Is anyone as sick of this sad and sorry saga as I am? It just seems to go on and on. Where is the end of it?
First, we get a bunch of senators and one MP suspected of not being eligible to be in federal parliament at all, two get off and five sent packing (now six with Jacquie Lambie the latest casualty). You’d think that was enough to signal to any sane person that maybe, just maybe there was a problem.
We saw Katy Gallagher check her stuff out and get advice that she was not Ecuadorian (although there are not too many blondes in Ecuador) and the issue of her dad being a pom. Katy saw the hordes on the hill and acted to make sure that she had done due diligence as best she could before the 2016 election.
But what does Senator Parry do? He checks it with a mate and stays mum until the High Court does the caber tossing. Whoops. But maybe not – maybe not just a human error, maybe not just a dumb thing. Maybe he thought it would go under the radar cos no-one was doing the checking.
There are another three pollies in the crosshairs.
Meanwhile, the PM and Bill Shorten argue the toss about how to protect their own arses. Not exactly covering themselves in glory eh?
But let’s go back a bit. Why did the founding fathers (and founding mothers may have taken a different view, especially John Christian Watson’s and King O’Malley’s mums) put this provision into the Constitution?
It was about not allowing allegiance to a foreign power. A bit odd at the time methinks cos the Brits were the major power in this region anyway and no-one saw the decline of the British Empire in the late 1800s. But this provision was a bit of insurance in case any upstart immigrant would deign to feel that they could sit in the Oz Parliament and make laws for the good of the country. Not of British stock, not in the game!
But here’s the rub. Around the times the French and the Russians were prowling around and frightening the horses with their ships, the colonies had their own armies – and I think even one had a navy of sorts – but no real defence cohesion. So, the Constitution conferred responsibility for defence on the new polity.
Now, many RiotACTers are/were public servants. Many are/were Commonwealth public servants. To get a job in the then-CPS when I joined (1968), you had to swear allegiance to the Queen and her successors and you had to have a security check. I was asked what my parents’ jobs were, where they were born and a few other bits I just can’t remember (blaming my old mate Al Zeheimer).
When people join the APS these days, I’m not sure what happens but I do know that if you want a job in the Parliament through the Department of Parliamentary Services, say to work in the support areas of parliament like the Library, committee offices, personnel etc, you have to have a security check.
But did you know that if you are a pollie or a staff member of a pollie, no such requirement exists? So these pollies, despite having only Oz citizenship, could conceivably owe allegiance to a foreign power and you would never know. The same goes for their staff members and there are heaps of them in the hallowed halls.
I know this because neither I nor my staff was security checked when I was elected to the Legislative Assembly and the same didn’t happen when a couple of friends of mine were elected to the House of Reps and Senate. Personal knowledge is a great thing at times.
A check of British Parliamentary history will reveal many members of the Houses of Parliament as being moles or spies for the commies during the Cold War. The papers were full of such revelations in the 1960s. It wouldn’t surprise me to find more if a surface was scratched; that is if there are any left after the sexual harassment issues haven’t entirely decimated the ranks.
But what is to stop this happening here? Nothing I can see.
But is it possible that security checks are done by ASIO behind their backs? Nah! Not in this country of the free! Where our personal liberties are never threatened!
Well, I reckon that all nominating candidates should go through the same security vetting that prospective employees of the Commonwealth have to go through. And the same for prospective staff members of MPs.
Imagine this: a Defence minister or Justice minister being briefed on sensitive material vital to Oz’s external or internal security, when no-one knows with absolute surety that the information imparted will be confidential. Imagine a staff member sitting in on a briefing on sensitive material, we have no guarantee that this stuff will be used appropriately.
But there is the principle of the separation of powers. The Parliament, the Executive, and the Judiciary are independent of each other. So what, I say!
The spooks should do a check on everyone who has access to sensitive material and report the findings to an appropriate officer in Parliament House. This could be the Speaker/President, the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services, an Integrity Commissioner; I don’t have a preference but where there are doubts about the allegiance, it should be dealt with. And it isn’t at the moment.
Food for thought eh?
Do you think all potential government staff should undergo security checks? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.