The irony of the link between citizenship, refugees and indigenous affairs

29 November 2017 8:36 am

There is a delicious irony about the High Court’s ruling on the so-called Citizenship Seven which has ruled certain parliamentarians are ineligible to sit throwing the Australian government into turmoil.

The gate-keeping around Section 44 of the Constitution is critical for a country founded in 1788 on the fiction that it was once a "terra nullius" (nobody's land). This ignored First Nations people who had sovereign belonging to the land for at least 60,000 years prior. They were not permitted to become citizens of the nation until a 1967 referendum.

Add to that the "White Australia"migration policy marked in particular by the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, which systematically deterred people of non-European descent from migrating to Australia. That was operating for much of the twentieth century.

All this uproar over citizenship comes at a time when the Australian government had rejected a proposal for substantive recognition of the nation’s First Peoples in the constitution. The Uluru proposal was rejected at Cabinet five months on from the historic constitutional summit

The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has been running a team of parliamentarians deemed by the constitution not to be eligible to sit in Parliament, says this proposal was “inconsistent” with the principles of the constitution. As if he would know.

At the same time, refugees on Manus Island are enduring prison conditions condemned around the world by human rights authorities.

So the politicians that have declared they cannot settle in Australia are deemed to be not “Australian” enough to sit in parliament.

The Australian government’s hypocrisy is appalling.

Leon Gettler



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