Let’s face it. The parliamentary citizenship crisis is beyond a farce.
It’s an entirely complicated and convoluted mess of gloried confusion and outrage, where simple and practical details are thrown aside in an endless tail-chasing exercise of pointless and fruitless complexity.
As best I can make out, for a person to run for parliament they must have complete loyalty to Australia. But, at the same time, a foreign nation which they have never visited can simply pass a law making that person one of their own for whatever reason it may decide and, hey presto, that person is ineligible.
In other words, you must have no citizenship with a foreign nation to contest an election, but a foreign nation over which you have no power has the ultimate authority to decide whether you have its citizenship.
Or, in other other words, we have reached a point where we protect the Australian parliament from foreign powers by giving foreign powers the power to decide who can’t stand.
That all makes sense in the same way that shooting yourself in the foot does.
To throw in added confusion, it is a matter of historical reality that English, Scottish, Welsh and other ‘citizens’ of Commonwealth nations have legally stood for parliament and held seats in it.
In fact, if the rules today were applied in 1901 we probably wouldn’t have had any parliamentarians at all.
And if you want to make it even more complicated, this is what is written on the Department of Border Protection and Immigration website:
Prior to 4 April 2002, Australian citizens who became citizens of another country lost their Australian citizenship automatically.
Here we have a crystalised mud nugget of clarity: in a classic case of double, double negatives it was the law that before 2002 an Australian citizen could not be a citizen of another nation.
Hence Larissa Waters, Scott Ludlum, Malcolm Roberts, Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash could not have been dual citizens up until at least that date but could have been so afterwards. On the evidence, none of them took steps to activate their potential citizenship yet they have all been ruled ineligible.
There has been all sorts of wailing and gnashing of teeth over this affair, with calls for audits and the PM introducing disclosure requirements.
These ‘solutions’, just like the problem itself, are complicated, convoluted, miss the point or threaten to turn a legal crisis of sovereignty into a real one.
Australia’s elected representatives should not have allegiance to foreign powers. Yet we now face a real possibility that in the midst of this confusion there will be a renewed push for a republic or an attempt to change the constitution to allow what no one in Australia wants: parliamentarians who do hold real allegiance to other nations.
There is a simple and easy solution to this farce: reinstate laws that prevent dual citizenship altogether.
It would solve the parliamentary problem and also help address another larger and more important issue.
It’s one thing for a parliamentarian to be elected with an allegiance to a foreign power. It’s another thing entirely for them to be elected by voters who hold allegiance to a foreign power too.
And we might just be in that situation, with claims that half of people living here could be dual citizens. True, the vast majority of Australians would hold dual citizenship without their knowledge or consent due to random law changes in England or New Zealand.
But the point still stands.
Get rid of dual citizenship and you get rid of this problem.
And then we can all start to focus on the real crisis of allegiance that this nation faces. And to highlight that point, I’ll leave the last word to the always brilliant Mark Steyn:
A casual observer might have assumed that a crisis about “allegiance to a foreign power” Down Under would be something to do with the remarkable number of “Australians” signing up for the Islamic State and head-chopping their way across the Levant and the Sunni Triangle. One thinks, for example, of Khaled Sharrouf’s seven-year-old son, born and raised in Sydney but an Internet sensation after he was snapped waving around the bloody, dripping head of a Syrian soldier. Yet the Australian state is genially relaxed about that. It’s only when Fiona Nash starts waving around a bloody, dripping haggis that everyone shrieks, “Oh, my God! How did she get in here?”