Section 44(i) of the Australian constitution states:
Any person who … is a subject or citizen … of a foreign power … shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.
The words have a clear, literal meaning: dual citizens cannot be chosen as a member of parliament. And though the law at times tortured the English language in order to manufacture a particular outcome, on this occasion the High Court unanimously decided the clear, literal meaning is the correct one.
These words can also be found on the AEC nomination form below the statement “your attention is drawn in particular…”
Politicians and their allies in the media are trying to convince the public that the requirements are somehow unclear, unreasonable or onerous. None of this is true. They just don’t like the outcome because very few of them seemed to apply even a cursory thought as to their eligibility.
This makes it hard to give any credence to calls that an audit of eligibility is somehow unfair. If you want to claim unemployment benefits, an age pension or even take up a job in a number of fields, you are required to demonstrate you are eligible. Why should politicians be different?
Whether or not someone is, in fact, a citizen of a foreign power can be a complicated question — as the cases of Matt Canavan and Josh Frydenberg demonstrate — however the majority of politicians caught up under this section do not have complex questions to answer. Had they turned their minds to the issue even briefly they would have discovered the issue.
And moreover, very little sympathy can be found for the small business person who has to wade through tens of thousands of pages of highly complicated tax law and precedent.
Of course, politicians being politicians will play politics with this — but it’s time to just sort this out.
Simon Cowan is Research Manager at the Centre for Independent Studies.
This item originally appeared in the CIS’ Ideas at the Centre.
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