Fi­asco should be tack­led in a non-par­ti­san man­ner

The Weekend Australian - - COMMENTARY -

There is no doubt the cit­i­zen­ship ques­tion is in ur­gent need of at­ten­tion, but not all sug­ges­tions are help­ful. Some sug­gest that par­lia­ment might over­ride the judg­ments of the High Court, while one let­ter writer seems to sug­gest that we should do away with the Con­sti­tu­tion and give par­lia­ment ab­so­lute power (10/11). The lat­ter would cer­tainly fa­cil­i­tate the for­mer, but at the mo­ment it would be bet­ter if we could be re­al­is­tic and non-par­ti­san in a tricky sit­u­a­tion.

Chil­dren born in Aus­tralia to per­ma­nent res­i­dents should by law be Aus­tralian cit­i­zens only, and those who come from else­where should be re­quired to re­nounce in writ­ing all other al­le­giances be­fore be­com­ing cit­i­zens. Such changes would be pos­si­ble with­out changes to the Con­sti­tu­tion and would, in pass­ing, help to make the na­tion feel more united. David Mor­ri­son, Spring­wood, NSW

The Se­nate Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on Con­sti­tu­tional and Le­gal Af­fairs in its 1981 re­port on con­sti­tu­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tions of MPs con­cluded in re­la­tion to sec­tion 44: “It is ob­scure in mean­ing, un­duly harsh or man­i­festly inap- pro­pri­ate today, and that most of the dis­qual­i­fy­ing con­di­tions should be deleted, re­for­mu­lated, or re­placed by or­di­nary leg­is­la­tion.”

The re­port ad­dressed the mat­ter of be­ing the cit­i­zen of an­other coun­try. It said: “A large num­ber of Aus­tralian cit­i­zens have dual cit­i­zen­ship and can do lit­tle or noth­ing to al­ter that sta­tus and that some coun­tries do not recog­nise re­nun­ci­a­tion while oth­ers im­pose con­di­tions dif­fi­cult or im­pos­si­ble to ful­fil.” If the govern­ment of the time had acted on this, we would not be in the sit­u­a­tion we find our­selves. Tiit Tonuri, Cowra, NSW

Your edi­to­rial (“Paral­y­sis of govern­ment needs ur­gent res­o­lu­tion”, 10/11) refers to the present stand-off be­tween the govern­ment and the op­po­si­tion in re­gard to the ques­tion of cit­i­zen­ship.

But the paral­y­sis goes all the way back to when Tony Ab­bott, as op­po­si­tion leader, took off the gloves and gave Ju­lia Gil­lard a flog­ging, and con­se­quently be­came PM. Prior to that, in the Hawke, Keat­ing, and Howard days, op­po­si­tions at least worked with the govern­ment of the day, at times, and waved through leg­is­la­tion they agreed with. Thanks to Ab­bott, Bill Shorten and com­pany are get­ting even at the na­tion’s cost. Don Stall­man, Black­butt, Qld

By adopt­ing a lit­eral in­ter­pre­ta­tion and ap­par­ent sidelin­ing of the prin­ci­ple of the orig­i­nal pur­pose in re­la­tion to sec­tion 44 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, the High Court has over­looked an­other fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple — the law of un­in­tended con­se­quences. In dis­qual­i­fy­ing MPs on what amounts to lit­tle more than tech­ni­cal­i­ties, the rul­ing cre­ates a prece­dent where MPs can be sub­ject to the ac­tions of for­eign ju­ris­dic­tions in re­la­tion to cit­i­zen­ship.

Far from pre­vent­ing it, as was the orig­i­nal in­ten­tion of sec­tion 44, the High Court has handed those for­eign ju­ris­dic­tions the power to in­ter­fere in Aus­tralian pol­i­tics. An­drew Lake, Ed­ward­stown, SA

The High Court has pre­cip­i­tated a par­lia­men­tary and con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis that can only be re­solved by ref­er­en­dum. A ref­er­en­dum could pro­pose that in place of the sec­tion in its present word­ing that no per­son is dis- qual­i­fied pro­vided that at the date of nom­i­na­tion for the elec­tion he/she holds Aus­tralian cit­i­zen­ship, whether or not he/she is then en­ti­tled or may sub­se­quently be­come en­ti­tled to cit­i­zen­ship of any other coun­try. Any con­cern about the is­sue of di­vided loy­alty aris­ing from any dual cit­i­zen­ships is sat­is­fied by the obli­ga­tion of loy­alty im­posed by the oath of al­le­giance sworn by all MPs. Jonathan Rees, Bringelly, NSW

Why do so many as­sume the Con­sti­tu­tion is the prob­lem? The prob­lem is the lack of due dili­gence on the part of those who ticked the box to state that they con­formed to the re­quire­ments of sec­tion 44. Can we fo­cus on this more be­fore jump­ing to the per­ceived short­com­ings of sec­tion 44?

A mod­icum of ef­fort on the part of those who pon­tif­i­cate would be a fine thing. The sec­ondary prob­lem of chang­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion is that not one let­ter writer has ad­dressed the nu­ances of that task, cou­pled with the cost and the known risks of the re­quired ref­er­en­dum. It can’t be changed in any other way. Leni Palk, Nor­wood, SA

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