Posted by: Gregoryno6 | September 4, 2017

The Trap of Section 44. (UPDATED)

Here in The Great South Land, we’ve become accustomed to government that is less than inspiring and less than admirable. The Years of Ruddlard brought us bungling and waste to a degree that was nigh on unbelievable… until we saw the bill. The rightist government that replaced them has not been a whole lot better.

In light of that history, the current scurrying among our MPs is a schadenfreudist’s dream.

Section 44 of the Constitution states:

Any person who:
(i) is under any acknowledgment 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 a citizen of a foreign power; or
(ii) is attainted of treason, or has been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence
punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State by imprisonment for one year or longer; or
(iii) is an undischarged bankrupt or insolvent; or
(iv) holds any office of profit under the Crown, or any pension payable during the pleasure of the Crown out of
any of the revenues of the Commonwealth: or
(v) has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth
otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members of an incorporated company consisting
of more than twenty-five persons;
shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.

Subsection (i) is the key here. In plain English, no member of the Australian federal parliament is permitted to hold dual citizenship. And here it is again on the website of the Australian Electoral Commission. All the same, we’re discovering that some of our elected representatives managed to overlook it.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam resigned in July when advised that he had not renounced his New Zealand citizenship before entering Parliament ten years ago. Close behind him was another Green Senator, Canadian-born Larissa Waters. Credit to both for taking the honest way out – although Ludlam’s sacrifice is somewhat marred. A petition was raised at in 2014 questioning exactly this issue; Ludlam, in his resignation, claimed to be ignorant of it. For myself, I find it quite a stretch – quite a stretch – that any pol can be unaware of any such activity. Politicians today are nothing if not media-sensitive.

Ludlam’s status was also the subject of Freedom of Information inquiries – another issue on which Green Scotty claimed ignorance.

You have to wonder what was put in front of him that did finally penetrate his formidable field of unknowingness.

I’m not a fan of the Greens, but there’s no denying that these two did what was right. They quit the Senate. But Section 44 isn’t done yet. More and more pols are coming forward with sheepish looks to admit, um, gee, I thought I had that all squared up, but…

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts tried repeatedly to confirm with London that he was in the clear before the 2016 election. He received confirmation six months after winning his seat.

Government minister Matt Canavan resigned his portfolio when it came out that his mother had signed him up as an Italian citizen. When he was 26.

Even higher up the ranks, the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was outed as another closet Kiwi.

Nick Xenophon, independent (his word, not mine) senator, fell on his face after a staged press event to announce he was most definitely one of the Bruce Tribe. Unfortunately, he had to admit a couple of days later that he may well be a Brit after all.

‘Unfortunately’ is again how the Brand X senator would describe it. But the citizens are watching in glee. Parliamentarians are running for cover. The more disliked the politician, the greater the delight. Scott Ludlam’s departure was particularly ironic, given that he had earlier made an issue of Tony Abbott’s citizenship. (Abbott was born in the UK but has presented a document to prove he has renounced British citizenship.) Ludlam went at Abbott at what he thought was a weak spot. Turns out the weakness was Ludlam’s. As entertainment, politics doesn’t get better than that. Another obnoxious senator, Derryn Hinch, was likewise broadsided to the delight of many.

This outbreak of ineligibility in the ranks has raised questions about the validity of pretty much everything our federal government has done for several years. Is legislation invalid? Will the dual-cits be required to pay back their illegitimately claimed remunerations?

On the first question, the size of the problem makes it near impossible, I’d think, to scrub it all and hit reset.

On the second question the safe answer is: good luck with that.

In October Australia’s High Court will make a ruling on the status of DC MP’s. Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce is among those who will be dealt with. There have been calls for Parliament to be suspended until the High Court has spoken, but that doesn’t appear likely. Our Labor opposition was supposedly threatening to walk out when PM Turnbull is out of the country next week, leaving Joyce to sit in as deputy. That has since been dismissed as something Labor never seriously considered.

Interestingly,  Labor leader Bill Shorten is the perhaps most prominent holdout on the issue. Shorten is potentially another UK/Australian dual; he claims to have the proper documents, but refuses to show them.

If this is a ploy – Here they are! I had them all along! Ha! Ha! Ha! – it’s not a wise one. Shorten is only regarded as an alternative Prime Minister through the total uselessness of Malcolm Turnbull. If he didn’t have the Waffler From Wentworth to make him look good, Shorten wouldn’t have a paper cat’s hope in hell. A pol who’s not widely trusted should be grabbing any chance to reverse that opinion.

Politics doesn’t usually compete with sport during September in Australia. We have Grand Finals in Australian Rules and other codes to keep us occupied. Section 44 has given us another option on our menu of spectator sports.

Does that sound excessively cynical? Honestly, if Section 44 was a meteor, Canberra would be a smoking hole – and the rest of the country would be saying, no great loss.

UPDATE: Following up a public challenge from Tony Abbott to ‘Show it or shut up’, Mr Shorten today produced proof that he properly renounced his UK citizenship.

“I offer this proof to the Parliament today to put an end to baseless allegations, not reward them.”

Yay for you, Bill. Why didn’t you do that last week?




  1. Delicious, but I don’t expect any of them to behave with integrity. They’re all the same gang, just differing colours.

    • I do have some hopes for Cory and the Australian Conservatives. But apart from them, you’re right. Feed ’em to the chipper.

  2. I think Shorten was holding out just to ramp up the suspense. It’s like our very own Game of Thrones, just without the dragons.
    Oh wait, Pauline’s still there.

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