Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table. 3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.
Any person who … is 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
So go the relevant words of section 44(i) of the Australian Constitution. They have a clear, literal meaning: dual citizens cannot be chosen as a member of parliament. And though the law at times tortured the English language in order to manufacture a particular outcome, on this occasion the High Court unanimously decided the clear, literal meaning is the correct one.
These words can also be found on the AEC nomination form below the statement “your attention is drawn in particular…”
Politicians, and their allies in the media, are trying to convince the public that the requirements are somehow unclear, unreasonable or onerous. None of this is true. They just don’t like the outcome because very few of them seemed to apply even a cursory thought as to their eligibility.
This makes it hard to give any credence to calls that an audit of eligibility is somehow unfair. If you want to claim unemployment benefits, an age pension or even take up a job in a number of fields, you are required to demonstrate you are eligible. Why should politicians be different?
Whether or not someone is in fact a citizen of a foreign power can be a complicated question — as the cases of Matt Canavan and Josh Frydenberg demonstrate — however the majority of politicians caught up under this section do not have complex questions to answer. Had they turned their minds to the issue even briefly they would have discovered the issue.
And moreover, very little sympathy can be found for the small business person who has to wade through tens of thousands of pages of highly complicated tax law and precedent.
Of course politicians being politicians will play politics with this — but it’s time to just sort this out.
Before I became what I half-jokingly describe as a fact-grubber and barrow pusher — a think tanker — I was formally trained as an historian. My PhD thesis examined the political ideas and ideals of the men who founded the Commonwealth of Australia.
I was — and still am — a big-picture national history kind of historian. At a time when deconstruction is the intellectual fashion, my historical interests continue to lie in the national story.
And not only as a historian interested in getting the national story right about contentious historical and social issues such as gender and race; but also as a think tanker interested in the contemporary importance of the national story to the national interest.
For despite what the post-modern theorists claim, the nation remains the ultimate political reality. The power of the national story to inspire our collective beliefs about ourselves as Australians, and for those beliefs to inspire the direction of our national life, is the reason the history wars matter.
The history wars — the on-going debate about the practice and teaching of Australian history — and about vitally important and potentially divisive subjects such as the history of Australian racism — remain a critically important battle of ideas.
Understanding the true meaning of Australian history, and debunking the perennial claims routinely made about the role our supposedly perpetual of history of ‘racism’ allegedly continues to plays in Australian society, is increasingly in the national interest today.
In the current age of grievance-mongering identity politics, the use, abuse and distortion of Australian history lies behind the politicisation of racial issues by organisations such as Australian Human Rights Commission.
Getting the history of Australian racism right has therefore never mattered more than now to counteract to the threat identity politics poses to the social harmony that has become the hallmark of modern multi-racial Australia.
Dr Jeremy Sammut has a PhD in Australian History. He is a Senior Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies and author of The History Wars Matter.
This week saw the usual stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage — ongoing issues with Indigenous incarceration and significant gaps in educational outcomes. However, a tonic to this tale of woe was the launch of Warren Mundine’s new book Warren Mundine in Black and White: Race, Politics and Changing Australia. The message that resonated most was resilience and that it is Indigenous people’s personal agency that will ultimately close the gap.
Mundine’s life embodies the principles of classical liberalism — of individual responsibility and hard work.
He argues against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remaining constrained by the deficit mindset seen weekly in the media and from viewing “ . . .failure [as] their natural path in life’ (p472). What Noel Pearson describes as the ‘bigotry of low expectations‘.”
Mundine is committed to pursuing strategies based on proactive Indigenous participation that produce real outcomes. He decries what he calls the “disconnect with reality” seen in the current debates over statues and Australia Day, and argues they are trivial matters to Indigenous people seeking to overcome genuine disadvantage.
Mundine’s reflections echo the theme of my coming research on Indigenous small business, which is that: “…no group of people in the world ever got out of poverty without economic development, which comes from commerce, private ownership, jobs and education.” These initiatives allow Indigenous people to take control of their own affairs and become full participants in the economy.
While such strategies are good on paper, Mundine serves a reminder that success will not come easily. Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders must play to their strengths, he contends, and adapt their culture to the modern context.
This is already happening, with remote communities leveraging traditional burning practices to target the carbon offset market, and entrepreneurs putting a new twist on Indigenous art to sell contemporary fashion products.
To ascend the stairway to prosperity, more Indigenous people need to adopt Mundine’s philosophy and seize control of their own affairs.