The Australian Federal Parliament is in a tizz because a raft of Senators and Members of the House of Representatives have discovered they have, or may hold, dual citizenship. This disqualifies one from office, and already there have been resignations and stand-downs whilst ‘clarification’ is sought.

The problem is section 44 of the Commonwealth Constitution, a document promulgated in 1901, when the optics of the world and his wife were slightly different.

Any person who:

  1. is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power; or
  2. is attainted of treason, or has been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State by imprisonment for one year or longer; or
  3. is an undischarged bankrupt or insolvent; or
  4. holds any office of profit under the Crown, or any pension payable during the pleasure of the Crown out of any of the revenues of the Commonwealth: or
  5. has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members of an incorporated company consisting of more than twenty-five persons;

shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.

If a member is in contravention, it gets sexier. Section 46 provides:

Until the Parliament otherwise provides, any person declared by this Constitution to be incapable of sitting as a senator or as a member of the House of Representatives shall, for every day on which he so sits, be liable to pay the sum of one hundred pounds to any person who sues for it in any court of competent jurisdiction.

The Varnished Culture intends to file proceedings against anyone and everyone as soon as possible.

The whole catastrophe is headed for the High Court (see main picture, and below), but not in its Canberra headquarters, as they’ve found asbestos in parts of the building, and so have been exiled to Brisbane, where at least they will escape the ravages of a Canberra winter. (Curious that a building constructed in 1980 is lousy with asbestos, is it not?)


In any case, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel, at least for accidental New Zealander (and Deputy Prime Minister) Barnaby Joyce: although “foreign power” is not defined, section 6 of the enabling Constitution Act defines the Australian States thus:

The States shall mean such of the colonies of New South Wales, New Zealand, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australia, including the northern territory of South Australia, as for the time being are parts of the Commonwealth, and such colonies or territories as may be admitted into or established by the Commonwealth as States; and each of such parts of the Commonwealth shall be called a State.

We don’t think this means we actually own New Zealand, and hence the All Blacks rugby union team, but it might mean the Land of the Long White Cloud couldn’t have been included in s. 44 as a foreign power. We’ll see what the Court says before suing for our hundred pounds a day.


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