Aug 25, 2017

Govt might not lose members over citizenship scandal, but it will lose votes

In a disaffected electorate convinced it's one rule for them and another for elites, the citizenship issue couldn't be worse for politicians of all stripes.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

The citizenship saga/imbroglio/brouhaha/scandal probably couldn’t have come at a worse time in Australian politics. There’s probably no good time for politicians, as a class, to be discredited by a widespread inability to fill out forms properly, even if the problem is mainly confined to members of minor parties. But at a time when the government is deeply unpopular, led by a man seen as disappointing all the high hopes that attended his ascension to the prime ministership, and when there is widespread disenchantment with the economic framework that has shaped the polity for the last 30 years, this is pretty much the last thing, other than say a major corruption scandal, that we need.

Worse, though, in a way that those of us inside the Canberra bubble probably won’t quite get, is that the stories on offer on the part of the MPs and senators before the High Court have changed significantly. In particular, the circumstances in which senator Matt Canavan became an Italian citizen appear to have changed radically. This was Canavan exactly a month ago, when he revealed his citizenship problem:

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47 thoughts on “Govt might not lose members over citizenship scandal, but it will lose votes

  1. Laurie Patton

    On what basis is the High Court not acting immediately over this Constitutional Crisis? They are called the High Court for a reason.

    1. Decorum

      Presumably to let said high-paid lawyers prepare their cases properly.

    2. mike westerman

      I don’t think you can rightly say there is a constitutional crisis. There is a crisis in government because of failure to comply with the constitution or even take reasonable steps to comply. There is a crisis in government because of gross inconsistency in complying with their own ministerial standards.

      The High Court is not a venue for the idle opinions of Saturday morning shoppers: it asked why it should rush to judgement, and the government could not think of a good reason. Joyce could solve his problem by resigning so a by-election could be called. Canavan could solve his problem by resigning so the next ticket holder could take over and he could get on with his job of advocating for large mining companies. Likewise Nash. Roberts could merely buy a one way ticket to the moon.

      1. leon knight

        Good one Mike, that nails it nicely…just not sure the moon is far enough for that lying dingbat Roberts.

      2. Bob the builder

        The Greens seemed to provide a reasonable response to the issue. I’m surprised Barnaby and the rest aren’t being hammered with this. Quite a contrast.

      3. lulu2503

        Well pointed out, sir!

      4. pinkocommierat

        The film Iron Sky – about a base of Nazis eacaping the Allies before Germany’s defeat in 1945 – springs to mind. Malcolm could always join them.

    3. Ian Roberts

      To be fair, our politicians are generating a lot of work for the HC at the moment.

    4. lykurgus

      The reason Laurie, is that the High Court doesn’t work for the Government (nor does any other court). There’s also the fact that cases heard there, are nearly always Constitutional matters. There’s not much elbow room for deciding priority among these…
      … and it would be a rare thing to accept such a reason as “George Brandis wants us to” (since they haven’t provided an argument for prioritising their non-form-double-checking colleagues).
      The punchline is, if they first went to a magistrate (to have the case referred up), it may have been decided sooner – just not in their favour.

  2. Robert Smith

    The participants need some time to get their stories straight.
    There is a story on the ABC website this afternoon about Barnaby Joyce receiving nominations as New Zealander of the Year. This is an example of what the gov’t will have to endure even after it is resolved.
    As for Roberts the longer this goes on the worse he looks.

    1. Nudiefish

      I agree with everything you say except for the Roberts thing.

      To lose Malcolm Roberts would be the greatest loss to Australian comedy since John Clarke cashed his chips.

  3. Nudiefish

    The abrupt change in Canavan’s story stinks like an old dead fish. I have waited for comment about it in the media and outside of Crikey today, so far zilch.

    Why should the government treat us with contempt? Apparently, we don’t give a shit anyway?

  4. Dog's Breakfast

    I’m with nudiefish. I’m hoping that Canavan gets harassed by the media to explain how it is that he came to lie publicly with Turnbull and Brandi standing by his side, telling us how innocent he was, how unaware he was, and how it was all his mum’s fault.

    Either he was lying then, or he’s lying now. Or is there some nuance I’m missing here?

    And if Canavan held Italian citizenship since age 2, how is that different from Larissa Waters case, which everyone assures me is cut and dried?

    You’re right Bernard, this stinks to high heaven, and I ain’t happy.

    1. Bob the builder

      I’m surprised there hasn’t been more questioning of Canavan’s claim he was bestowed Italian citizenship as an adult without his consent or knowledge. Sounds very unlikely this would be possible. If it is, I suggest Tony Abbott’s sister enrol him back up as a British citizen!
      But more seriously, Canavan’s claim sounds like utter rubbish and there should be some media attention to this. More important than the Constitutional issue is his possible bald-faced lying in public. And an interesting side-light is that his Mother appears to have got Italian citizenship after her husband was gaoled for fraud … and also she seems to have been keen to vote for Berlusconi.
      Imagine if the Greens had been up to half of these shenanigans, the hue and cry would have been heard in the heavens!

      1. Marilyn J Shepherd

        You need to catch up, faced with the possibility of perjury and a stint in the other big house Canavan fessed up that he has been an Italian citizen since he was 2. But everyone is missing the real story still.

        s44 is the white Australia policy done to keep out anyone but Brits from the parliament and the constitution doesn’t mention Australian citizenship at all so under the constitution how can anyone have dual Australian or any other nation citizenship.

        It’s hilarious watching a bunch of white entitled clowns chasing down another bunch of white entitled clowns over the white Australia policy which was designed to keep out Pat Dodson, Ken Wyatt and co, but not Bananaby and Matt.

        1. Damon

          Bravo, Marilyn. Somebody eschewing the schadenfreude of seeing Joyce et al cut down to size and actually acknowledging what a clusterf*ck our “Founding Fathers” have bequeathed to us in s.44(i).

          Thank you, Marilyn.

        2. Glen Davis

          Australia has a place for people who seek its offices while falsifying their credentials. Nauru.

          1. michael r james

            With any luck BJ and his trio of amigos will lose their fat pensions too. That will hurt them more than anything else. Their time-accrued should be re-set to zero!

    2. Zarathrusta

      I loved what Richard Di Natale (someone I generally don’t have a lot of time for) said: Every Italian boy knows it’s never your mother’s fault. (paraphrasing)

      1. Mike Smith

        Zara, come election time, I don”t think it will be just Italian boys remembering he blamed his mother.

  5. Dion Giles

    I seem to recall a report that Matt Canavan acquired Italian citizenship through an application by his mother so that he could lodge a vote for Berlusconi in the Italian parliamentary elections. That’s a long way from being unaware of foreign citizenship.
    As for Crocodile Dunedin Joyce, there couldn’t be a more worthy riddance especially if Tony Windsor ended up taking his place.

  6. klewso

    I can understand why they did it.
    No one gave a rat’s about this for years, ’til those “dirty rat f*#!ers(?)”, The Greens, did the right thing.
    Canavan especially, having learned all he needed to know about DIY politics and using your position to serve sponsors, while being at their beck and call, at the knee of Cousin Jethro.
    ….. I don’t know why so much of our media is so unquestioning re “ignorance” to the likes of Jethro, Canavan, Nash – because they said they didn’t have an inkling : imagine if they’d been Labor stooges?

    As for a lackof a “major corruption scandal”? Billions of $tax and the rape of the Darling, under the stewardship that was, to benefit who that did, doesn’t cut it?

    1. mike westerman

      It baffles me tho’ Klewso why the rural sector has tolerated such a level of betrayal for so long. The have seen what the neocon agenda has done to the farm sector, they have sided with the Greens in locking their gates and putting in solar, most wouldn’t have a seen a union ticket holder in decades, so is it just the hat and Williams stretched sided boots? Is that all I need to get their vote?

      1. Bill Hilliger

        Ahh, they’re a bit slow in the rural sector. Always have been. The manipulative NP main-chancers have known that for 50 years.

      2. michael r james

        “He’s a bastard, but he’s our bastard.”
        “Better to have him inside the tent pissing out …”

    2. lethell

      What I want to know is who outed the Greens and why? Then, if it was someone whose aim was to undermine them, how come he or she didn’t think that raising the issue might lead to problems for the LNP? That The ALP seem happy with the outcome raises suspicions of skulduggery on their part.
      Of course, maybe it was just some public minded citizen with no ulterior motive but it’s hard to see why they would focus exclusively on one party; nonetheless, it seems obvious that one can safely assume that many long-gone MPs have been illegible to sit in parliament which I would have thought raises its own set of problems for the legislation of past parliaments.

      1. Bob the builder

        Derryn Hinch reckons it was a lawyer in Perth who had him in their sights and went after Ludlam as well, thinking Ludlam was such a stickler he would have made sure everything was in order, while Hinch wouldn’t. Turned out he was wrong!

        1. Mike Smith

          And subsequently, he got Hinch too, right?

          1. Bob the builder

            No, as I understand it, Hinch had dotted his i’s and crossed his t’s already.

      2. Susan Anderson

        My understanding is that after Labor referred some LNP post office owning non entity to the high court for receiving monies from the crown while being a Senator, the party of morons went about trying to dig dirt on Labor but only found something on Scott Ludlum, Labor was involved only to the extent that they informed Ludlum so that he could resign before the a’holes got him

  7. Salamander

    Far be it from me to defend these reprobates, but Canavan’s apparently conflicting stories do make some sense. If as he claims he acquired Italian citizenship by descent from his mother, this only became possible in 1983 (he was 2) when Italian law changed to include descent through the female line. This is the crucial event.

    However, before such inherited citizenship can be used for any purpose, it has to be registered. Presumably this is where 2006 and his mother’s application comes in. Unless actually born in Italy she would have had to activate her citizenship in order to make use of it. Whereas only minor children can be included on such an application, there is a large amount of documentation required and the Consular form seems to encourage families to apply together. How surprising would it be if the absence of a drivers’ license ID for a 25-year was overlooked. And in any case, even if his registration would be invalidated by this, the relevant issue is citizenship, which exists independently of registration.

    Consular websites warn of common confusion of applicants mistaking registration for acquisition of citizenship.

    So just another stuff-up.

    1. Damon

      A reasoned and rational analysis, unlike some of the other stuff here. Seriously, I am not a lawyer, but at least I know I’m not one. Just horrified how many bush lawyers here pontificate about something they clearly know nothing about.

    2. Salamander

      So the Australian High Court took a different view from that stated on the Queensland Italian Consular webite. The High Court ruled that registration WAS in fact the point at which Italian citizenship was acquired, at least in circumstances such as Canavan’s. Quite interesting.

  8. Ian Roberts

    Of all stripes? Those of verdant hue took the honourable path and resigned. The rest have lied and dissembled and split hairs of superfine grade – holding on grimly. I think the Greens ought to have boosted their standing. Unfortunately, self-destructive forces in New South Wales are probably nullifying that.

    1. Barbara Haan

      You’re right about that John, although it’s not a fact supported by rusted-on Rhiannon supporters here at Crikey.

      1. Mike Smith

        I think *any* of us Green voters are amongst the least rusted on of any political party.

    2. Zarathrusta

      I really hope the high court declares all these people’s elections invalid, otherwise the Greens will lose out because they did the right thing.

  9. John Hall

    It appears to be a clear breach of the constitution. Ignorance should be no excuse. This is political desperation by a wounded coalition. In respect of Roberts it would be poetic justice for his science of denial and his magic Coal Dust blarney.

  10. AR

    There is the delicious prospect that, if big bucks being spent on $ilk manage to convince the High Court to exonerate Baaanarby & Canavan due to their demonstrably gross ignorance then surely it would apply to Larissa Water and possibly even Ludlam.
    Cash, living being Roberts, uncle Tom Cobbley an all just add piquancy to the rich broth.
    Election Now! Preferably D/D.

    1. mike westerman

      It seems there’s only one thing the HC wont tolerate more than sloppiness in the paperwork, and it’s having someone else tell them what to do. They’re call judges because they love looking at mere morals, reaching deep into their hearts, and plucking a mite of dust off their souls. This mob of lazy, arrogant, half arsed, dual citizened fools are about to become minced meat.

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