Lawyer be­hind scandal ex­pects fur­ther vic­tims

Sunday Star-Times - - News -

The man who set in mo­tion the Aus­tralian ci­ti­zen­ship scandal that has now claimed five po­lit­i­cal ca­reers says he ex­pects more heads will roll.

New Zealand-born West Aus­tralian lawyer John Cameron outed Greens sen­a­tor Scott Lud­lam as a New Zealand cit­i­zen in July, lead­ing to an even­tual con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis for the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment.

Lud­lam’s res­ig­na­tion re­sulted in the sta­tus of other politi­cians be­ing ques­tioned, which cul­mi­nated in Fri­day’s High Court de­ci­sion dis­qual­i­fy­ing five fed­eral MPs.

In the months that fol­lowed Lud­lam’s res­ig­na­tion, Cameron kept silent, but fol­low­ing the court’s de­ci­sion he has spo­ken to AAP about his mo­ti­va­tion to dig into the back­ground of Aus­tralia’s elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Cameron, who voted for Lud­lam, ap­plied to New Zealand’s In­ter­nal Af­fairs Depart­ment to search its regis­ter for the Greens MP, and found he was in fact a Kiwi cit­i­zen.

From there, he con­tacted the Aus­tralian Se­nate to alert it to the fact that Lud­lam was a dual cit­i­zen, be­fore con­tact­ing Lud­lam’s of­fice.

Cameron said he was ‘‘in­vari­ably sur­prised’’ at how quickly the ci­ti­zen­ship scandal had snow­balled. He also said he ex­pected more politi­cians to fall foul of sec­tion 44 of the Aus­tralian con­sti­tu­tion in com­ing months.

‘‘There will be oth­ers,’’ Cameron told AAP just hours af­ter the Aus­tralian High Court dis­qual­i­fied Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Barn­aby Joyce, who was also found to be a New Zealand cit­i­zen, and four other MPs.

‘‘This opens up a huge can of worms,’’ he said from Perth.

Sec­tion 44 bans any­one hold­ing dual ci­ti­zen­ship from sit­ting in par­lia­ment, to en­sure MPs do not hold split al­le­giances.

Cameron said that of the ad­di­tional MPs he ex­pected would lose their jobs, many would be Bri­tish cit­i­zens.

While not re­li­gious, Cameron said a prayer was his prin­ci­pal mo­ti­va­tion to pur­sue to the ci­ti­zen­ship story. ‘‘God, grant me the seren­ity to ac­cept the things I can­not change, courage to change the things I can and wis­dom to know the dif­fer­ence.’’ He said the prayer mo­ti­vated him to make sure he would change what he could.

‘‘There are those in par­lia­ment who think that they are above the law. A cor­rec­tion is re­quired.’’

The Perth-based lawyer said he be­gan dig­ging in 2011, start­ing with then-prime min­is­ter Ju­lia Gil­lard and op­po­si­tion leader Tony Ab­bott.

‘‘When I started, I was af­ter Gil­lard and Ab­bott, but I wasn’t hav­ing much joy get­ting the ev­i­dence, or I wasn’t get­ting much joy in the High Court ac­cept­ing the ev­i­dence that I had from the Bri­tish bor­der au­thor­ity.’’

In­stead, Cameron turned to his home coun­try for in­for­ma­tion about Lud­lam. ‘‘It was eas­ier to go af­ter Scott Lud­lam as one of the low-ly­ing fruit be­cause it was ac­ces­si­ble through New Zealand,’’ he said.

Five months later, Joyce, Lud­lam, Na­tion­als MP Fiona Nash, One Na­tion Sen­a­tor Mal­colm Roberts and Greens MP Larissa Waters have all been booted from of­fice.

Cameron said the ci­ti­zen­ship scandal high­lighted a need for a na­tional anti-cor­rup­tion com­mis­sion, sim­i­lar to what has been es­tab­lished in New South Wales.

‘‘There’s a cry­ing out need for an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion on cor­rup­tion, as this case has demon­strated,’’ he said. ‘‘And if noth­ing else comes out, then it will have been worth­while.’’

Mean­while, Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull is ex­pected to put con­cerns over the le­git­i­macy of his gov­ern­ment be­hind him and go ahead with a trip to Is­rael de­spite the High Court dis­qual­i­fy­ing two of his min­is­ters, trig­ger­ing a by-elec­tion.

The High Court ruled that Joyce and Nash were in­el­i­gi­ble to stand for the 2016 elec­tion be­cause they were dual cit­i­zens of New Zealand and Bri­tain re­spec­tively.

The court also dis­qual­i­fied Lud­lam, Waters and Roberts, but not in­de­pen­dent Nick Xenophon.

Na­tion­als sen­a­tor Matt Cana­van has re­turned to cabi­net as re­sources min­is­ter af­ter the court ruled he was not dis­qual­i­fied for elec­tion. He re­signed from cabi­net in July af­ter dis­cov­er­ing he po­ten­tially pos­sessed Ital­ian ci­ti­zen­ship.

Joyce now faces a De­cem­ber 2 by-elec­tion in his NSW seat of New Eng­land, which he is widely ex­pected to win, with his arch-ri­val Tony Wind­sor pulling out.

The gov­ern­ment will need to tread care­fully, as its num­bers will be tem­po­rar­ily re­duced to 75 in the 150-seat par­lia­ment.

In­de­pen­dent Cathy McGowan has in­di­cated that she will sup­port the gov­ern­ment against any vote of no con­fi­dence and for sup­ply, but has given no guar­an­tees on bills.

The La­bor op­po­si­tion says it is not plan­ning any mis­chief in par­lia­ment, but cited week­end penalty rates and a royal com­mis­sion into the bank­ing sec­tor – two is­sues it lost by one vote pre­vi­ously – as is­sues it would pur­sue when the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives re­turns on Novem­ber 27.

La­bor says Turn­bull was ‘‘reck­less’’ in al­low­ing Joyce and Nash to re­tain their cabi­net posts while the court de­cided their fate. The party has ad­vice that de­ci­sions made by the two min­is­ters and Cana­van since October 2016 could be chal­lenged in court.

John Cameron

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