Dual citizenship—Australia’s rulers still demand MPs’ loyalty

Parliament’s dual citizenship fiasco looks like it might never finish. Nine Senators have now departed and two lower house Coalition MPs, John Alexander and Barnaby Joyce, have survived by-election after all were found to be ineligible to sit in parliament.

The saga is set to continue in 2018, with Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten refusing to agree on which MPs still have a case to answer. It now seems that Labor has the greater potential problems, with four of its lower house MPs facing questions. Two of them hold marginal seats, including David Feeney, who would struggle to survive a challenge from The Greens.

With the Turnbull government holding just a one seat majority, the loss of any more MPs could see it fall. That would be a prospect to relish.

But the whole idea that dual citizenship should exclude someone from parliament is ridiculous. It’s not just that almost a third of the population was born overseas.

The idea behind the ban is that holding the citizenship of another country puts a person’s loyalty under question. As the offending section of constitution puts it, the, “acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power” is the barrier to entering parliament.

What this really means is loyalty to Australia’s rulers and the Australian state. For there is no one singular “Australian” interest. The Australian population is divided by fundamentally different interests—most importantly the interests of workers and bosses.

We are living through a period of record low wages growth, with most workers earning less after inflation than we were in 2010. Yet profits are up 20 per cent in the last year and the share market hit a record high.

Governments have often demanded the population show its loyalty during wars, in ordinary people sacrificing their lives and their living standards to aid the war effort. And the whole essence of the argument for neo-liberalism is that we need to sacrifice—through wage restraint and deteriorating public services—so that the national economy can keep growing. But it’s not workers who reap most of the benefits.

The constitution should be changed. But more importantly, we should reject the idea that there is any need for loyalty to Australian nationalism, Australian governments or Australia’s ruling class.

By James Supple


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