Pollies who want dual loyalties are crackers
WHOEVER thought of changing a law just because it keeps getting broken? Well, that’s what a Liberalchaired parliamentary report recommended this week when it said the Constitution should be changed to allow dual citizens to sit in our parliament. The PM, who ordered the report, didn’t rule it out, saying only there wasn’t time to hold a referendum before the next general election. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he would consider the report carefully.
Well, if either of these two political leaders wants to run a YES campaign to change the constitution and allow divided loyalties in our parliament, I’ll put my hand up to run the NO campaign for free.
The constitutional rules regarding section 44 are commonsense and clear. They’ve been in place now for well over 100 years and just because a slew of MPs can’t abide by the rules or get their act together before they run for parliament, is not a reason to upend a system that’s served us well.
It’s funny but I don’t see the parliament recommending other laws are changed just because they keep getting broken or seem hard to keep. We all have to abide by the laws our parliament sets yet here is the parliament wanting the Australian people to change the Constitution because they can’t seem to stick by its rules. How stupid do these MPs think we are?
Getting your house in order nominating for parliament is about as basic as it gets. Anyone who fancies themselves a chance tidies up their CV and usually gets more involved locally to pad out their experience. They get established with a political party and start to tell friends and family. They get along to party events to work over preselectors, get the best references they can and get to work on their preselection speech.
Anyone who tries to tell you a candidate wakes up one day and says “I’m going to run for parliament tomorrow” is telling you fibs. Standing for political office is a life’s ambition and any idea that candidates can’t get their act together to meet the rules of the Constitution while they’re doing all the other party-political things I’ve outlined is just rubbish.
There’s a lot in the report by the electoral matters committee that acknowledges the fact that Australia is an immigration nation, but it proffers a falsehood that unless we change section 44, we might somehow lock migrant Australians out of their chance to stand for office. It’s true, about 40 per cent of our population were either born overseas or have a parent born overseas, so that’s 40 per cent of Australians who have (or who might be entitled to) dual citizenship. But all that means is that we’re expecting anyone who has foreign citizenship, or an entitlement by way of a parent or grandparent, to get in touch with the relevant embassy in Canberra and ensure that, before running, that entitlement is renounced.
It’s not that hard. This is after all, the age of the internet; we’re not asking people to send their forms via a slow boat to England. By now, everyone should know the rules: if you want to run for the Australian parliament you’ve got to get rid of any dual citizenship and, frankly, if you’re not prepared to ditch your dual citizenship, I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I don’t want you in the parliament making laws.
But there’s a bigger issue here than just eligibility to sit in the parliament. The bigger issue is, of course, what we expect of migrants.
It is a fact that people from all over the world have come here to build a better life and have become first-class Australians. It’s a wonderful part of our national story, but the point is they came here, or should have come here, to become fully committed to this country and our people. Citizenship is a two-way street. Our country supports and nurtures us because all of us, equally, are expected to do what we can to support and nurture our country.
Migrants from different parts of the world are entitled to remember their birthplaces with affection. But for every migrant, Australia is now their home. And for those elected by us all, to make laws on our behalf, we expect a higher standard of behaviour, commitment and loyalty. We shouldn’t be embarrassed about that, we shouldn’t feel we need to apologise and we should never water it down. I don’t mind a Chinese-Australian sitting in National Security Committee deciding serious issues, but I don’t want someone in there with a Chinese passport, or American passport, or Iraqi, or Saudi Arabian one either. An affection for a past home is one thing — I don’t begrudge any migrant that — but loyalty, a continued loyalty? That’s a very different thing.
Allowing dual citizens to sit in our parliament when the constitution as interpreted by the High Court clearly says they can’t, would be a massive watering-down of what is expected of our politicians and a diluting of the commitment to our country that every single Australian should have. Rather than the PM’s “there’s not enough time for a referendum”, this report must be rejected outright.
Labor member for Braddon Justine Keay, Labor Senator Katy Gallagher and Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie had to resign from parliament.
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