For foreign readers, the Australian Parliament is undergoing the most extraordinary spectacle at the moment. Politicians have resigned after discovering that they were dual citizens of Australia and some other country — such as Britain, Canada, or New Zealand — which is a clear breach of the constitution. But this is going far beyond people who held two passports. The constitutional affliction is spreading, as more and more politicians get caught up in what will now become High Court cases. Some renounced citizenship in writing before the election but their unwanted sovereign-alternate nation didn’t necessarily acknowledge that for months (that was Malcolm Roberts case). Others never knew their mother applied for them to become a dual citizen. Some claim ignorance or inheritance may be no excuse.
Bizarrely, this could theoretically escalate to involve pretty much the entire parliamentary body.
The stakes are pretty high, given that our current government holds power by just one seat. Already the endangered list includes some ministers. People are resigning from the Senate and being replaced. In the House, no one has left yet but their continued stay will depend on the High Court. By-elections may have to be called, and government may change hands to the Labor Party.
Check out the wording of our constitution — spot the problem?
Section 44(i) of the nation’s founding document disqualifies someone from office if that person:
…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…
How to remove every politician in Australia
Last week, David Evans (my other half) pointed out a simple method for a foreign power to get rid of any Australian politician they didn’t like. What if Kim Jong Un, say, granted selected politicians citizenship, or voting rights, or “free health care,” or the rights to some benefits in North Korea? Non-rescindable. Nothing the Australian politicians can do about it. Wouldn’t this disqualify every politician to whom this was granted? The blackmail potential is excellent, obviously.
But it gets worse. Apparently New Zealand has already neutralized the Australian Parliament. Now the only people who can run for Parliament are Australian citizens who are not Australian citizens. Figure that…
Robert Angyal SC is a Sydney barrister
Much closer to home, under recent and little-noticed changes to New Zealand law, Australian citizens now don’t need a visa to live, study or work in the Land of the Long White Cloud. That’s right: Any Australian citizen is entitled to live, study and work there.
That means we’re ALL entitled to the rights and privileges of a subject of New Zealand — not a citizen, with the attached rights and privileges such as voting — but to be a subject of that country, living there, subject to New Zealand law, working or studying. And there’s no doubt that New Zealand is a “foreign power” — you only have to watch the All Blacks do the haka to realise that.
What does this mean?
New Zealand law has made every Australian citizen incapable of being elected to, or serving in, the Australian Parliament. It’s not just Barnaby Joyce: It’s everyone!
UPDATE: Seems this is not likely at all. From Tim Andrews (Australian Taxpayers Alliance)
It appears to be a bit of a historical anomaly — one Queen, many countries, that sort of thing.
At the time the constitution was enacted, only Senator Canavan’s Italian citizenship would have triggered the disqualification in section 44(i). Being born in Britain, Canada or New Zealand would have simply made a person a subject of Queen Victoria and therefore not a citizen of a foreign power.
The High Court decided in 1999, however, that at least since 1986, Britain is a foreign power for the purposes of section 44. Canada and New Zealand fall into the same category.
This needs a resolution pronto!
The constitution can only be changed by a referendum, but a referendum can only be initiated by legislation passed by the Australian Parliament. If the New Zealand angle is correct, then all our current politicians are ineligible to be in Parliament and therefore cannot pass the legislation needed to initiate the referendum. No new politicians can be elected without a change to the constitution by a referendum. Checkmate, Australian Government.