I have to admit, I am finding the MYEH! attitude of many in media – and punters – in relation to breaches of Section 44 (i) of the Australian constitution very puzzling. So many of these same people were screeching in horror when Sally McManus stated she had no problems with workers breaking ‘unjust laws’. In fact, “rule of law” became a catchcry for many, particularly on the Conservative side of politics. The outrage from Government Ministers (and many in the Press Gallery) was not just loud, there was also -of course- the screeching for Bill Shorten and anyone even vaguely attached to the ALP to condemn Ms McManus for her so-called “disregard of the rule of law”.
Now, McManus was talking about laws that were UNJUST and she was correct, giving very good examples as to what exactly she meant.
Section 44 (i) of the Australian Constitution is NOT “unjust”.
It just states that you can’t be a ‘candidate’ for Federal Parliament if you are in breach of the below:
(i.) Is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power
There are pretty good reasons for this law and it is not unrealistic to expect that someone who wants to makes laws for, and decisions on behalf of the Australian public, to only have allegiance to Australia.
I know many think this is archaic and redundant nowadays, I will get into that later, but in the meantime it is the LAW – like it or not – and must be adhered to.
I admit, I was not happy to see Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam resign due to this law. Particularly in the case of Waters where she honestly believed she had complied, ie she (and her parents) were under the impression that Canadian citizenship was an option for her, should she choose to apply for it prior to turning 21. She chose not to, hence her belief she was complying with Section 44(i). If her birth in Canada had been a week different, yep, one week, she would have been correct.
Though I’m unhappy to see this pair leave the Senate, particularly Ludlam, as we need his interest in Privacy & IT knowledge in these days of Government attempting to defy the laws of Mathematics to spy on us, the fact is, they were in breach of the law when they stood for the Senate. They were Dual Citizens. They had to respect the LAW and resign and they did! In fact, instead of being scorned by those in Government they should have been applauded for having the integrity to do the right thing, something we are not currently seeing in relation to Senator Canavan.
Matt Canavan is also now in breach of the very same law. Even if we believe his #WarnieDefence and fully accept that his mum not only signed him up for Italian citizenship without his knowledge BUT also didn’t pass on any mail from Italy (like 3 sets of voting forms) over the last decade, it doesn’t matter as far as I am concerned. The law does not care about ignorance, the law doesn’t care if someone else has screwed you over or made a mistake.
As Mr Canavan himself confirmed in his press conference when he stood down from cabinet, the Italian Government had confirmed to him that he was an Italian citizen, hence a dual citizen. How standing down from Cabinet until he sorts it out with the High Court is respecting the law is beyond me? But anyhow, rightly or wrongly...
Matt Canavan was a dual citizen at the time of standing to be a candidate for the Senate. He is ineligible to sit in the Senate and vote. FULL STOP.
Look, I’ll be honest, only 50% of me is cranky about this situation due to respect of the law. I really do respect the law, even when I think it is stupid, but, to be totally frank, the other 50% of me is sitting back looking at all the others in Government, knowing many may be dual citizens due to lineage alone and thinking, “take those unintended consequences suckers!”
This Government in particular has changed so many laws. The odious so-called National Security changes alone make all citizens suspects (they can scoop up all our data) there are no laws to protect us from abuse of those laws, there are no laws to protect us from accidental security breaches of our data, basically, there was no consideration of unintended consequences that could harm us punters. We are supposed to just cop these changes, which in many cases put us in more danger because we are supposed to just trust the Government and of course, trust whoever else the Government gives that data to. Well, I don’t trust the Government, nor do I trust George Brandis and I’m still angry that both sides of Government just squealed “Keeping Australians Safe”, yet not giving a rats about unintended consequences for us.
Look at the Centrelink and the #NotMyDebt fiasco.
The Government has not given a rats arse about the unintended consequences here for innocent victims being harassed for debts they do not have or have innocently accidently incurred... The likes of Minister Tudge seems to feel that 20% of these people being accused/harmed incorrectly is an acceptable attrition rate for clearing up all Centrelink debts and putting some money back into Government coffers. The fact that this 20% statistic is actually real people, with real life consequences for them just seems to be an unintended consequence,with little sympathy from Government, all in the name of the greater good.So you know what? There is most likely a particular ‘percentage’ of MPs and Senators who are in breach of Section 44(i) so, to following Mr Tudge’s logic,...
If 20% of our MPs and Senators have to resign to ensure the whole of Government is abiding by Section 44(i), well so be it! It is for the greater good.
Same with Canavan fighting his breach in the high court. Yeah, he may not have known and it was an accident that he was a dual citizen at the time he was a candidate for the Senate. Again, you know what? I don’t care!
Looking at Centrelink again… People have lost money, been heavied by debt collectors etc. due to errors people themselves have made “in good faith, thinking they were following the rules” or due to outside circumstances like an ex partner screwing them over – sort of like Matt’s mum supposedly has. Centrelink doesn’t care. You suffer the consequences regardless of the circumstance, the debt stands until you can maybe sort it out months down the track. In the meantime you have that debt!
Canavan and any other MP caught up in this Section 44 (i) drama can do the same. Sorry, legally you are a dual citizen (regardless of circumstances), so resign and sort it out yourself further down the track.
The Government does not give us citizens the right to keep all our money, rights etc. while we ‘sort out’ what we think is wrong, so bugger Government members, they can be treated the same.
Personally, particularly when it comes to lineage, I reckon there are a heap more in both the upper and lower house that will fall foul of Section 44 (i). The bizarre case of Senator Lisa Singh is a good example of this.
Lisa Singh was born in Australia, her dad was born in Fiji, but due to odd rules at the time he was born, he was considered a British citizen and that was conferred upon her, totally unbeknownst to her. So it proves you do not need to have been born overseas for this section of our constitution to accidently trap you in it’s web.
As the Government seems to keep treating it’s citizens as suspects first in so many of it’s laws, National Security & Centrelink Robodebt to just to mention two, well, they can get a taste of their own medicine for a change and see how they like the unintended consequences of law for a change.
Yes, I know that is vindictive of me. Yes, I know I should feel bad about that. But, I don’t.
If our Government wants all of it’s citizens to respect the law, then they should do so themselves. I want a full audit of ALL OF THEM.
Too many in media are discussing how archaic the law is, do we need to change the constitution etc. This is just a distraction. Changing the constitution by a referendum is always a drama and to be frank, it is not that onerous a law FFS!
Yeah, I see how many think it is not a big deal in this modern age to be a dual citizen of New Zealand or Canada, but hell, we can’t have a law that says, yeah, all good to be citizens of countries we currently like? The law doesn’t work that way. I’m pretty sure many saying that would not be so casual about dual citizenship if say, we found we had 25% of Cabinet being dual Russian or Chinese citizens?
To make abiding by Section 44 (i) easier in future by changing the law to something like, Australian Government does not recognise dual citizenship in the case of it being conferred on an Australian citizen by a foreign government through no knowledge nor action on behalf of that citizen to use or take advantage of. Easy. Doesn’t need a change in the constitution as you would not be a dual citizen in the first place.
BUT currently, as it stands, we need a full audit. Assurances from MP’s and Senators that they were compliant is not good enough. Even if we do trust their assurances – which I do not – they themselves may be misinformed. And anyhow, as so many of them have told us before in the past when it comes to changing laws that make us suspects:
“If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear”
Yes an audit will uncover a few more. Yes, we may lose some good MPs and Senators (as we already have), BUT, it would mean the question will no longer linger. We can tidy up the whole of Government, ensuring ALL are compliant. We can have a number of by-elections all at once to get those people replaced. Hell, if these MP’s are quick enough, they can probably get their citizenship sorted and stand in that by-election themselves as a legit candidate to get their seat back. Same with Senators, they can resign, get replaced by someone in their party as a holder, sort out their citizenship and take their place again. At least will know that EVERY SINGLE MP and Senator in Government is complying with the law.
There have been situations in the past where a particular member of Government has been pinged for a Section 44(i) breach, usually as a way to get rid of that particular member or hurt that party, but, regardless, no others seem to have learned their lesson. It still seems to always be considered a one-off situation by both politicians and media, so let’s sort is all now once and for all.
I’m pretty sure an audit and the repercussions of that audit would ensure it would be extremely rare – and stupid – for any person to be in breach in future. So why not just rip off the bandaid and get the pain of this citizenship drama over & done with in one fell swoop?
I have little faith that Malcolm Turnbull will agree to an audit. Hell, knowing him and his party, even if they did give lip service to the idea, would argue over the technicalities of who should do it, how, etc etc. as Lawyers at ten paces seem to be their response to any situations, particularly law, that doesn’t suit or inconveniences them. And… they wonder why politicians are held in such low regard by punters SIGH!
We need an audit, maybe headed by a retired judge with a posse of Immigration lawyers to scrutinise the status of every single MP and Senator. ANY MP or Senator who was in breach at the time of candidacy (and I don’t care if this dates back 20 bloody years) and they should be forced to resign. As I said earlier, nothing stopping them getting back in to take their place after they have sorted out their citizenship issue. No backdating of crap. It must be from date of signing that candidacy form, with experts in the field scrutinising if that documentation is correct and timed to fit within the law.
We don’t have a Federal ICAC. There is no system that Punters can rely on to ensure that our Government representatives themselves comply with the law, so we can only hold out hope that the Fourth Estate will hold the Government to account in regard to an audit of all Government MPs and Senators citizenship status.
Please, I beg of you media, push for this audit. Ignore the politics, Ignore who suggested it, Ignore all the political games, Ignore any ramifications.
Rulz is Rulz, if both media and politicians respect the ‘rule of law’ as they profess to, they should not have a problem with a full, independent, Section 44(i) citizenship audit?
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