SECTION 44 of the Constitution of Australia states that a person holding or entitled to hold citizenship of a foreign power may not sit as a senator or member of the House of Representatives. Sheesh. It’s pretty clear that you need to address that if you want the big politician bucks and perks BEFORE you run for office. I explained that to my 12 year old and he gets it!
With this citizenship-gate all over the place, from the front of my newspaper to pinging out from every social media feed, I can’t help but draw an uncomfortable parallel to the whole robo-debt Centrelink fiasco. What happens when it transpires that a Centrelink recipient is found to have been paid money they were not technically eligible to receive? Come on? It’s a no-brainer. They have to start paying it back immediately and they have no say in the matter, it just gets quickly and painfully siphoned from their payments. Gone. Before any pending counter-investigation is even launched.
There’s no thumb-twiddling, with payments remaining unchanged and paid, while we wait for a High Court decision about whether or not ‘being ignorant’ is a valid excuse for thinking you were entitled to payments when you weren’t. Average Jane can’t muster the money for any legal defense or for that matter, bread and milk, because the funds are being deducted from her Centrelink payments and/or her working wage almost as soon as the ink has dried on the debt recovery notice. The system runs like a high-speed train hurtling through a dim tunnel. And everyday Australians are hurting from it. These despicable welfare cheats are hammered financially and moaned about in the halls of parliament as being a drain on the public purse.
I’m sorry? Excuse me?
I’m a writer and because I am woefully poor, I enter writing contests a lot. And when I do, there are always these things called TERMS AND CONDITIONS. I can’t go in the Australian Vogel Award because I’m over 35. Not eligible. Others rule me out as I have had three books published. So, it’s not rocket science to know that you have to read the small print to see if you are eligible and if you are, you tick that box and enter the competition and cross your fingers.
This is pretty standard procedure for just about every application process. Getting enrolled in university, applying for jobs, bringing pets into a country (you see what I did there). My point is that life is structured around the rules; i.e terms and conditions. At every bloody turn. And they are about as easy to navigate as boiling an egg. Perhaps easier.
Just because you didn’t read the small print before clicking the box doesn’t make you exempt from the rules. That’s not how it works. Anywhere. In any universe. Using any excuse at all just doesn’t cut it. You will be disqualified.
Politicians, by the very nature of their jobs, deal with legislation. Every day. That’s what we pay them for. We naturally assume that they read the terms and conditions of the job before applying, because that is expected of …human beings applying for jobs. It’s really basic. It’s so basic that the very idea that there could be any excuse for not doing so, beggars belief.
The argument that citizenship of various countries can be tricky and complicated is nonsense. I was born in Australia. My parents and all my grandparents were born in Australia. I’m fairly certain there’s no sneaky Italian citizenship lurking in the shadows but if I was going to claim hundreds and hundreds of thousands from the public purse, I would be checking out the great-grandparents just to be certain. It’s not hard to check!
If you or one of your parents was born overseas, it would be brain-numbingly obvious that there was a possibility of dual citizenship. If you claimed ignorance of that fact, as an educated grown up, you would be admitting that you were outrageously NAIVE. And naiveté is not a defense. Not when filling in a competition entry form and not when putting your hand up for a job in our Australian Government as a representative of the people and not in the High Court of this country.
If the Deputy Prime Minister of my country thinks that because he didn’t go online and check in three or four easy finger-clicks whether there was a possibility that he was a kiwi as well as a kangaroo, then he isn’t entitled to the job. Frankly, I wouldn’t employ him to boil an egg.
So if the High Court rules that ignorance and naiveté or just plain disinterest in reading the terms and conditions of the Constitution, is a good enough excuse to allow hundreds of thousands of dollars from the public purse to be paid to politicians who are technically and constitutionally ineligible for the job, then it must also be accepted as an excuse for those Centrelink debtors who misunderstood their own eligibility for money from the same source. Everyone pays back the debts or no-one. Because we live in a land that promotes equality, don’t we? Oh….that’s right.