Changing the rules for the stupid?

By November 1, 2017Australian Politics

It is difficult to understand Attorney General George Brandis’ actions and reactions with regard to the Turnbull government’s citizenship fiasco. Initially he asked that the poor, ignorant members of parliament should not be punished for not knowing they held dual citizenship. He argued in his submission to the High Court that section 441 should only apply to someone who has “voluntarily obtained or retained” that second citizenship. What this is in effect saying is that we have to trust politicians when they say that they didn’t know they held dual citizenship2. Does anyone really think that a politician wouldn’t lie to protect their $200k per annum salary? The old saying ‘never stand between a politician and a bag of money’ is an old saying for good reason. Ignorance is no defence when it comes to the law, and I suspect that it is fortunate that Brandis is not currently practising law. I can just hear him pleading a case “My client did not know that it was illegal to do 80kph in a school zone when he wiped out the children on the zebra crossing, so it should be construed by the jury as just a tragic accident”. Fortunately, the High Court justices are not as bereft of knowledge or intelligence as Brandis seems to believe they are, or indeed he himself is.

Brandis also argued that Joyce’s “case likewise illustrates the potential for reasonable inquiries to generate incorrect information, for his affidavit discloses that, when he first made inquiries as to whether he was a citizen of New Zealand, his staff were advised by the New Zealand high commission and the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs that it was necessary to apply in order to become a New Zealand citizen”. This is based on a misunderstanding of Section 44 of the constitution which states not that a person has to be a citizen of another country, but that they have the right to citizenship1. Whether they apply for it or not is immaterial.

Brandis has ruled out changes to section 44, contradicting Turnbull, at the same time decrying the “almost brutal literalism” of the decision. That was because the justices rightly rejected the Brandis defence of ignorance3.

Unfortunately, Barnaby Joyce has added his two-bobs’ worth in his inimitable buffoonish style. He said: “Everywhere I go, the overwhelming sentiment in the New England is people are saying: ‘How could you be born in the Tamworth Base Hospital, where your great grandmother was born in Tamworth, where your great grandfather was born in Glen Innes, where you served in the Australian Army Reserves and somehow you are not an Australian’…”4 This is Joyce trying to explain his ignorance of section 44 to those at least partly ignorant of the role of the constitution. Joyce is a buffoon who is, or belongs to a party that is so slack, that his citizenship was not checked, despite his knowing that his father was born in New Zealand.

Before running for office, former premier of New South Wales, Kristina Keneally, seemed to have no problem obeying the Constitution of New South Wales which has similar citizenship provisions as the Commonwealth Constitution6. Given that she seemed to be able to cope easily, why should we alter the Commonwealth Constitution to allow the stupid to more easily get into public office. There are enough idiots in parliament already.

Sources

  1. http://www.blotreport.com/australian-politics/is-tony-abbott-a-pommy/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/sep/26/politicians-unaware-they-held-dual-citizenship-should-keep-jobs-says-brandis
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/oct/29/brutal-literalism-brandis-critiques-high-court-and-contradicts-pm-on-reform
  4. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-30/barnaby-joyce-wants-referendum-to-change-constitution-section-44/9098594
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristina_Keneally
  6. https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/DBAssets/InquiryReport/ReportAcrobat/5464/Committee%20Report%2001%20December%201998%20-%20Inquiry%20into%20G.pdf

 

4 Comments

  • Arthur Baker says:

    I used to think the dual citizenship rule in the constitution should be changed, but having watched the current parliamentary fiasco I have changed my mind. No change of rules, thanks. No referendum. Here’s why:

    1: If we deleted the dual citizenship rule from the constitution, it would allow people who are citizens of any country in the world to enter our parliament as an MP. This could include any country which, at some future time, could be our enemy in a war. North Korea, perhaps? Iran, anyone? Russia, possibly? Any country which has just been through a coup d’état? Any country currently governed by ISIS? Nope. Sorry. You’re an Aussie only, and you show proof to that effect, or you don’t qualify.

    2: The dual citizenship rule provides the perfect filter to eliminate the fools (individually or at party level) who are incapable of completing a very simple administrative exercise and filling in a few elementary forms truthfully and properly. If they can’t do that, why do we need them in our parliament, voting on laws which will govern us for the future?

    3: The dual citizenship rule prohibits people who hold dual British/Australian citizenship from serving in an Australian parliament. That includes me. I was born in the UK, and still hold UK citizenship, 45 years after my arrival in Australia. Why would I be in favour of retaining that rule? Because it highlights the hypocrisy of the fact that we still have a British aristocrat as our head of state, and the fact that the British flag continues to colonise our national flag. We ban citizens who share British nationality with our head of state, and we ban citizens whose birth-nation’s flag occupies the most prestigious quadrant of our national flag. Ridiculous. Change the head of state, yes. Change the flag, yes. Change the dual citizenship ban? Not until you’ve changed the other two – it’s too good an example of official Australian hypocrisy.

  • Jim says:

    Another point to consider is the lack of willingness of the major parties to check out every member of parliament for dual citizenship. This clearly needs to be done because the present situation is making the parliamentary processes something of a joke, something that no system of government can afford. Given that the Senate President has now fallen on his sword, there is every likelihood of other members being in the same boat. This needs to be sorted ASAP. The major parties are clearly scared of what such an investigation will discover but everything will come out in the finish, so they may as well get on with it. The ALP, the Liberals and the Nationals need to get their heads out of the sand.

    • admin says:

      Jim,

      Yep; they must. However, they are probably having a little ring around to see who is in the poo, so they can strategise as much as possible to minimise the immediate damage. The one thing I like about this, is that they can do little about it in the long run. A referendum would never be passed, so to a minor extent we are in control.

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