So now we have 8, or is it 9, and will it be more, Federal MPs whose eligibility has been questioned, because of their dual citizenship status. It’s good sport, watching MPs being embarrassed at being potentially or really ineligible, through them not have done enough research on their heritage, despite having signed the forms to say they have. But it’s the wrong focus. Parliament should fix the problem, not the symptom.What’s the symptom?
Ineligible MPs is the symptom. They have been elected, but they shouldn’t have been nominated, or stood for election. Since they now come from all parties except Labor (and surely that is an accident, not superior selection processes – I expect we will discover an ineligible Labor MP soon enough), it’s clearly a system problem, not a particular party problem. Worse, it seems likely that there will be more, if an audit of all MPs is conducted, as at least 24 are known to have a foreign parent and not all have yet declared themselves to be only Australian citizens.
The more we discover, the bigger the problem, the more fun for the media, but ineligible MPs is not the problem. It’s just an outcome of the problem.
What’s the problem?
The problem is that the Constitution is way out of date. Its restrictions on MP eligibility to only those who are only Australian citizens made sense when travel was rare. Now that most people travel, the fact that over 50% of the population was either born overseas or had a parent born overseas means that – potentially – less than half the population are even eligible to be MPs. That doesn’t seem right or reasonable. Many immigrants, children of immigrants, or just people born overseas, would make excellent MPs. In fact, we don’t have anything against any of those disqualified so far. They have just been caught out, wittingly or unwittingly. They shouldn’t have been able to vote and, since numbers are tight, it’s possible some decisions made would not have been made if others had been there instead.
What’s the solution?
This is not a party political issue. And the issue is making us the laughing stock of the world. The solution is that we need both the major parties to support a Constitutional change, making eligibility rules more flexible. Surely the best legal minds in the public service, coupled with the leaders of the parties, can quickly find a form of words that does this.
Surely it would only take a day or less to draft something, since everyone wants to solve this…and get the issue off the agenda, so we can move to some real policy issues. Then it can go to a referendum, jointly supported by the major parties and, hopefully, all parties, where it would be sure to pass.
What’s holding the parties and leaders back?
The solution is such a no-brainer, I can’t understand their reluctance. They’ve had months (really years) to address the problem. I can only assume one party or another feels they can gain some ‘political’ advantage, some dirty linen, to be revealed when it suits them.
A pox on them I say! This is wasting everyone’s time (except the media, for whom it provides daily rumour fodder, of absolutely no real value, just like a Trump tweet). Their unwillingness is further evidence of MPs looking after their own, taking pay they don’t deserve, reducing their own reputations even further (How low can it go?). But worse, they damage the reputation of our parliamentary system itself. Can we trust the outcomes when we don’t know for sure if the MPs are even eligible to vote?
Get on with it children. Solve the real problem, not the symptom. Be the leaders you are elected to be.