Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Sydney's growth problems - light rail, Kingsford, Pagewood and Daceyville

From time to time I have written about the changes that have been sweeping across Greater Sydney. These continue apace. Few parts of Sydney are immune.

The map shows the route of the City-Eastern Suburbs Light rail system presently under construction. For the moment, the main effect has been disruption  of traffic, shopping and business along its route, including the loss of the famous nine ways roundabout at Kingsford. However, even though the line will not carry its first passengers until 2019, the ripple effects are spreading into the real estate market in regard to both development and house prices.

Both Kingsford and Daceyville, the little suburb where I presently live, lie at the end of the line. In Kingsford, the median house price is now $2.29 million, the media rent $900 per week.

Daceyville prices are traditionally lower because while the suburb is heritage listed, the majority of the housing is state owned social housing with a limited supply of private properties. These are generally smaller and are often semi-detached. However, recent price indicators suggest a price range of $1.6 to $1.8 million for a two bedroom semi-detached, over $2 million for a free standing home.

The big Eastgarden shopping center at Pagewood is a fifteen minute walk south from Daceyville. Next to it, the 16.8ha site formerly occupied by British American Tobacco is being developed by Meriton. The Pagewood Green development, Meriton's largest project, will have 3000 apartments and cost an estimated $3 billion dollars.

In its the promotional material, Meriton makes great play on the developments access to green space, parks and especially golf courses. The golf courses may welcome additional members, but the parks are already very busy at weekends with sporting activities. Add a further 9,000 people in the immediate area and they are likely to be very congested indeed.

Working from home at the moment, I spend a fair bit of time walking around Daceyville just to get a break. I have come to know a lot of the locals and especially the social housing tenants since more of them tend to be home during the day. Many of them are older and have lived in the area for many years. A number are worried that development will force them to leave. I think that they have cause to be worried.

The heritage listing means that Daceyville itself cannot be turned into high rise development, at least for the foreseeable future. However, here we have a very attractive low rise suburb with lots of green space and very good access to transport. Because of the suburb's history, it was the first garden suburn developed to provide affordable housing for the working man, most if not all of the heritage properties are social housing owned by the Government. At a time when the supply of social housing is so constrained, it is hard to see the NSW Government not wishing to realise the assets to redeploy funds into areas where social housing can be provided more cheaply.

I don't see this happening in the immediate future, in part because it makes economic sense to hang onto ownership while prices around rise to capture the maximum capital gain associated with the scarcity value of the site. However, it will happen.   .

Monday, August 28, 2017

Grant, monuments and the study of Australian history

Unveiled on 25 February 1879, this statue in Sydney's Hyde Park of Captain James Cook has become the latest symbol in Australia's dispute over Aboriginal history The inscription on the statue reads "Discovered this Territory 1770".
On 18 August, ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Indigenous Affairs Editor Stan Grant published an opinion piece entitled America tears down its racist history, we ignore ours. Mr Grant is a highly respected reporter. Passionately written, it used the Captain Cook statue as an entry point with its inscription, arguing that while the US was recognising its racist past with the campaign against monuments, the great silence still reigned in Australia.

The piece came at a time when there had been debate about monuments  (a statue of Governor Macquarie was vandalised earlier in the year) and about the date of Australia Day. As part of the second and immediately before Mr Grant's piece, two inner Melbourne councils decided that they would not celebrate the Day in its current form. As a consequence, the Federal Government withdrew their right to conduct citizenship ceremonies.

Following Mr Grant's piece there were further calls on one side for monuments to be removed, of support for Mr Grant's position, responses of outrage on the other side from the centre-right wing press in reporting and commentary. "Aussie Taliban", proclaimed the Sydney Daily Telegraph."PC vandals bid to tear down out history." Mr Grant responded with another ABC piece on 21 August, Stan Grant: It is a 'damaging myth' that Captain Cook discovered Australia and then a more nuanced piece on 25 August Between catastrophe and survival: The real journey Captain Cook set us on. Meantime, what appears to have been a lone vandal vandalised three statues in Hyde Park over the date of Australia Day, the Cook statue plus one of Macquarie, another of Queen Victoria, actions that Mr Grant strongly condemned.

To some degree at least, the net effect of all this is a rise in temperature without much light. a continuation of what were called the history wars. Different issues are mixed together into stylized positions. For that reason, I want to make a brief comments on a few of the issues as I see them.

The Reconciliation Debate

On 20 June, The Referendum Council handed in in its report on how to best recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian constitution. The report was finalised following a national meeting of Aboriginal peoples at Uluru. You will find a copy of the report here. It includes the Uluru Declaration released after the Uluru national gathering. .

The original proposal to recognise Australia's First Nations in the preamble has been rejected as too tokenistic. Instead, the focus is on a representative Aboriginal body to be recognised in the constitution. Its powers would be decided by legislation, but its existence would be constitutionally protected. In addition, discussions should proceed on a makarrata or treaty.

It has been a slow and complex process gaining a measure of agreement among Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples on the approach to be adopted. It is likely to be just as complex gaining agreement in the broader community both on the proposals and their implementation.

I regard this as the single most important agenda item, although I have no clear idea as to how it might all work out. Current disputes are not helpful to the process of bringing either constitutional recognition or makarrata to a successful conclusion.

Australia Day

The 26 January date, the date at which the First Fleet landed at Port Jackson, has long been a difficult date from the perspective of many Aboriginal people. This is reflected in the use of the phase Invasion Day as an alternative to Australia Day.

I am no great supporter of Australia Day in a general sense, it's become far too nationalistsic for my taste, although like all Australians  I like an excuse for a party. I have previously indicated that I would support a change in date, although I also thought that a change in date might not be in the interest of Aboriginal activists in that it would remove a major platform for expression of Aboriginal views.  

For the present, retention of the existing date appears to be supported by a large majority of Australians. Wikipedia (link above) reports that in 2004, a Newspoll that asked if the date of Australia Day should be moved to one that is not associated with European settlement found 79% of respondents favoured no change, 15% favoured change, and 6% were uncommitted.

The position appears much the same today. A January 2017 poll conducted for The Guardian revealed that only 15% of Australians supported changing the date of Australia Day, with 83% supporting keeping the name "Australia Day". The poll also found that the majority (68%) felt positive about Australia Day, 19% were indifferent and 7% had mixed feelings, with 6% of people feeling negative about Australia Day. Among Indigenous Australians, however, only 23% felt positive about Australia Day, 31% were negative and 30% had mixed feelings, while 54% favoured a change of date.

Outside the Aboriginal community, the pressure for change in the date appears to come especially from elements of local government. While there is little support for date or indeed name change in the broader community, the form of Australia Day celebrations continues to evolve, something that is likely to continue. To a degree, the use of Australia Day as a protest platform, the broader inclusion of and recognition of Indigenous views, has become institutionalized, built into the Day itself. This process is likely to continue.

Meantime, the agitation over Australia day and especially the actions of the inner Melbourne councils of Darebin and  Yarra in deciding to ditch Australia Day is generating a backlash that doesn't aid the broader debate.

The Great Australian Silence

Mr Grant suggested that the great Australian silence still prevailed when it came to Aboriginal history  under the heading We ignore our history, he wrote in part:
America cannot avoid the legacy of racism. We find it all too easy to avoid. 
If America seeks to find what Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature", we vanish into the "Great Australian Silence". 
Anthropologist Bill Stanner coined that phrase in the 1960s to describe what he said was "a cult of forgetting practiced on a national scale". 
We have chosen to ignore our heritage. So much history here remains untold.
Stanner coined the terms the Great Australian Silence in his 1968 Boyer Lectures After the Dreaming, which reflected on the silence on Indigenous Australians in Australian history. What Stanner said was certainly true in 1968, although even then the explosion in Aboriginal Studies had begun. It is not true today.  We are deluged in material.

Leave aside the political reporting and much of the policy discussion which often focuses on problems and has something of a swamping effect. There are a variety of specialist historical journals and research bodies, an ever growing range of thesis and popular histories. I stand to be corrected, but in terms of volume, Aboriginal history probably ranks second after war in terms of aggregate output. The new discoveries in prehistory including DNA results that have (among other things) pushed back the date of Aboriginal occupation of the continent and placed the Aborigines in a new global context are widely reported in the main stream media.

Most streams of cultural life now include specific and widely reported Aboriginal components. If you look at local government web sites or wikipedia sites on specific places you will nearly always find a section on Aboriginal history. And so it goes on.

Not all this material is especially good. I have argued before that the focus on invasion and on black-white relations has tended to twist research and writing on Aboriginal history. This comment has nothing to do with this research as such, nor the importance of the topic. Rather, the overwhelming focus has tended to squeeze out other research, including the history of Aboriginal peoples in the period after the ending of the frontier wars.

To the degree that the Great Australian Silence still holds, it is found especially in the history of the Aboriginal peoples after the frontier moved on and is arguably most pronounced when you move from topics to specific areas and language groups. At least so far as published work is concerned, we know more about the frontier period in Northern NSW, for example, than we do about the subsequent 150 years. It can be hard to find integrated material about particular communities or language groups.

The quantity of material is increasing, but it is still patchy and not readily available to the general reader, Aboriginal as well as non-Aboriginal, .I think that this is partly why Paul Irish's Hidden in Plain View: The Aboriginal people of coastal Sydney made such an impact.

Recognising continuing gaps, if I am correct in my earlier conclusion that we are deluged with material, it is a legitimate question to ask why some of the story is not better known. I ask this in particular because I have been struck by the way that things that I thought had been settled years before, in some cases decades before, are regularly presented as new discoveries.

I think that the reason for this is fairly simple. This is contested space. The contest is not so much about the history itself, but the way this should be interpreted and presented in a current context. In the hubbub, the general audience does absorb particular messages but a lot of people just turn off, while the protagonists represent old material as well as new to support their positions.

The Vexed Question of Monuments and "a new history"

In his first piece, Mr Grant wrote in part:
America is tearing down its old monuments; it is hard and it is painful. 
Captain Cook's statue stands in the centre of our biggest city. There are Indigenous people who for good reason would prefer to see it removed. 
Personally I accept that it remains; Cook is part of the story of this nation. 
But surely we need no longer maintain the fiction that he "discovered" this country. It dishonours the people who reached this continent 60,000 years before Cook. 
This was not an empty land. 
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, defending Australia Day this week, said it is also a day we honour Indigenous Australians. 
If he is serious then what could be more apt than to correct a monument that tells us, still, that in 1770 we did not exist?

Context is important in history. Events including the construction of monuments have to be put in the context of their time. Then there is the modern context, the way the moving present reinterprets the past including monuments.

Captain James Cook died in 1779. The statue was erected in 1879, funded by public subscription to mark 100 years since his death. The inscription on the statue reads "Discovered this Territory 1770" not, as repeated several times by Fran Kelly on ABC Radio National and repeated by Opposition Leader Shorten, "discovered Australia".

As worded, the inscription is factually correct. In 1770 Cook did discover the territory that would become NSW then through separation Victoria and Queensland as well. Overlaying this, is that from the viewpoint of those who funded the statue, Cook's discovery of a new land had laid the base for the establishment of their colony

It is also factually correct that Aboriginal peoples had occupied the land that would become the continent of Australia for at least 60,000 years. Overlaying this, is the more recent narrative of occupation and dispossession. So we have two different world views, one from 1879, one from 2017, held by different groups of peoples.

The question of what you do with names, statues or other symbols when views change is a complicated one, for those who want to replace one view with another often want to expunge the past. The Taliban destroyed monuments, ISIS destroyed ancient monuments including ancient cities on religious grounds. There are many similar examples from Christendom. Roman Emperors removed symbols of their predecessors. As the Soviet Union fell, communist statues were pulled to the ground and destroyed. In Iraq, statues of Saddam Hussein were expunged. In the US, confederate statues are being removed.

We humans are always inconsistent. Tourists flock to ruins and monuments created by or for people or regimes that were, by all accounts, guilty of gross barbarisms. We leer over the remaining symbols of or ruins or relics relating to the Emperor Nero. We celebrate the raids of the Vikings, a blood thirsty lot, with festivals and a stream of new monuments.

I must say that I find all of this very difficult to work though at a professional and personal level. For example, I'm inclined to support the German government's decision to turn Hitler's bunker into a car park to avoid creating a symbol, although as an historian I think that the bunker should have been preserved and also suspect that the decision itself creates a new form of symbol.

I oppose the wholesale removal of confederate monuments in the United States because I actually think its disrespectful to the past. But what do you do, as seems to be the case, about confederate monuments whose historical context is erection during the civil rights struggle in opposition to that struggle. Are they historical artifacts or current symbols of a still current struggle and therefore worthy of removal.?

In all this, there are a few things that I think are important. History is not, as Stan Grant, suggested, a matter of choice. History just is. Historiography, the study of the writing of history and of written histories.or
the writing of history, is. Choice determines, to again use his words, the stories we tell ourselves. Our history is alive in us.

This has led to calls for a new history, one more attuned to the twenty first century. This is really a call for a new historiography, of new interpretations of the past. In this sense, it is a political statement. When artist Ben Quilty stated in an op-ed piece that it's time to acknowledge our colonial terrorism,  he was making a current political statement and value judgment supported by bits of history.

The thing that I cling to in this debate is that the role of the historian is to analyse the evidence and go where that  leads. Of course, the topics selected and indeed sometimes the evidence selected is influenced by the historian's preoccupations and values, but if the work is properly done others can then question, challenge and put forward new interpretations. Sometimes this approach is unpleasant and even dangerous when it challenges preconceptions, but (to my mind at least) it is central to the profession.

This brings me to my final point. I have absolutely no problem in the creation of new monuments or adding explanatory material to explain existing monuments. I do have problems with destroying existing monuments or physically altering them to support particular current views.


Written over several days against a background of shifting discussion, this post attempts to clarify issues that I find quite complicated. They are not easy issues.              

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Confusions over political correctness

This, the first of a series of short follow up posts I foreshadowed in Monday Forum - is modern political discourse just sound and fury signifying nothing?, looks at political correctness. It is a term I have used. Broadly, I know what I mean, but it is a confusing term that adds to the sound and fury that that marks today’s public discourse, a sound and fury that distracts from real discussion. Political correctness or PC has become a symbol of dividing views, one used to lambaste opponents.

This first cartoon shows one side’s view on the debate.

The Wikipedia article on political correctness provides a reasonably good overview of the history the term. Modern political usage is quite new, dating back to the 1990s. But what is political correctness? 

To try to clarify this, I have gathered together a number of definitions:


Wikipedia: the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

Merriam Webster: conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.

Cambridge: Someone who is politically correct believes that language and actions that could be offensive to others, especially those relating to sex and race, should be avoided. A politically correct word or expression is used instead of another one to avoid being offensive:

Collins politically correct in British: demonstrating progressive ideals, especially by avoiding vocabulary that is considered offensive, discriminatory, or judgmental, especially  concerning race and gender

Collins politically correct in American: conforming or adhering to what is regarded as orthodox liberal opinion on matters of sexuality, race, etc.: usually used disparagingly to connote dogmatism, excessive sensitivity to minority causes, etc.

Oxford: The avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

Dictionary.com: marked by or adhering to a typically progressive orthodoxy on issues involving especially ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or ecology:

This cartoon shows a second view of the PC debate.


If you look at these various definitions, you can see what a minefield political correctness is. The first cartoon shows a left perspective, the second one from the right. 

As I said earlier, PC has become a symbol that marks a variety of underlying divides, The term has been especially helpful to the right because they have been able to attach a variety of concerns to it linked to social, cultural and economic change, to shifting power structures in society. The left has responded in turn, with both sides using stereotypes. The result is battle marked by heat, but very little content. 

This is a pity, for there are genuine issues in the debate that need to be explored in their own right. I will look at some of these as part of this series.  

Monday, August 21, 2017

Monday Forum - is modern political discourse just sound and fury signifying nothing?

So many things have been happening! I have had to tear up (can one use that word today in a more paperless word? Perhaps metaphorically) a number of posts because of event swamping. For that reason, today is both a meander and a Monday Forum post. I'm sorry if it's also a little sad. I'm sorry, too, if it's a little confused. But I am weary, bone weary.

In today's post I’m really a conservative…, a title that surprised me, Neil Whitfield suggested that he was a real conservative as compared to some of those masquerading as conservative today. I wouldn't have called Neil a conservative, but perhaps he is. If so, he is a social liberal if also something (as he notes) of a follower of Edmund Burke. I note that while Burke is often claimed to be the founder of modern conservatism, he was also a radical in terms of his time. But Neil is indeed a conservative in the sense that he believes in discussion, is suspicious of ideology and wishes to conserve the good in society, the structure, while preventing tyranny and making improvements that will preserve liberties and freedom of choice.

Over on My Observations, AC has expressed deep reservations about the attempts by the current Polish Law and Justice Government to rewrite Poland in its desired conservative and law and order image, AC is not a revolutionary. Based  on her writing, I think that she is a liberal conservative who wishes to conserve the gains made following the end of communism, the creation of a free society. She objects to a Law and Justice agenda that while masquerading as conservative is deeply nationalist and reactionary and wants to turn Poland back to an age that never really existed. More precisely, it wants to recreate Poland in a way that mirrors its own social dictates. So did Adolf Hitler in Germany.

Here in Australia, we have caught between the ideologues of left and right. The left masquerades as progressive, the right masquerades as conservative, their operatives work for political gain using and misusing issues, tarnishing by assertion and association. Both are manipulated by those whose ultimate objective is political power. Commentary masquerades as reporting to the point people turn off. There is little scope for objective reporting, less for discussion of the issues.

This creates a feeling of despair in someone like me who feels obliged to read the feeds but actually wants to learn.

It is hard to avoid getting sucked in to this malaise. I have watched people whose support for particular issues or cause has progressively twisted their feeds over time into broader partisan positions to the point that they automatically tweet or retweet only those things that might discredit opponents or support an issue or position. I have seen a friend who I greatly like and respect tweet or retweet attacks on particular issues or initiatives that I know he would have agreed with because they are sponsored by someone my friend disagrees with.

Within this bubble effect, self-sustaining worlds are created that bear little resemblance to reality. Here I see little difference between Mr Trump and some of the left status quo, little difference between the Secular Party of Australia, Get-up, Australia's Christian Lobby, One Nation's view on Muslims and some of the environmental lobby. They all deal with absolutes that are (in their minds) absolutely right.

There is little space left in all this for actual discussion of issues, for modification of positions, for compromises or at least a clear delineation of the differences between the sides. I am not saying that one should not be passionate about positions. Change does not happen without the combination of passion and persistence. I am saying that change is easier if you are aware of other positions and are prepared to engage and to counter.

So much of what passes for current discourse is sound and fury signifying nothing. It may in the end tear things down, but it leaves nothing in its place beyond a base for more sounds and fury. I will follow up this post with some examples to show what I mean, to sketch alternative approaches.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Australian same sex marriage - hopefully, we can get the postal vote done

In many ways, I find the debate over gay marriage confused and confusing. Reading the media coverage, the commentary, the twitter feeds from both, sides leaves me feeling that there is a fair bit of cant, bigotry and political hypocrisy in all this, one that mixes together various issues to achieve particular ends. I include Mr Shorten in this charge, as well as the Greens.

As you might expect, I intend to vote yes in this postal ballot. I do so for a mix of practical and ideological reasons. Before outlining them, the Wikipedia piece on the recent history of the same sex marriage debate provides useful background.

In earlier discussion on this blog, commenters suggested that one solution to the same sex marriage question was to remove the state from marriage as such. Marriage would become a ceremonial activity, with the state role limited to practical regulation of associated matters, thus creating a clear distinction between the two.

While I can see force in this argument, I can also see two problems. The first is that the Australian constitution gives the Commonwealth power over marriage, while civil unions fall to the states, creating a risk of differential treatment. The second is the way that marriage as such is recognised internationally. Problems arise if you have two distinct systems in one country in gaining recognition in other countries.

Despite these problems, I can still see real advantages in recognising the differences between what we might think of as the legal and contractual issues associated with marriage and the ceremonial and personal aspects, including any religious aspects. Under this system, the core role of the state would would be the registration of marriages, with all other aspects falling to the personal domain. The role of the marriage celebrant would lie strictly within the personal domain, although it might include assisting the couple to lodge the paper work as an ancillary activity. Registration of marriage celebrants could be abolished, freedom of choice and indeed freedom of religion maximised.

This type of change requires a sensible national conversation that may not be possible within the bounds set by current discussion. However, it does influence my thinking.

As I see it, the present system of marriage is unfair on two grounds. It denies certain couples who wish to enter into a long term binding relationship access to the full civil protections, rights and obligations of marriage, effectively creating a two tier system. It also denies them the right to call themselves and present themselves as married, something that hurts. Both are hard to justify.    

I said that I felt that there was a fair bit of cant, bigotry and political hypocrisy in the debate, one that mixes together various issues to achieve particular ends and that left me confused. I will try to illustrate this.

Consider the question of a plebiscite. Same sex marriage is a genuinely difficult issue for the Coalition, an issue made more difficult because of the way we have mixed together associated  questions about the role of marriage.The decision to opt for a non binding plebiscite by the Abbott Coalition Government in August 2015 reflected differences in the party rooms about how to manage the question. Some may have wanted to kick it down the road, others saw it as providing a justification to vote in a particular way where they or their electorates had real reservations. If the people show support, I can go with this.

This decision was taken to the electorate as policy in the election held on 2 July 2016. In September 2016, Prime Minister Turnbull introduced legislation to provide for a plebiscite to be held on 11 February 2017. This was defeated in the Senate, with the matter to be put aside until after the next election. Agitation continued, creating a split in the Coalition with some members wanting to introduce another marriage equality bill, the twenty second, into Parliament.

On 7 August 2017, the Joint Coalition Party Room decided to resubmit the plebiscite legislation and then,. if that was defeated, to go for voluntary postal survey via Australia Post postal mail run by the Australian Bureau of of Statistics. Ballots would be mailed out to Australian voters from 12 September and would be required to be mailed back by 7 November, with a result expected no later than 15 November 2017. If the postal vote returned a majority 'yes' verdict, the government would facilitate a private member's bill in the final sitting fortnight of the parliamentary year which would legalise same-sex marriage  This approach is now being challenged in the High Court.    

Those who  opposed the plebiscite did so using a variety of stated reasons: Parliament should decide; a plebiscite is a waste of money;  a plebiscite will inflame divisions. There was a fear that a plebiscite might deliver a no vote, whereas a free vote in Parliament would now deliver a yes because of shifts in views in recent years.

There were genuine beliefs and arguments in all this, but I am left with the very uncomfortable feeling that the combination of purism with a desire to wedge the Government for political reasons were dominant. Had the plebiscite legislation been passed, we would had a popular vote in February. Now we have what many think of as a second class vote that will give us a result in November. If the postal vote is defeated in the High Court as seems quite possible, then either the matter will be deferred till after the next election or, and this is the hope of advocates, the Coalition will split, forcing the introduction of a private members bill. This would probably pass, but may not.

One stated aim of those who opposed the plebiscite on the grounds that we needed to avoid a hurtful and divisive debate has, I think, achieved the opposite effect  If the postal vote is defeated in the High Court as I fear it may be, then the matter may drag on for several years.

One of the real problems in all this, apart from the hurt caused to particular individuals, lies in the way it allows time for the issue to become increasingly divisive, not just in terms of same sex marriage but the broader social divides of which this issue is a part. I just hope that we can get through the postal vote, win and move on.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Why Barnaby Joyce may not be a dual citizen under Australian law

The tag on this tweet from @MrJoshEarl on Twitter reads "Oh Barnaby Joyce, if only there were signs."

The Joyce case has had some unexpected effects. Constitutional export Anne Twomey has told @ABCNews that in looking at the Barnaby Joyce case, she discovered that she was a New Zealand citizen.

I looked at the evolving problem on 18 July in Senators Ludlum, Waters and the emerging Section 44(i) mess. There I said in part:
The Constitution was passed as an Act of the British Parliament in 1900. This was a very different world, one of Empire and emerging Commonwealth. As you can see from the Wikipedia article on Australian nationality law, concepts of citizenship have evolved, as has the definition of a foreign power. In 1900, it would have been seen as inconceivable that Canada or New Zealand could or would be classified as foreign powers for the purpose of Section 44(i) as compared to, say, the United States or Germany. When Canberra founder King O'Malley, for example, wanted to run for Parliament, he appears to have changed his birthplace from the US to Canada so that he was not precluded by Section 44(i). 
The problem now can be simply put: something like 28% of the Australian population was born overseas, while almost 50% of the Australian population has one parent born overseas. Perhaps as many as 4.5 million Australians are or may be eligible for dual citizenship depending on the laws in the other country and hence not be eligible to stand for the Australian Parliament on a strict interpretation of the wording of Section 44(i).
Consider my own case as someone who has run for preselection for Federal Parliament. At the time I ran, I was eligible to apply for both British and New Zealand passports, to become a citizen of those countries. Indeed, my family later pushed me to apply for a British passport while I still could because of then EU access. Was I therefore ineligible to stand for Parliament?
At the time I ran, the questions now swirling around S44 had yet to emerge. Nobody would have challenged my right to run just because I might have been able to apply for a UK or New Zealand passport. Track forward. Had I run and stayed in Parliament, then changing interpretations would likely have invalidated my membership.

Barnaby Joyce's father came to Australia in 1947 as a vet science student..My father came in 1938 as a university lecturer..In Australia, Barnaby's father met his Australian wife to be while studying, my father met his wife to be because she was in charge of the library at the New England University College. Both married and stayed. Barnaby was born in Australia in 1967. I was also born in Australia, if somewhat earlier.

On the surface, the advice from New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English that Barnaby Joyce was a New Zealand citizen for the purposes of New Zealand law citizen means that I am too. Mind you, in my case I do not necessarily object. I am very fond of New Zealand and quite like the idea of being citizen of both countries. I also thought that If I am a New Zealand citizen, then my daughters may be able to acquire citizenship too. That might create problems if they were to run for the Australian Parliament, but (as eldest said) they could always renounce an New Zealand rights should they wish to do that.

Interest aroused, I did a bit of checking to try to determine what my rights were. This proved more complicated than I expected because of changes in New Zealand law over time. As best I can work out, the position is this:
  • I am entitled to New Zealand citizenship and a passport by right of descent. 
  • To obtain registration as a citizen, I must fill out a form and provide supporting documentation to prove that I am eligible for registration. Once that eligibility is proved, then registration is automatic
  • If I register as an NZ citizen, it does not give my daughters automatic rights as an NZ citizen. They have to go through other hoops, including five years' residency.Damn!
In these cases, it is always important to look at the facts, especially when dealing with hyper-ventilating Canberra. I do not pretend to be either a lawyer or an expert on New Zealand law. My Joyce appears clearly entitled to register as a New Zealand citizen and obtain a New Zealand passport, but does that make him a New Zealand citizen as Mr English claims?  I would have thought not, at least so far as Australian law is concerned. To be a registered New Zealand citizen, he must both apply and prove that he is entitled to be so classified. He has not done that. Until he does so, his New Zealand citizenship is purely notional.

If the High Court were to accept this position, they would still have to deal with the entitlement part of clause 44(i).

Its all become a bit of a nonsense. For my part, I plan to follow up with both the UK and New Zealand authorities to determine what my position is. It's interesting. I haven't looked at the demography, but at a rough guess at least 500,000 Australians may be eligible to apply for New Zealand passports.Perhaps we should.


Graeme Orr had a useful piece on The Conversation on the whole Section 44 matter, To the High Court we go: six MPs under clouds in decisions that could undermine the government.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Women, babies and political power

The sudden election of Jacinda Ardern as leader of the New Zealand Labour Party in place of  Andrew Little just weeks before the next general election on 23 September 2017 caused some surprise. Labour had been lagging in the polls, but the move still seems to have been unexpected.

Under the New Zealand MMP (mixed-member proportional) electoral system, it is difficult for either major party to gain a majority, making coalition governments the norm. On the current opinion poll figures, either a National/NewZealand First or a Labour/New Zealand First/Green combination are technically possible. However, the higher the vote of the two major parties, the easier it is to form a coalition, giving the National Party a real advantage. Labour hopes that Ms Arden's appointment will give it a poll boost, narrowing the gap with the Nationals. I don't think that there has been a poll since Ms Ardern's appointment, but it appears to have given Labour a boost.

New Zealand politics is generally not well covered in Australia. However, in this case, the question of a possible future pregnancy for the 37 year old Ms Arden did generate coverage on this side of the ditch.

The issue arose when the host of The Project in New Zealand, Jesse Mulligan, asked Ms Ardern, who does not have children, whether she had to decide between having a career and becoming a parent. As reported by the ABC:
"Let me put it this way. A lot of women in New Zealand feel like they have to make a choice between having babies and having a career, or continuing their career at a certain point in their lives — late 30s." 
"Thank you for reminding the New Zealand public of my age," Ms Ardern interjected, to laughter. 
Mulligan continued: "Is that a decision that you feel you have to make, or that you feel that you've already made?"
The question generated a storm, one that I thought Ms Ardern has handled very well.

She said that she expected to be asked the question because she had previously discussed the issue in the context of choices and challenges for women,  including (I think) her own desire to have a child. As I interpret her response,  she and her partner Clarke Gayford would essentially take things as they come.

At the same time, while she was prepared to respond on an issue she had previously raised, she rounded on a radio show panellist Mark Richardson who is reported as saying that employers "need to know that type of thing from the women you are employing...The question is, is it OK for a PM to take maternity leave while in office?" .Ms Ardern said that while she had been prepared to respond,  for other women it was totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace.

Mr Richardson reportedly then dug himself into a bigger hole: saying a potential employer had a right to know if they would have to let a staff member take "a year of leave.....I'm not saying don't employ that person". "Why would you ask if it wasn't going to prejudice your decision?", Ms Ardern responded.

Mr Richardson is a former cricketer turned TV presenter  who clearly holds some antediluvian views. Among other things, I think that it would be illegal in New Zealand as well as Australia for an employer to actually ask that question. Stuff NZ reports on some of the responses to his remarks.

My mind went in a slightly different direction. I am not aware of cases, and this may just be lack of knowledge on my part, of elected female heads of state having babies while in office. However, there is one respected female profession where women have had babies while exercising considerable official political influence and indeed direct power and that is the role of Queen or Empress.

Queen Elizabeth the Second was queen when Prince Andrew was born.in 1960. Queen Victoria had nine children while Queen. Empress Maria Theresa had no less than sixteen children while reforming the Hapsburg Empire, while Catherine the Great of Russia  managed to fit in multiple lovers and at least one illegitimate child while acting as authoritarian ruler.

I could give other examples. However, my simple and not especially profound point is that pregnancy of itself does not preclude a woman successfully occupying a top political position. Surely we can fit in at least one elected leader?            .

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Boredom with the Australian republic

I remain bogged down in other writing. My main post yesterday, The lessons and questions from Madjedbebe, was back on Australian prehistory. I hope to do better here in the future, but am not promising!

Mr Shorten has again raised the question of an Australian republic. We are to be asked:
"One question — do you support an Australian republic with an Australian head of state? 'Yes' or 'No'?" he said. 
How things change. When Prime Minister Keating launched his campaign for a republic I was very upset because it was part of what of what I saw as an ideological attack on a whole range of things. When Prime Minister Howard held the 1999 republic constitutional referendum I was engaged on the constitutional monarchy side. Now I am just bored.

At this point, I do not know what Mr Shorten's question means. A constitutional lawyer may need to advise. If we vote yes, I presume that the next question will be a vote on choices of different republican forms. Again, I'm not sure what that means. I'm assuming that if we vote yes on one, we are bound by the majority on two regardless of the absolute number that want that particular option. So we could end up with almost anything.

I haven't done a poll among my friends. Based on what I know, a majority would be pro-republic in an abstract sense, but none would seem to regard it as a key issue measured by their conversation. Those who are strongly republican seem to come from a relatively narrow slice, essentially particular age groups with Roman Catholic, Irish, Labor ancestry.  I am not sure about under thirty voters, nor about those from many ethnic backgrounds. I just don't know wide enough groups to be representative.

Mr Shorten may well win the next election. Until he does and then introduces the question, I see little point in getting engaged. As I said, I am bored with the issue. There are more important things to worry about.