If it was politically surreal to watch Scott Ludlam call a presser in Perth on Friday to announce his resignation from the Senate because he held dual citizenship, how the hell do you categorise Larissa Waters following suit a few days later?
For Ludlam, there were almost inconsequential throwaway lines, as — in 24-carat Greenie fashion — he revealed that, aw shucks, sorry folks, I’ve never really been a senator. Dual citizenship with Kiwiland and all that. Bloody section 44.
It’s hard to believe that Ludlam — he of the neat hair, colourful socks and expensive shoes — would become the third non-senator to be forced to fall on his rusty sword this 45th Parliament. He joined One Nation’s Rod Culleton — whom I warned on Twitter before the July 2 election would not pass muster — and Family First’s Bob Day.
(“Senator” Ludlam’s public mockery of Day’s technical sloppiness will no doubt be framed by somebody.)
And now Queensland Green (and, like Ludlam, a Greens Deputy Leader in the Senate) Larissa Waters has been forced, for passport reasons, to pull the plug.
Around the Ludlam exit the rumours swirled about other foreign-born members and senators. Waters (born in Canada) another Green, Peter Whish-Wilson (born in Singapore), PHON’s Malcolm Roberts (born in India), Hinch (born across the ditch) Labor’s Sam Dastyari (born in Iran) and the Libs’ Eric Abetz (born in Germany).
And there were serious doubts about Bob Day’s replacement, Kenyan-born Lucy Gichuhi. Did her failure to re-apply for Kenyan citizenship constitute a renunciation after arriving here in 1999?
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Following the Ludlam bombshell, other ripples spread. I tweeted: “The Ludlam dual citizenship resignation should re-ignite the Tony Abbott dual citizenship debate. When did he renounce Britain?”
I had raised that issue in my opening editorial on the first Hinch Live Sunday night current affairs program on Sky News in 2015.
Others, like a Queensland terrier named Tony Magrathea, had been chasing an Abbott answer for years, and he’d enlisted Labor’s Terri Butler.
Suspicions were further fuelled by the fact that Abbott wouldn’t respond to FOI requests, the PM’s office said documents were not available, and then the files were sealed.
I did email the dogged Magrathea and point out that, in my experience in current affairs, most conspiracies turned out to be fuck-ups.
The Ludlam mess prompted former PM Abbott to answer the “rumour mongers” last week by tweeting a copy of a letter from the Poms showing he had renounced his British citizenship in 1993.
(And that prompted questions about how he could get a foreign student’s scholarship to Oxford as an Australian in the 1980s while holding a British passport.)
The Ludlam mess raises more questions than he has answered. There was a change.org petition circulated three years ago demanding the Greens Deputy Leader answer the dual citizenship question. Why did that not at least set off some alarm bells?
It again raises the sloppy issue about ineligible candidates. I believe all would-be politicians who were born overseas should be compelled to provide documented proof of the dual citizenship renunciation to the AEC at the same time as their nomination form and fee. And why haven’t their parties, large and small, policed it? I heard Greens Leader Senator Richard Di Natale saying this week they were having a “root and branch” review of what should have been bleeding obvious.
I must admit I did tweet: “And now Senator Waters. Seems Greens should have spent less time hugging trees and more time crossing Ts.”
As it turns out, Scott Ludlam’s exposure as a sham senator could be the result of collateral damage. The Perth barrister who lumbered him was a constitution buff who actually had another ex-Kiwi in his sights: me.
According to The Weekend Australian, John Cameron — a lawyer, not a political junkie — applied to the archives across the ditch for info on several senators.
“I checked about three weeks ago with the NZ Department of Internal Affairs and applied to search the register in relation to Mr Ludlam and Senator Hinch. I expected the human headline may not have done it and Mr Ludlam would have done it, but it was the other way around. I received the certificate for Mr Ludlam which showed he was still a citizen but for Mr Hinch the certificate shows that he renounced his citizenship before the last election.” (Ed: For proof, it is reproduced below).
Postscript: The luckiest man in all this is that conservative stickler for rules and regulations, Senator Eric Abetz. Stickler, apparently, except maybe when they apply to him.
Abetz held dual citizenships until he renounced his German citizenship. One report claimed this week that was on March 9, 2010.
That would mean he was an illegal senator when elected in 1994, 1998 and 2004. But Jennifer Bechwati from Sky News tweeted that Abetz renounced his German citizenship in 1974.
Tasmanian art dealer John Hawkins, who has just dropped a High Court challenge to Abetz’s eligibility, might want to look at it again.
There’ll be no Hinch Senate Diary next week. I’m off O/S “on assignment” as we used to say on Sunday Night — before I jumped the shark.