The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters Inquiry into matters relating to section 44 of the Constitution have just released their report.

Committee Chair Senator Linda Reynolds said the report found that s. 44 was becoming increasingly undemocratic and that future referrals to the High Court would be inevitable.

“Problems with s. 44 are neither new, nor unforeseen,” Senator Reynolds said.

“20 years of Parliamentary Committee reports and a Constitutional Convention have all predicted that without constitutional reform to parts or all of s. 44, challenges would occur to otherwise qualified and validly elected Members of Parliament.”

The committee has made several recommendations, in particular recommending “that the Australian Government prepare a proposed referendum question to either:

- repeal sections 44 and 45 of the Constitution; or

- insert into sections 44 and 45 the words: ‘Until the Parliament otherwise provides…’

The Australian Monarchist League disagrees strongly with this. What the committee is recommending is essentially for Caesar to judge Caesar.

The fact is the Australian Constitution is there to protect the interests of the Australian people, not our politicians. The Constitution requires members of the federal parliament to be allegiant to Australia and Australia only. We should not forget that, unlike the State parliaments, it is the federal parliament which is tasked with legislating for the defence and foreign affairs of this country. It is important that our lawmakers have only the best interests of Australia at heart.

Whilst we have become a multi-racial society, that is no reason to hand our lawmaking over to persons whose allegiance is to one or more other countries.

Besides, if as the committee states “Problems with s. 44 are neither new, nor unforeseen,” why have so many members of the Parliament continued to stand for election whilst being ineligible? Why have the political parties not done their due diligence?

The Australian Monarchist League has recommended that there should be stronger penalties, such as a six-year ban on members of the Parliament found to be in breach of the constitution. It is not enough that these people, having failed to check that they are eligible to stand for the parliament under the current rules, now want to change them. It is also not enough that these people are able to simply resign from the Parliament only to stand again at a cost of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to the taxpayer.

We have also found that the government has treated lightly with these constitution-breakers by allowing them to retain their entitlements during the period they were ineligible to sit in the Parliament. If ordinary citizens make an error in their application for Social Security benefits, the government will pursue them with a vengeance and yet these constitution-breakers are allowed to walk away without a blemish.

Section 44 was included by our Australian drafters in the Constitution for a purpose. That purpose is sole allegiance to Australia and that purpose remains. Whilst in 1901 all citizens within Australia were British - as were all citizens within the British Empire, that was changed by Acts of the British and Australian and other parliaments from 1948 onwards. However, whatever changes the Parliament has made to citizenship Acts should not affect allegiance being solely to Australia by our lawmakers.

Should there be a referendum to change section 44 of the Australian Constitution, the Australian Monarchist League will most likely oppose any change. I say ‘most likely’because, as a democratic organisation, formal opposition will be put to our membership in a plebiscite.



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