Crisis deepens

Canberra’s citizenship crisis has caught up with the Hills electorate of Mayo over the past week, with the region now facing the possibility of a by-election early next year.
Rebekha Sharkie is one of the latest MPs to be caught up in the saga, which has already seen eight MPs resign and two by-elections announced since June.
After weeks of uncertainty and debate around how to resolve the escalating issue, the Government and Opposition have finally agreed on a way forward, bringing the fiasco to a head by forcing all MPs to provide evidence of their citizenship and any past or present allegiances to other countries by December 1.
With more than a dozen Federal MPs still caught up in the crisis, the new process will give Australians security about the nation’s future, while potentially rebuilding some of the faith that has been lost in our leaders over the past five months.
However, the Parliament’s new process is by no means perfect.
With the power to refer MPs to the High Court falling solely into the hands of their Parliamentary peers, the public would be forgiven for asking whether these MPs can be trusted to consider each case objectively and without bias.
Perhaps the nation would be better served if the Parliament referred MPs to the High Court based on the recommendation of an independent panel of constitutional experts.
The entire process is also not without significant cost to the taxpayer – costs which could have been avoided if our politicians had done their due diligence in the lead up to the election, avoiding the need to involve the High Court at all.
The fact that Ms Sharkie lodged her citizenship renunciation papers prior to the election being called last year makes her situation more pitiable than others caught up in the scandal.
But it does not change the fact that had she, and others in her situation, submitted their paperwork soon after their pre-selection, their eligibility could not have been called into question in the first place.
The entire sorry saga has undoubtedly caused significant angst for the MPs caught up in the crisis, many of whom face losing their jobs.
But the real losers are the taxpayers, who elected their representatives in good faith and will now be left picking up the cost of an unknown number of court cases and at least two by-elections.

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