Rainbow of Parties recommend Constitutional re-write for dual citizens

May 17, 2018

A parliamentary committee chaired by WA Liberal and senator Linda Reynolds, and comprising representatives from the Liberal, Labor, Nationals and Greens parties, have recommended by a huge majority that the Constitution be re-written to accommodate dual citizens.

The report - published this morning - urges either the repeal of Section 44 of the Constitution regarding eligibility to sit in Parliament, or that it be re-written to allow Parliament to keep changing the rules.

Australian Conservatives later this morning rejected the proposition, saying the Constitution did not need to be changed. As defenders of the constitution, Conservatives expect the major parties - well-resourced by getting dollars per vote they receive for every election - should conduct proper vetting and due diligence to prevent ineligibility.

Dual citizenship only became a problem for the Australian parliament when - well after the Constitution was enacted in 1901 - other nations started conferring citizenship on people who were already citizens of other nations. When the Constitution was written, it was rightly contemplated that Australians who would seek to pass laws in our national parliament - upholding the national interest and national security - were people with sole allegiance to Australia.

It has to be noted that all of the parties represented on the committee that, by majority, pushed constitutional change, have suffered diminished public respect due to losing Members or Senators pursuant to section 44 of the constitution.

For the longsuffering Australian taxpayer, it must also be noted that the cases of the seats of Bennelong, New England and 4 imminent by-elections, these same parties have brought to the taxpayer a cost of approximately $1 million per by-election.

Just last week, the High Court of Australia ruled in the case of now-former ACT senator, Labor's Katy Gallagher that she held dual British and Australian citizenship at the critical time that made her invalid to be elected to the Senate. The Court's clarification of when a prospective Member or Senator needed to take 'reasonable steps' to renounce citizenship has confirmed for the Labor Party that at least three of its own lower house MPs - and one independent MP - must step down as they are also legally invalid to sit in the parliament.

A minority report by a solitary dissenter, Western Australian Liberal MP Ben Morton, makes the sensible - and more conservative - case against constitutional change:

Quite simply, all the resignations and vacancies of Members of Parliament as a result of holding dual citizenship during the 45th Parliament would have been absolutely avoidable if those Members of Parliament had taken action to investigate their own circumstances and free themselves of disqualifications under Section 44 of the Constitution prior to nomination as a candidate for election. The rules are clear and have not changed.

Constitutional change is not required to achieve better understanding and compliance with the rules. A range of administrative mechanisms can be adopted to prevent the disqualification of Members of Parliament and to assist individuals prior to seeking nomination.

The Coalition Government have since published a response to the Committee recommendations, saying it is 'not inclined' to stage a referendum before or concurrent with the next federal election. The government acknowledged the importance of "ensuring the constitutional legitimacy of the Australian Parliament".

Australian Conservatives have published this graphic on Facebook to show our enduring support for our Constitution - and our rejection from this latest 'rainbow' push to re-write it.

 

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