Federal MPs should have known their time was up: law lecturer

May 11, 2018

Citizenship saga: Lorraine Finlay says MPs should have known their time was up

The Australian people are entitled to feel more than a little frustrated with the 10-month-long citizenship saga, according to Murdoch University constitutional law lecturer Lorraine Finlay.

She says the High Court’s decision on Wednesday to rule that Labor Senator Katy Gallagher was ineligible to sit in the Federal Parliament was unsurprising. The ruling triggered the resignation of three ALP MPs and one independent shortly after the decision was handed down.

“There really hasn’t been a lot of grey area since the High Court’s decision last year in the case of the citizenship seven,” Finlay told Seven’s Sunrise program. “It’s important to understand that what the High Court did on Wednesday was actually unsurprising.

“They didn’t create new law; they haven’t imposed a harder test. All they’ve done is to clarify what we already knew, and – to be frank – what the Parliamentarians who resigned on Wednesday should have known late last year.”

Section 44 of the Constitution – which disqualifies dual citizens from sitting in the Australian Parliament – could only be changed if the Australian people agree to change it at a referendum, she said.

“That’s where this gets really interesting,”  Finlay said. “Because while there can certainly be arguments made for amending the Section to make it operate better, the suggestion’s been made by some people that we should get rid of the dual citizenship disqualification altogether, and I think that’s a much harder thing for the Australian people to agree to.

“Personally, I think that if you’re wanting to represent our country in the national Parliament – and make decisions that affect our nation – asking you to declare an undivided and clear loyalty to Australia probably isn’t too much to ask.”

Calls for the Turnbull Government to announce a general election in the face of five by-elections, including in the seat of Perth where sitting MP Tim Hammond announced his intention to resign last week, would be counter-intuitive.

“Given that these by-elections won’t change who’s in Government, I think the Turnbull Government would rather just get on with governing,” Finlay said. “From the Australian people’s perspective, I think we all want our Government to just get on with the job of governing too.

“Many months ago we were all talking about the need for this issue to be resolved quickly. The fact that we’re still talking about this now; the way that this has played out and the time it’s taken to resolve mean the Australian people have every right to feel frustrated.”

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Media contact: Connie Clarke
Tel: (08) 9360 2734  |  Mobile: 0424 287 361  |  Email: connie.clarke@murdoch.edu.au
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