Constitution should reflect our diversity

Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey

Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey

Just to clear the air on my citizenship, I was born in Australia as were my parents and all of my grandparents and have no entitlement to citizenship of any other country. The recent eviction of five members from Parliament by the High Court and ongoing revelations that at least six more are unsure of their bonafides is a cause for consternation.

Are our politicians too dumb to read a form, is the form too ambiguous or is the Constitution out of step with modern Australia? Maybe a bit of all three but most of my money is on the latter. The Constitution was adopted in 1901. Section 44, specifies if a candidate for the national parliament, “is under any acknowledgement 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 citizen of a foreign power”, they are ineligible.

There is a lot in that phrase and one can ponder the meaning of the words “acknowledgement” and “entitled to the rights”. The High Court has ruled people born in Australia who have rights to citizenship of another country, even if they have never exercised those rights or are unaware of them contravene Section 44.   

When the Constitution was adopted, there was no concept of Australian citizenship, all members of the Commonwealth were British, meaning English, Canadian, South African and Indians were eligible to sit in our parliament. Australian citizenship was not introduced until 1949. Provisions for dual citizenship did not exist until 1986 when the requirement to renounce other allegiances was dropped from the application. As well as allowing new Australians to retain their previous citizenship, it also opened the door for the rights of citizenship to another country to be conferred to an individual even if they were unaware of it.

Other countries have altered their rules granting rights to descendants of former residents, which many have not even been aware of and in Australia’s case, these countries can influence which citizens can sit in our parliament.

Given these other nations are unaware of the existence of Australians by birth who might have citizenship rights it would seem that if an Australian has never taken up the option of informing them of their existence and rights we should accept the individual has no allegiance to that entity. The Constitution should be reformed to reflect this.

Rowan Ramsey, Member for Grey