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John Passant

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May 2019



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



In defence of a Liberal candidate supposedly under a dual citizenship cloud

I agree with the Liberal candidate in one of Canberra’s three electorates, Mina Zaki. Let’s stop the demands about her citizenship and eligibility to stand for Parliament. She deserves to stand. She is an Australian citizen.  Let’s believe what she says.

Hang on, you might ask. Why is a socialist defending a Liberal? It is a matter of principle. Every Australian citizen should have the right to run for Parliament, irrespective of background.  Section 44 of the Constitution denies dual citizens that fundamental democratic right.

In Zaki’s case, the demands are for her to produce evidence of her renunciation of Afghan citizenship. She has said she has renounced that citizenship and has provided the evidence to the Electoral Commission. That is good enough for me. Constant demands for her to ‘produce the proof’ hint at Australia’s heritage and favourite past-time, racism.

Section 44 is an expression of the racist views of the ruling class in the 1890s and its reflection in the white working class. Its aim was to exclude non-British people. The same class of people who gave us the Constitution gave us the White Australia policy.

Interestingly the concept of an Australian citizen only became a reality in 1984; before that, we were British subjects. As the National Archives state:

‘Throughout the 1960s, Australian citizens were still required to declare their nationality as British. The term “Australian nationality” had no official recognition or meaning until the Act was amended in 1969 and renamed the Citizenship Act. This followed a growing sense of Australian nationalism and the declining importance for Australians of the British Empire. In 1973 the Act was renamed the Australian Citizenship Act. It was not until 1984 that Australian citizens ceased to be British subjects.’

On the basis of a 2017 High Court decision and the 1992 decision of Sykes v Cleary, many of our pre-Second World War politicians, including some prime ministers, in retrospect, would have been ineligible to sit in the Parliament. But they were white and racism was a major narrative of Australian capitalism at the time — along with war. Some things never change.

That explains why a couple of dual citizens have in fact not only been elected to Parliament; they have gone on to become Prime Minister. Take Chris Watson for example.  He was born in Chile. In 1904 the fact that he was white seemed to be enough for him to avoid scrutiny.

Other Prime Ministers such as George Reid, Andrew Fisher, Joseph Cook and Billy Hughes were born in the UK. In those days, being British was enough to be what we now know as Australian, evidently. That is not true today, as Tony Abbott can attest. He renounced his British citizenship to ensure he did not fall foul of section 44.

The difference between Tony Abbott and Billy Hughes is the fact that Australian citizenship was created in 1984.  Abbott would have been OK and not needed to renounce his British citizenship before then because Australians were British subjects. Allegiance to the UK was allegiance to Australia

What is to be done? First, politicians from all sides could promise to vote against referring any section 44 citizenship matters of their opponents to the High Court. That can at best only be a stop gap response. 

We need to abolish the racist elements of section 44 of the Constitution. Australian citizenship should be enough to allow a person to stand for election. 

Mina Zaki is an Australian citizen. Let’s debate her policies and politics, not her background.

John Passant is a poet, an adjunct member of the School of Law and Justice at Southern Cross University, co- editor of the Journal of Australian Taxation, and a freelance member of the Canberra Press Gallery.  He publishes at En Passant with John Passant.


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