Scott Ludlam’s parliamentary resignation and the question of disqualification for dual citizenship

Senator Scott Ludlam announced his resignation from the Australian Parliament yesterday following revelations that he was, and had always been, ineligible for election. According to Section 44 of the Consitution of Australia, holding dual citizenship of Australia and another country (in Ludlam’s case, New Zealand) disqualified him. Section 44(i) specifically reads:

“Any person who –

(i.) 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

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

The revelation of Ludlam’s ineligibility for office was the result of independent investigations made by barrister, John Cameron. Cameron, a dual citizen of Australia and New Zealand himself, told The Australian that he had also sought to determine whether Derryn Hinch was eligible for his Senate seat. He claimed that the results of his inquiry had surprised him, with Hinch having renounced his former New Zealand citizenship prior to his election, and Ludlam having neglected to do so. Cameron also claimed that his actions, which included notifying Ludlam’s office and the parliamentary secretary, were not politically motivated.

In response to Ludlam’s resignation, Derryn Hinch raised an issue he had raised publicly back in 2015.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbot responded promptly by posting a scan of a letter from the UK Home Office, which confirmed that he had renounced his British citizenship appropriately in 1993, prior to his election to the Australian Parliament. Hinch accepted the evidence, but referred to the delay in its provision as “silly” in a subsequent tweet today.

This turn of events made be wonder whether Ludlam was the only current Australian parliamentarian to have made such a Consitutional indiscretion. With this nagging thought, I combed through the biographies of current Australian parliamentarians, and compiled the following list of elected members of the House of Representatives and Senate who were born outside of Australia.

The list in itself is unremarkable. The Australian Parliament holds 150 members of the House of Representatives and 76 Senators (making 226 individuals in total). Of those, 25 were born outside of Australia (possibly 26, as one place of birth was undisclosed). As one might expect, the United Kingdom is the most common place of birth for parliamentarians outside of Australia. 13 other countries feature in the list, with birthplaces including a combination of European, Middle Eastern, South-East Asian and African countries.

Personally, I think Ludlam, and the party he has represented, the Australian Greens, were foolish to overlook this important eligibility criteria, which is spelled out so unambiguously in the Constitution of Australia. End result? Regardless of whether you agree with his views, Australia has lost a hard-working Senator, who may yet have to pick up bills for salary and expenses claimed from the public purse since his election in 2008. He is able to appeal for a pardon, and could even run again at the next election, provided he renounces his New Zealand citizenship.

Cameron told The Australian that the statutory declarations federal MPs are required to sign do not require them to provide any evidence that they have renounced any other foreign citizenship. It strikes me that this episode was entirely preventable. It appears that a revision of the process of nomination for candidacy, namely adding a requirement to provide evidence of current citizenship, would be a simple and immediate way to prevent future embarrassment.

Meanwhile, the persons listed below might consider it a worthwhile demonstration of good faith to disclose their historic citizenship status and in so doing, reassure Australians that Ludlam has not been singled out unfairly.

Australian parliamentarians born outside of Australia

Name State Party affiliation Place of birth Citizenship
Tony Abbott NSW Liberal Party of Australia United Kingdom AUS only
(since 1993)²
Eric Abetz TAS Liberal Party of Australia Germany ?
Anne Aly WA Australian Labor Party Egypt ?
Doug Cameron NSW Australian Labor Party United Kingdom ?
Mathias Cormann WA Liberal Party of Australia Belgium AUS only (2000)³
Sam Dastyari NSW Australian Labor Party Iran AUS only
(prior to election, date unspecified)²
Paul Fletcher NSW Liberal Party of Australia United Kingdom ?
Alex Gallacher SA Australian Labor Party United Kingdom AUS only
(since 2010)¹
Peter Georgiou WA Pauline Hanson’s One Nation ? ?
Lucy Gichuhi SA Independent Kenya ?
Ian Goodenough WA Liberal Party of Australia Singapore AUS only
(since 2004)¹
Derryn Hinch VIC Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party New Zealand AUS only
(since 2016)²
Sussan Ley NSW Liberal Party of Australia Nigeria (former UK citizen) AUS only (since June 2001)
Scott Ludlam WA Australian Greens New Zealand Dual (disqualified)
Nick McKim TAS Australian Greens United Kingdom AUS only
(since 2015)¹
Brian Mitchell TAS Australian Labor Party United Kingdom ?
Brendan O’Connor VIC Australian Labor Party United Kingdom ?
Malcolm Roberts QLD Pauline Hanson’s One Nation India ?
Nigel Scullion NT Country Liberal Party United Kingdom ?
Rebekha Sharkie SA Nick Xenophon Team United Kingdom AUS only
(prior to election, date unspecified)²
Maria Vamvakinou VIC Australian Labor Party Greece ?
Larissa Waters QLD Australian Greens Canada Dual (disqualified)
Peter Whish-Wilson TAS Australian Greens Singapore ?
Josh Wilson WA Australian Labor Party United Kingdom ?
Penny Wong SA Australian Labor Party Malaysia AUS only
(since 2001)¹
Tony Zappia SA Australian Labor Party Italy ?

 


UPDATE: As of 10:10 pm on 17 July 2017, all politicians listed above with unconfirmed citizenship statuses have received correspondence, asking for relevant details. The above list will be updated accordingly, as responses are received.

¹ indicates information received via private email correspondence with parliamentarians’ offices
² indicates announcements made via official Facebook or Twitter accounts
³ indicates information disclosed in press statements

 

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Freedom of Information Act 1991 – Recommendations for ‘Simplify Day’ in South Australia

15 November 2016 has been named ‘Simplify Day’ by the Government of South Australia. According to the YourSAy community consultation website, the day is intended to “remove outdated legislation” and appears to be geared primarily towards assisting the business community. The website states that the Government of South Australia “wants to know about specific rules and processes that are outdated or unnecessary – things you think do not add value, make interacting with government time consuming  and generally make it more difficult to simply get on and grow the economy, business and create jobs.” Encouragingly, it also states that it does not intend to “takeaway fundamental protections” which “safeguard the community, the environment, protect consumers and uphold the integrity of commerce.”

I made a late submission to Simplify Day, making some recommendations regarding the improvement of the administration of the Freedom of Information Act 1991, which has become an important tool of my trade. This Act of South Australian legislation allows me to request documentation from South Australian government departments and agencies in order to report accurately on government and public sector activities. My submission was greeted by a prompt and courteous response, and is supplied in full below:

“To whom it may concern,

As a freelance public interest researcher and documentary filmmaker, I have become a frequent user of South Australian and Commonwealth Freedom of Information Acts.

A simple but significant opportunity exists to improve the accessibility and efficiency of the administration of the Freedom of Information Act 1991 (South Australia).

Having lodged FoI requests with various agencies and departments, the first opportunity I would like to recommend be considered for Simplify Day 2016 is to introduce a centralised payment system for the lodgement of requests.

Given that the fee for lodgement is fixed, regardless of which department or agency a request is made of, I wish to propose the following suggestions:

1) Establish a single online payment point of lodgement, where an applicant is able to:

  • pay their lodgement fee via visa, paypal or similar
  • choose the relevant agency/department they wish to lodge with from a pull-down list
  • fill out an electronic template/webform (rather than the current paper form)
  • track the progress of their request

2) Establish a central FoI disclosure log/database containing:

  • all documentation released under the Freedom of Information Act 1991 since its establishment
  • keyword searchable
  • sortable by department/agency
  • with download links for all documents released in this way

These two reforms would make the Act more accessible to South Australian applicants, and the results more accessible to South Australia thus serving the public interest. It would practically eliminate the prospect of duplicate requests for information which has already been released under the Act. This would improve the utility of the Act for people like myself who wish to report accurately on public affairs and our respective businesses.

I have also written to the Attorney-General about this topic recently and provided him with examples of simple FoI disclosure logs in place in other Australian jurisdictions. I can forward this correspondence to you should you consider it worthwhile.

Yours sincerely,

Dan Monceaux”

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Documentary filmmaker, public interest researcher and full-time surveillance target

Since May 2016, I’ve become acutely aware that I am under surveillance, day and night. My privacy has been stolen from me and I’m not happy about it.

Since I am a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record, I can only assume that those responsible for tracking my movements and associations are doing so for a combination of political and/or economic reasons. While I can understand the private sector investing in the surveillance of politically active people in this way, I have deep ethical objections to the use of any public resources in support of such a campaign. I suspect that many other concerned Australian citizens would share this sentiment. I won’t speculate as to who might be coordinating these efforts, but I will say that it is comprehensive. I suspect the techniques used have been honed over many decades, including through the monitoring of progressive social and environmental movements, including the opposition to the Vietnam war, apartheid, nuclear weapons and the animal rights movement.

If you’re shaking your head in disbelief, or flatly dismissing my claim as delusional, I can assure you that I have seen enough and corroborated with others to have total confidence in my own observations and analyses. I know other people who have had similar experiences and made similar observations during their investigative, whistle-blowing or political work. While the surveillance I am presently experiencing itself is passive (ie. bystanders placed in locations everywhere I go, augmented by the monitoring of my communications) the effect is pervasive, intrusive and effectively inescapable. My only refuges are private residences and the psychological impact is pronounced. My life has been studied to such an extent that all my movements are either anticipated or intercepted, even when travelling in regional areas.

Perhaps I have my own curiosity to blame?

Back in 2011, I began full-time work on my first documentary feature film, Cuttlefish Country (soon to be completed). Through this work I have explored the history of industrial development in the Spencer Gulf region of South Australia, and I have come to understand the politics surrounding major industrial development. I have also gained insights into relationships between major corporations and the public sector. I have discovered entrenched cultures of secrecy, enshrined in law, which in my opinion, betray the public interest.

In response, I have lodged over 100 Freedom of Information requests, across a range of topics with South Australia’s Department of Premier and Cabinet in 2016 alone. I have also lodged further requests with several Federal departments and agencies. You can see these on the website RightToKnow.org.au, where my applications and their results are published into the public domain I have been fortunate enough to have been supported by a small but very generous group of donors. They have assisted me with paying the administrative costs associated with obtaining the deliberations and decision-making processes of various government bodies and releasing them into the pubic domain. I refer to this work as public interest research.

In 2015, I became a member of the press gang attending to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission in South Australia, as an independent documentary filmmaker. I also participated in the Commission’s processes as a South Australian citizen, writing submissions during the establishment of its Terms of Reference, during the Commission itself, and more recently to the South Australian parliament, where a joint committee is considering the Commission’s findings.

Since May 2016, when the Royal Commission handed over its report to the Government of South Australia, the monitoring of my activities became too obvious to falsely interpret. I’ve had cars lurking in my street, cars parked on roadsides with drivers in them anticipating or logging my movements, and a rolling stock of faces everywhere I go… from supermarkets, to cafes and public parks.

So here I am… documentary filmmaker, public interest researcher and full-time surveillance target.

I can no longer find peace in any public place… but this has only strengthened my resolve to press on with my inquiries.

And of course, I’ll continue to respond creatively. Here’s a poem I wrote yesterday, inspired by the events of 2016:

TOO FAMILIAR

I see the way you look at me
with your cover story
and your hollow eyes.

Playing it cool
behind shades
that reflect attention
and hide your inhumanity.

You tell me you're not the type
but I'm no fool.
There is no 'type'.

Man, woman
young, old
silent, smug.
Bold, arrogant, precocious.

Shopper, jogger,
cyclist, driver,
gardener, fisher,
shadow lurker.

I've seen it all,

including your soul:

ghoulish, twisted, perfect.

You log the lives of innocents
drawing their light
into your darkness
to feed the vampires.

I mentioned your eyes
now darting sideways,
hand on face, a stretch, a yawn
a twitching leg.
Unfamiliar ground.
You want to run, compelled to stay.

I'm a body to you, a target.
I get that.

It's nothing personal.

You have a job to do.

Dan Monceaux, 2 October 2016.

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