Defending the Dual Citizen Ban

Simon Cowan
31 May 2018 | PP3
Defending the Dual Citizen Ban

The High Court has rightfully resisted calls to read subjective elements into section 44(i) in order to keep the current crop of ineligible politicians in their seats. This interpretation is seen as harsh, but is based on sound legal principle and a common sense interpretation of the wording in the section.

Calls to overhaul the Constitution to alter this interpretation are misguided. Claims that large numbers of potential parliamentarians will be deterred from running, or indeed will be incapable of doing so, are overstated — as are suggestions that the current interpretation of the section will cause significant uncertainty.

The probably harm from those who require legal advice on their eligibility or may not be able to demonstrate clearly they are eligible is far less than that from the election of politicians with a significant conflict of interest or loyalty.

It is also on that basis that calls to repeal section 44(i) because it undermines democracy — or is somehow outdated — should be resisted.

There is little doubt that the concept of citizenship has changed since the drafting of the Constitution. However it remains a practical and symbolic indicator of loyalty. Voters have a right, and an expectation, that those standing for parliament will have allegiance to Australia alone.

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