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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Theatre review: ‘Sepia’ play squirts ink in face of environmentalists

When a playwright frames a fictitious story in a current, local, real-world socio-political issue, the stakes are raised for both the presenter and the audience. In the case of Emily Steel’s original play Sepia, the environmentalists are the ones who come out of it with ink on their faces.

The play Sepia’s name is derived from the Latin name of the Giant Australian Cuttlefish, Sepia apama. These animals have developed fame and notoriety in the last two decades for their mass breeding aggregations between Point Lowly and the town of Whyalla in South Australia’s Upper Spencer Gulf. In 2007, plans were announced by BHP Billiton to expand the Olympic Dam mine north of Roxby Downs. To satisfy the mine’s increasing thirst, a desalination plant was decided upon as their future primary water source. The desalination plant’s location, and the return of its waste brine back into the waters off Point Lowly were approved by the South Australian State Government and Australian Federal Government in October of 2011. The play was in development at the time, and that event provides the starting block for the fictitious story of Neil, Emma and Matty.

A little background… the short video below from Naturescope introduces the Giant Australian Cuttlefish and some of their vulnerabilities.

 

 

Playwright Steel and director Nescha Jelk establish the audience’s perception of Neil, the play’s central character, before the lights even raise. He sits in his Whyalla home wearing snorkelling gear, in the murky waters of depression after the October Government approvals. Projected video cuttlefish swim by behind him, and when his mouth opens, the portrait of a fool is rapidly coloured.

As the play commences, it is clear that Neil’s passion for protecting the cuttlefish governs his actions. Despite his imposed utility as the ‘fool’, no laugh-out-loud comedy ensues. He is a tragic figure, who has failed threefold: in running a business, keeping his family together, and protecting the cuttlefish from industrial development. Neil is a former Company man, who broke from the fold to invest in the promise of a burgeoning tourism industry in Whyalla. Now he is wallowing in the rotten fruits of his labours.

Presented in RiAus’ unspectacular basement, the play viewed like a draft rather than a finished work. The relationship between the dreamer Neil (Rory Walker) and his conservative wife Emma (Holly Myers) was improbable- devoid of chemistry, and addled with condescension and resentment. Ultimately the pragmatic, conservative voice of Emma resounded as the voice of reason. The one who took a job in accounts, and left Neil and his ideals behind. Was this evidence of the writer’s own prejudice, a representation of her perception of the Australian majority, or was it a creative defence mechanism, an over-compensation against any possible accusation of siding with environmentalists?

Politically, the scope of this work was frustratingly narrow. The writer isolated the desalination plant from the wider impacts of the Olympic Dam mine expansion, and the mining boom which lies beyond it. A single description of the mine becoming ‘the biggest uranium mine in the world’ threatened to open another juicy can of worms, but shied away from the challenge. There was no mention of community action, grass-roots activism or public protest. Whyalla was portrayed true to the Adelaide-centric stereotype, as a BHP company town with a steelworks and a future desalination plant. The State Government’s agenda to heavily industrialise the Point Lowly peninsula with an explosives factory, diesel storage, new refineries and an expanded port facility right through the cuttlefish’s breeding reef was strangely absent. By isolating the issue of the desalination plant and hinging the play on it post-approval, the play creates the impression that we will all have to ‘wait and see’ what happens next. In reality, the desalination plant’s operation is 7-10 years away in BHP Billiton’s timeline, and proposals for Port Bonython expansion and other industrial developments are stacking up around it now. There are clear and present opportunities for public opinion to influence the cuttlefish’s future, and to discourage action by accident or design, is unhelpful to those fighting for their cause.

 

 

Dramatically, the play was at times painful to watch. The director failed to induce the ebb and flow of pace and emotional intensity the script desperately required to maintain interest, resulting in performances which ambled along monotonously. Over-acting was another major problem. Despite the furthest extremities of the audience being less than five metres from the players, Neil and Matt’s (Matthew Gregan) performances were large enough to be seen from an upstairs gallery.

Sepia is essentially a domestic drama, with a few factoids, crude stereotypes and a conservative bias thrown in for spice. Yes, it takes a real world issue, but it simplifies it, freezes it in time and cooly skates over the surface. Once upon a time, playwrights represented threats to the establishment, presenting radical, progressive ideas and challenging the status quo. If that is the brand of theatre that you yearn for, you won’t find it in Sepia.

For a more detailed study of the issues touched upon by Sepia, visit Cuttlefish Country.

Dan Monceaux

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Sustainability: A critique of Capitalism with cartoon accompaniment

Every now and again I stumble upon a beautiful union of substantial intellectual content and playful creativity. The embedded video in this post is a shining example of such a harmony resonating at its best. Below is a speech by radical sociologist David Harvey, who asks us if it is time to look beyond capitalism and towards a new social order that would allow us to live within a system that really could be responsible, just, and humane.

The producing party, The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA Animate) describes themselves as:

a cradle of enlightenment thinking and a force for social progress.  Our approach is multi-disciplinary, politically independent and combines cutting edge research and policy development with practical action.

Importantly for Creativity Base, this RSA information-dense presentation is accompanied by the live cartooning genius of an uncredited artist. As David Harvey’s narrative progresses, his ideas are illustrated by drawn analogies (pun intended) photographed in timelapse and played back as video at various speeds. The cartoonist wryly draws a mock Monopoly board to set the scene for the presentation’s climax- a perfect choice considering the piece’s open criticism of Capitalism’s shortcomings. In the cleverly crafted cartoon continuum, humor and character abound and transform a powerful speech into powerful media- multiplying its potency in the process.

Dan Monceaux

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