Whether or not you’re on “Team McCormack”, there’s no doubt that our local member is level-headed, thoughtful and an advocate of our region. Clearly, the sort of stuff that leaders are made of. But for him to become leader of the Nationals by default, because of a quirk of domestic and international law, would be a shame.
It’s quickly becoming apparent that we need a top-to-bottom review of both our sitting MPs and section 44 of the Constitution. That we would lose three MPs in as many weeks was bad enough, but now our Deputy Prime Minister has been dragged into this debacle because a foreign country decided to change its laws.
Under section 44 of the Constitution, citizens of a foreign power are ineligible to be members of parliament. This includes dual citizens of foreign countries such as Matt Canavan (Italy), Larissa Waters (Canada), Scott Ludlam (New Zealand) and now Barnaby Joyce (New Zealand).
But there are problems with that section, not least of which being its age: The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia came into power on July 9, 1900 – during the reign of Queen Victoria. And, with only a few exceptions, it is largely unchanged more than a century later.
Back then, global superpowers like Britain, France, Prussia (basically Germany) and the Austrian Empire were paranoid about losing their grip on power, so laws like section 44 seemed common sense.
But there are other quirks of Section 44 beyond the citizenship test. It allows for officers “or member(s) of the Queen’s navy or army” to be MPs, but the Royal Australian Air Force isn’t mentioned there because planes hadn’t been invented yet. So technically, we could also see a challenge to any former flyboy that seeks to hold office.
The citizenship crisis, especially in the case of Barnaby Joyce, highlights a crucial flaw in our constitution: What’s to stop a foreign power like China, or North Korea, or Indonesia, from trying to destabilise our government by declaring all Liberal MPs citizens? Or perhaps they could hold Labor hostage with threats to do the same to them.
The very piece of law that sought to limit foreign influence has done exactly the opposite with our Deputy Prime Minister and while it would be great to see someone like Michael McCormack take up the position, we’d hate to see it happen because of a stupid rule in a vintage document.
We the people deserve better.