“I’m a good man in a crisis” declared the leader of Australia’s most crisis-ridden government in decades.
“I blend in” tweeted a wag.
Throsby is tickled pink to be covering Australian Politics at such an intricate juncture in the timeline of this great democracy, a nation founded on the backs of both convicts and sheep.
Our constitution? Well, most of us are in a state of physical and psychological decline ,by all accounts. But of course I mean the Constitution of Australia, a rather bumpy little document rife with home-grown inconsistencies and inexplicable exceptions. Cobbled together by a referenda “of the colonies” (now the states) it became law in 1900 and we proudly became an independent Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. With Her Majesty’s apron strings somewhat attached by authority of an anachronistic Governor General – disastrously so on 11 November 1975.
A most savoured and presently fashionable section of the constitution is section 44 that applies a blowtorch to our beloved baby-kissing lead swingers-in-waiting. You know, those Australians who consider a Centrelink stipend is for layabouts whilst pulling a motza from the taxpayer’s purse.
Section 44 aims to sort out the malingerers. It has, for over a century, succeeded marvellously filtering out the hoi polloi by a forensic focus on i) Allegiance to a foreign power, ii) Criminal convictions, iii) Bankrupt, iv) Office of profit, and v) Pecuniary interest in an agreement with the Commonwealth – aka, double-dipping. Although history suggests candidates above a certain income level manage to successfully ignore said condition and merrily bluff their way into an election.
But suddenly it has created – through its own fault, mind you, not that of its innocent victims – a “constitutional crisis” and a gift that keeps on giving, to which Throsby awakens each morning in a state of pre-emptive titillation.
This crowd of highly-remunerated weathervanes, too many of whom idle away generous parliamentary furloughs acquiring investment properties and then forgetting they own them, find it overly onerous to consider Section 44-i as it applies to their family history when filling and filing candidate paperwork for the Electoral Commission.
These potential lawmakers are NOT people in poverty, homeless, working poor, single parents, unemployed, poorly-resourced and unassisted, who must dot ‘i’s and cross ‘t’s letter-perfect for the ATO, for Centrelink, or Newstart, under penalty of losing all forms of support from an increasingly spiteful, unforgiving, outsourced government bureaucracy.
They are highly-resourced, smart, wealthy people, typically with a family empire, personal staff, and lawyers on-call – people who are, often, also lawyers – crying like stuck pigs as though ignorance of the law was a defence. Yes, that old chestnut is being actively deployed.
If you suspect Throsby is ranting a little just now, he offers exhibit numero uno of the affair, Attorney General Brandis’ complaint of the High Court’s “brutal literalism” interpreting Section 44, in the first legal skirmish of this affair that saw the dismissal of none other than Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, for dual citizenship. All the more ironic as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared the High Court would apply common sense and be forgiving and understanding.
It’s the Australian way: to forgive and forget if you’re a politician. It’s increasingly our way to screw you into the ground if you are a worker, unemployed, or on social security.