The three Australians returned from Africa to find their country having a mini constitutional crisis.
Although all three of us are Australian citizens it just so happens that we were all born in another country, not all that amazing, more than a quarter of Australians are. I don’t know if the other two also retain citizenship of the countries of their birth. I do.
Some of our senators, much to their amazement, and my amusement, had just discovered that they were citizens of another country.
Section 44 of our revered constitution has this provision …
44. Any person who –
(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: or
… (4 more ways to disqualify yourself) …
shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.
Occasionally some one with a good ear will pick me as a pom and since it is an old Australian custom to rubbish poms a disparaging remark often follows. If I’m in a good mood I’m likely to say that I’m a citizen by choice, they’re just a citizen by accident, if I’m in a bad mood I smack them in the mouth.
So can I stand for parliament? Yes, I can but I must first renounce my British citizenship.
But let’s return to accidents and intentions. I am British by accident of birth, in other words a subject of her majesty. How odd that to become Australian I had to swear or affirm my allegiance to the Queen. She has been discretely dropped from the pledge in the meanwhile but she is still the head of state.
That’s right you can’t be an Australian politician if you also hold citizenship of another country but the head of state is a foreign national. How crazy.
Queensland senator-elect, Heather Hill, was ruled ineligible in 1999 because she held dual citizenship and had not taken adequate steps to relinquish it. The other citizenship was of New Zealand. Head of state of New Zealand? Too right, the same head of state as Australia.
One of our politicians was born in Iran …
Senator Dastyari said he applied three times to renounce his Iranian citizenship and every attempt failed. He eventually employed two Iranians to go into the embassy with his renunciation papers and photograph themselves, just to be sure. “There’s like a selfie with these two bearded Iranian guys and my forms,” he said.
Did that enable him to serve Australia better … ask the Chinese (or The Courier Mail).
The High Court will have the task of sorting out a couple more citizenship issues in the near future. Will they be taking the framers of the constitutions intentions into consideration?
Difficult to do that. The Australian Constitution was written in the 1890’s, we were all just British Subjects back then. The Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 created the concept of Australian citizenship, which came into force on 26 January 1949. In the first parliament, 1901, there were 26 parliamentarians from England, 17 from Scotland, seven from Ireland, two from Canada, one from New Zealand and one from Chile. All British subjects then, subject to suspicion now.
I guess what the constitution requires is something akin to …
“Loyalty, absolute loyalty to your courageous and wise leadership and we pledge to continue to be faithful soldiers behind your victorious leadership.”
Except that’s from a letter written by Senator Eideh (Victorian State legislature) to President Assad of Syria.
Gee, it’s complicated.