist) producing documents to confirm that it was possible for Matt Canavan to have become an Italian citizen simply because his mummy put in a form which he didn’t know about and therefore had not signed. If he had been under 18 and a dependent, then maybe. But even then I have to suspend disbelief. In the meantime, schadenfreude….

dungfungus 12:01 pm 26 Jul 17

ffisher said :

Simplify the whole thing to only being eligible if ‘born in Australia’. Not a Greens follower but it struck me that they were two nice enough people working to the benefit of Australia. On the other hand, I have a big problem with Labour and Liberal Coalition who receive donations from billionaire Chinese (for example) businessmen with links to Chinese Communist party who want to become Australian Citizens and who would live/work in both countries maintaining their significant business interests in China. These same new Australian Citizens would be eligible to sit in Federal Parliament. I don’t see that as being in Australia’s best interest.

Wealthy Chinese businessmen can get residency in Australia without political donations through current business migration plans.

Sure, donations to political parties (including The Greens) can enhance the experience for all business people.

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/greens-bank-39m-in-donations-including-600000-from-graeme-wood-20170131-gu2qzm.html

dungfungus 11:54 am 26 Jul 17

Garfield said :

Now we have a LNP Senator involved as well. His claim that his mother signed him up as an Italian without his consent when he was 25 sounds absurd, as how could a country accept an adult without their consent? However, it would also be an absurd lie to tell when he could resign from parliament, revoke it and then stand for preselection again at the next election. I think this together with Ludlam and Waters strengthens the case for doing away with dual citizenship altogether.

Indeed it would be absurd if a country accepted an adult as a citizen without the person’s consent but remember dead people have voted in Australia without giving their consent: http://www.abc.net.au/pm/stories/s212765.htm

Garfield 10:11 am 26 Jul 17

Now we have a LNP Senator involved as well. His claim that his mother signed him up as an Italian without his consent when he was 25 sounds absurd, as how could a country accept an adult without their consent? However, it would also be an absurd lie to tell when he could resign from parliament, revoke it and then stand for preselection again at the next election. I think this together with Ludlam and Waters strengthens the case for doing away with dual citizenship altogether.

TrevaQ 10:21 am 25 Jul 17

John, I wholeheartedly disagree that it is an outdated notion. For those who are representing us to make the laws of our country, debate on international issues, and particularly negotiate on agreements with foreign powers, we should definitely remove any potential or actual conflicts of interest. As with the ruling of Sue v Hill, even UK dual citizens are considered ineligible. Consider the new trade agreements we will have to negotiate with the UK once they leave the EU. Their allegiance to Australia in these negotiations must be undivided.

ffisher 3:05 pm 24 Jul 17

Simplify the whole thing to only being eligible if ‘born in Australia’. Not a Greens follower but it struck me that they were two nice enough people working to the benefit of Australia. On the other hand, I have a big problem with Labour and Liberal Coalition who receive donations from billionaire Chinese (for example) businessmen with links to Chinese Communist party who want to become Australian Citizens and who would live/work in both countries maintaining their significant business interests in China. These same new Australian Citizens would be eligible to sit in Federal Parliament. I don’t see that as being in Australia’s best interest.

spades 1:50 pm 24 Jul 17

Garfield said :

When sitting in our parliament and debating the merits of international trade agreements, immigration levels and war like activities, questions could be asked as to where a politician’s true loyalty lies if they hold dual citizenship. The parliament needs to be beyond questions of conflict of interest in these matters and so I fully support the prohibition of dual nationals sitting in the parliament. That’s not to say any individual dual citizen may have a much greater allegiance to Australia than the other nation.

I’d even go further and get rid of dual citizenship all together. If you want to be an Australian, choose to be an Australian and don’t split your loyalty with another country.

Agreed Garfield, I’m not sure what the author is on about. I invite readers of this article to do a bit of research on what oaths of allegiance of various countries contain (ours included). You’ll quickly realise that it doesn’t make sense for dual citizenship to exist at all, especially for lawmakers.

devils_advocate 1:19 pm 24 Jul 17

It could be worse. For example, look at the US. President Schwarzenegger would never have allowed things to descend into this level of chaos, but alas he was not born in the US so we shall never know the true greatness he would have bestowed upon his adopted homeland, and indeed the world.

Garfield 9:25 am 24 Jul 17

When sitting in our parliament and debating the merits of international trade agreements, immigration levels and war like activities, questions could be asked as to where a politician’s true loyalty lies if they hold dual citizenship. The parliament needs to be beyond questions of conflict of interest in these matters and so I fully support the prohibition of dual nationals sitting in the parliament. That’s not to say any individual dual citizen may have a much greater allegiance to Australia than the other nation.

I’d even go further and get rid of dual citizenship all together. If you want to be an Australian, choose to be an Australian and don’t split your loyalty with another country.

Blen_Carmichael 7:57 am 24 Jul 17

“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.”

No, its current interpretation was based on a 1999 High Court case (Sue v Hill). Prior to that dual citizens sat in Parliament. In fact Sue v Hill was quite progressive in the sense it was another cutting of the ties with the UK (the ‘senator’ in question whose eligibility was successfully challenged was a dual Australian/UK citizen).

“I found out (the hard way) that there are two standards in Oz. One for the pollies and another for the rest of us.”

Indeed. Let me count the ways, one might say.

“The pollies’ standard requires a greater attention to potential and actual conflicts of interest.”

So it should be. Hence no alleigance to a foreign country. You don’t renounce it, you’re ineligible to serve. Problem? Not at all, the odd Pommie whinger excepted.

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