Fiasco should be tackled in a non-partisan manner
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