Derryn Hinch

About 25 years ago I wrote a best-selling book called The Derryn Hinch Diet book.

It was a soup and wine diet. Dinner consisted of soup, a bread roll and white wine. We joked that you’d heard of the Fit for Life diet? This was the Pissed for Life diet. Sounded really witty before I needed a liver transplant to stay alive.

The diet worked, and it got a healthy heart tick. The book climbed to No.1 on the Sydney Daily Telegraph bestseller list — even ahead of Naomi Wolf and The Beauty Myth.

Soup, alphabet soup, was on my mind this week as we headed back into Canberra for the final three weeks of Senate sittings for 2016.

As I said to Prime Minister Turnbull at a green tea and chat meeting this week, I was consumed by a soup of letters and numbers: ABCC, PPL, 18C.

In the next three weeks, I’m going to have to vote on all of them (unless ABCC is again put in the too-hard basket). A couple of us crossbenchers have already flagged amendments to the first two, which the beleaguered government seems amenable to. The “hate speech” bill, with apparent prime ministerial blessing, is headed for a joint committee scrutiny. Removal of “offend” and “insult” is my fallback position, but I’d scrap 18C from the Racial Discrimination Act completely if I had my “druthers”, as the Americans would say .

(Trivial Pursuit question: What does “druthers” mean? It’s a slangy truncation of “I would rather”. See, the stuff you learn here …)

***

When the Senate decided to send the fates of senators Bob Day and Rod Culleton off to the High Court (sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns), I decided it was an opportunity to raise an issue that should never be an election issue: the exclusion from our Senate or House of Representatives of any person who carries dual citizenship at the time of their election.

It is clearly stated in the constitution that failure to renounce allegiance to another country, another power, makes a person ineligible to hold office.

I realise that even by raising the issue I risk re-igniting the so-called  “Australian Birther Movement” surrounding the eligibility of former prime minister Tony Abbott and when he officially renounced his British citizenship. So be it. My Notice of Motion is aimed at all members of Parliament, current and future.

The Member for Warringah could have killed that issue — and headed off that 40,000-strong petition — by pulling his renunciation document out of his bottom drawer (where I store my revocation certificate from New Zealand) rather than having the PM’s office seal the document with a confidentiality stamp.

It surprised me that any dual citizen was not required to produce that cancellation proof before nominations closed. One of the Justice Party candidates renounced both British and Swiss citizenship before that deadline.

***

The Queensland student prosecution was a disgrace. The sanctioned persecution of Bill Leak is only surpassed by the milquetoasts who signed letters and ads of support for his official tormentors.

***

Imagine if I’d voted in favour of the same-sex marriage plebiscite?

This letter from a disgruntled constituent:

“Mr. Hinch.  I hope you’re happy with your decision about this subject. You’re a poor excuse of a human being and I hope the karma train comes in and most of your kids and grandkids become gay. Do the world a favour and bugger off. I hope you end up in an aged care facility and a gay person takes care of you. My daughter and nephew are gay and I could not be more proud of them. Carmen.”

My response:

“Carmen. And proud you should be. I am shocked and mystified by your vile email. I voted against the plebiscite with the support of so many gay and lesbian and bisexual groups who feared a hateful plebiscite campaign. Just today, a group of gay people and their parents awarded me a poster on the Senate lawn as a Thank You for opposing the plebiscite. My hope, like other Senators who voted it down last night, is that we get a free vote and — as I said in the Senate last night — we could have legal gay marriages by Xmas.

“And if your prediction comes true, and I do end up in a nursing home, I would be thrilled to have a gay aide look after me. DH”

***

Did I say that? In question time, Senator George Brandis leaves out a word: “The people of Australia expect nothing of us.” He meant to say, “expect nothing less”.

Peter Fray

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