Senator Scott Ludlam of the Australian Greens had followers of Australian politics in a tailspin yesterday when he announced he was resigning from the Senate after he discovered that he held New Zealand citizenship, the country where he was born. This makes him ineligible to sit in the Australian Parliament as set out in s44 of Australia’s Constitution.
The thing that makes this revelation and Ludlam’s discovery of it so striking is that he has been a member of Australian Senate since July 2008, which means for nine years he’s been paid a salary by the taxpayer he was never entitled to. Every time he voted on legislation he was ineligible to cast that vote.
It makes you wonder how somebody like Scott Ludlam could overlook something as basic as whether he was eligible to stand for parliament in the first place. In a statement on his Facebook page announcing his resignation he tries to explain how such an oversight occurred “I was naturalised when I was in my mid-teens and assumed that was the end of my New Zealand citizenship”. You assumed that when you became an Australian citizen your New Zealand citizenship would magically disappear? Never assume anything in politics, don’t leave anything to chance.
It makes you wonder if a Greens MP doesn’t even know if they are eligible to be in Parliament, imagine what it would be like if they were put in charge of the country? Ludlam has basically failed the first test of running for public office. As a lawmaker, one would hope Ludlam would have an understanding that citizenship has to be renounced and that our Constitution and the interpretation of it by our courts has been pretty clear on the question of politicians not being able to have dual nationality.
Ludlam’s resignation has led some commentators to claim along with the recent findings of two other federal Senators being ineligible to hold office that s44 of our Constitution should be repealed. I would think that Australians are quite happy that our Constitution forbids people from holding public office who have an allegiance to a foreign government, are a criminal, bankrupt or making their living from the Crown.
Any referendum to repeal s44 would easily fail. Our founding fathers put this section in our Constitution for a reason to ensure there were certain standards for people being elected to public office. It would appear these calls for changing the constitution just come from people who are bitter that a politician they liked has found to have broken the rules.
Another aspect of Ludlam’s resignation is that no one from the media bothered to investigate if Ludlam had dual citizenship given that it was common knowledge he was born in New Zealand. Isn’t this an indictment on the media? As it would appear that because Ludlam is a darling of the left he has escaped the same scrutiny that other politicians in his situation have received. The only questioning of his citizenship came from online internet discussions.
In 1999 Heather Hill of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation was found to be ineligible to be elected to the Senate in the 1998 federal election because she failed to renounce her British citizenship, she didn’t even get to take her seat. Eric Abetz also faced a challenge against his eligibility with claims that he did not renounce his German citizenship. There is also Australia’s own birther movement with leftists who claim that Tony Abbott has not renounced his British citizenship, despite already providing evidence he has.
FYI rumour mongers: I renounced my UK citizenship in 1993 and here’s the proof: pic.twitter.com/tHAeJeqo5T
— Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) July 14, 2017
Ludlam’s resignation from Senate also sends the Greens further in chaos after the recent partyroom decision to exclude New South Wales Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon from sitting with them until that state branch reforms its operations. A countback of Senate ballots will now take place, most likely electing the Greens Western Australian number 3 candidate Jordan Steele-John. However, he has already put out a statement saying they will not take up a Senate seat if they elected and would prefer the Greens party to pick a replacement.
There is also the question of whether he will be forced back to pay nine years’ worth of Senate salaries but given that the government decided Bob Day did not have to pay back his salary this looks like an unlikely course of action.
But overall our Constitution has done its job, by excluding somebody from the Senate who was so careless as to not know what countries they were a citizen of. This is also excluding the fact that Ludlam is climate change zealot, anti-free speech and open borders campaigner. Some have said they admired his work with regard to internet freedom, it’s just a shame he didn’t believe in freedom in more areas. The Australian Parliament should be for Australians only, being a nice guy or an honest mistake does not change the fact that laws and rules need to be followed and are there for a reason.