RED-faced Greens — this is a party which has proven itself to be a lot worse than just sloppy over the past week.
One of the most basic requirements for federal parliament candidates to be elected is and has always been sole Australian citizenship.
Section 44 (i.) of the Constitution was aimed at precluding people being elected as Australian MPs if they also had an “allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power” — i.e. dual citizenship.
While debate in past decades has centered on whether the section is an archaic principle for a country built on multiculturalism, the law remains in black and white.
Indeed, as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pointed out, all candidates must acknowledge the citizenship requirements in their eligibility forms before seeking office.
With the own goals of West Australian Senator Scott Ludlam (who failed to renounce New Zealand citizenship), followed on Tuesday by Queensland Senator Larissa Waters (who failed to realize she also had Canadian citizenship), the Greens deputy leadership team has been wiped out in the space of five days.
Given the pair’s ineligibility to have sat in the Senate for a cumulative 15 years, there is a potential trigger for almost $3 million in parliamentary wages to be forcibly repaid.
The fiasco illustrates not just a lack of professionalism and due diligence within the Greens but undermines the party’s shaky claim to some sort of political, moral and intellectual high ground.
The Greens have asserted themselves as an arbiter for a progressive direction they insist Australia must adopt — whether it be on the environment and global warming, renewables without care for rising energy costs, education, refugees and asylum seekers, “economic justice” to balance “social and natural capital,” or stronger moves to harm-reduction drug policies.
The Greens have also pushed their version of social equity — from higher taxes on big business and the wealthy to marriage equality, indigenous recognition in the Constitution and a Bill of Rights.
Of course, a number of these policies have merit and should be part of the Australian public and political dialogue. But Green ideology has no monopoly on fairness and reason.
While the Greens have sat in judgment on mainstream parties, they have also attempted to impose their dictates on ordinary, hardworking Australians who rely on unfashionable industries for their livelihood — whether it be coal, mining or forestry.
And as Green power has grown, it has gained inordinate influence in the Senate as a gatekeeper and horse-trader for wide-ranging legislation.
This is no longer a party of tree-huggers. The Greens have gained traction with inner-urban voters and lay claim to being a party for the educated elite as Labor and the Coalition saw their own support bases fracture and the protest vote grow.
But flow-on support by default to the Greens should not be taken as a green light for political arrogance.
The Greens should get their own house in order before they seek to lecture the nation on what’s best.
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