Uncertain future

The voters of Mayo could be forgiven for feeling frustrated at the idea of heading back to the polls less than two years after the last Federal election.
But compounding that frustration is the uncertainty of exactly when they will be called on to vote.
Like the swift and comparatively less painful removal of a bandaid, by-elections triggered by Canberra’s citizenship saga in Bennelong and New England last year and in the seat of Batman in March happened quickly.
Democracy was restored.
Not so for Mayo and the four other Federal seats left vacant by a combination of resignations over citizenship issues and personal reasons.
Instead, almost half a million electors in those five seats appear to be at the mercy of the Federal Speaker Tony Smith and a much longer, drawn-out process.
Mr Smith told Parliament on Monday that he is waiting for new regulations for the candidate nomination process to be drawn up by the Turnbull Government to manage citizenship obligations under section 44 of the Constitution.
Under the changes, which the Government wants implemented ahead for the latest round of by-elections, candidates would be forced to lodge documents that show they are not dual citizens.
This delay is likely to push the date for the by-elections out to the end of June, or even into July.
That leaves all five electorates without a voice in Parliament at a critical time of debates on substantial matters from the budget to the banning of live sheep exports.
According to the Speaker, the new system would “improve public trust and confidence” in the wake of the citizenship debacle that has steadily rolled on for close to a year now.
Given that MPs have always been required to ensure they meet section 44, yet still have spectacularly failed to do so, it is a somewhat forlorn hope that a regulation to fill in a new set of forms will improve public perceptions on the matter.
One would have thought that, given the huge amount of media coverage and dissection of the rules by the High Court over the past 10 months, aspiring pollies should by now have a sound understanding of their need to renounce any foreign citizenship well before nominating.

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