Saturday, August 19, 2017

Bob Menzies was a British citizen

While he was Prime Minister of Australia, Robert Menzies did not have Australian citizenship. His nationality was officially British.
He retained his British citizenship all his life.
In fact every Prime Minister and MP up until the Hawke Government in 1984 were British citizens.
Why was this not a problem under Section 44 of the Constitution? I guess that’s a question for the High Court.
The fact is the term “citizen” of Australia was just an administrative concept to distinguish between those who lived here and those who were just visiting.
Up until World War II – when Prime Minister John Curtin shunned Britain and  legislated Australia’s independence – Australia was a British colony and its citizens were all officially British nationals.
So when Section 44 of the Constitution refers to a “foreign power” it was referring to nationalities other than British.
So why is it a problem that National Party Deputy Leader Fiona Nash or Senator Nick Xenophon are entitled to British Citizenship?  I guess that’s a question for the High Court.
Australian nationality was not formally introduced until 1969 when the Government of John Gorton passed an amendment to the Nationality and Citizenship Act (1948).
But even after that, Australians continued to be British subjects until the Hawke Government repealed British citizenship for Australians as part of the Australian Citizenship Amendment Act 1984.
So does that mean Bob Hawke or John Curtin are responsible for all the problems of dual citizen MPs we are facing right now?
I guess that’s a question for the High Court. 
John Curtin and US General Douglas MacArthur meet at Parliament House on 26 March 1942. Picture Courtesy the National Archives. 

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