November 18th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Full audit can end dual-citizenship fiasco

CANBERRA OBSERVED High Court high handed to 'foreigners' in Parliament

MANUFACTURING Auto industry loss result of government policy failure

AGENDA FOR AUSTRALIA Financing infrastructure for development and jobs

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Behind the indictments of ex-Trump campaigners

AUSTRALIAN HISTORY Beersheba charge enabled a pivotal victory

ECONOMICS China intends to party like it's 1949 ... again

ENVIRONMENT Core of climate science is in the real-world data

U.S. HISTORY Why Americans stick to their guns

MUSIC New styles: Dipping into the melting pot

CINEMA Loving Vincent: A mystery in oils

BOOK REVIEW Just what is the conservative idea?


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Full audit can end dual-citizenship fiasco

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, November 18, 2017

This issue of News Weekly went to press before the results of the national postal vote on “same sex marriage” were released.

However, the extraordinarily high vote – far higher than in the Irish referendum on the same issue, the U.S. presidential election in 2016 and the Brexit vote in the UK – reflects the determination of Australians that they, and not politicians, should determine whether this law should be changed.

I will have more to say on the popular vote in the next edition.

Parliament’s consideration of this issue may be affected by the dual-citizenship saga, following the High Court ruling that five parliamentarians were disqualified from standing for office because they were dual citizens of another country.

Is there something Malcolm isn't telling us?

As more federal parliamentarians face claims that they held dual citizenship, this time involving both the federal Liberal Party and the ALP, nothing less than a full parliamentary audit will resolve the paralysing confusion caused to both the Federal Parliament and the Federal Government.

The High Court of Australia recently ruled that even if members of Parliament were unaware of their dual citizenship, they are ineligible to be members of the Federal Parliament.

(The issue does not arise in the states, because the state constitutions do not have a provision that precludes dual citizens from sitting in state parliaments.)

The High Court ruled that four senators (two Greens, one National, and one from One Nation) were ineligible to stand for Parliament by virtue of their dual citizenship, and there should be a recount to determine who was properly elected.

It also ruled that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was not eligible to stand for election to the House of Representatives, and ordered a fresh election in his seat of New England. This election will be held on December 2.

Even the temporary loss of a seat in the lower house, where the Government relies on the support of independents, could affect the operations of both the Parliament and the Government.


The ALP, seeking an opportunity to destabilise the Government, announced that there would be no pairs for Mr Joyce, and that it would examine whether a parliamentary vote should be taken to establish a royal commission into the banking industry, a policy which Labor took to the last election, but which the Government has rejected.

Following the High Court judgement, the President of the Senate, Tasmanian Senator Stephen Parry, announced that he also was a dual citizen of the UK, and resigned. Shortly afterwards, NSW Labor Senator Deborah O’Neil was identified as a probable dual citizen, although Senator O’Neil denied it.

The issue is particularly relevant as it affects not only votes in Federal Parliament, but potentially decisions taken by individual ministers in Government. Although Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, his deputy, Julie Bishop, and Treasurer Scott Morrison have repeatedly rejected calls for an audit of all parliamentarians, calls for a resolution of this widening fiasco are becoming more insistent.

Prominent Liberal backbencher and former minister Kevin Andrews summarised the views of a growing number of MPs when he called on the Prime Minister to resolve the issue.

He told Sky News: “What I am simply reflecting is what hundreds, if not thousands, of Australians have said to me over the past weeks and months. What they want to see is some clear, strong and decisive leadership.

“This is an area in which I think we can provide it, quite clearly, because there is a pathway to resolving this issue and that pathway would be to ask, for example, the Australian Electoral Commission to run a fine line over all MPs and senators, report back to the Government, the Parliament, as to what the situation is. And then we can get on with what we are elected to do.

“Whilst this issue hangs around, it is going to distract all of us, including the Government, from what it should really be doing.”

One of the consequences of the present uncertainty is that it erodes whatever confidence remains in government ranks over the Prime Minister’s judgement.

Already some observers have pointed to the high profile taken by Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, during Mr Turnbull’s absence overseas.

Mr Turnbull showed that he badly misjudged the sentiments of the High Court when he confidently predicted that the High Court would rule in favour of almost all of the MPs and Senators who were ruled ineligible to hold office.

Interestingly, the High Court judgement was extraordinary, in that it was a unanimous and single judgement, reaffirming what the High Court had ruled 25 years ago in a similar case. The fact that the judgement was unanimous indicates that there is no realistic prospect of a reversal of the decision.

Unless Mr Turnbull acts decisively to end the political crisis, he may not survive.

Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm