Newcastle Herald Letters to the Editor: Thursday, November 9, 2017

History repeats: Liberal MP Jackie Kelly won a 1996 by-election for the Western Sydney seat of Lindsay, after a High Court ruling over her citizenship.
History repeats: Liberal MP Jackie Kelly won a 1996 by-election for the Western Sydney seat of Lindsay, after a High Court ruling over her citizenship.

IT was another extraordinary period in national politics last week. At the time of writing, six politicians have been knocked off their perches and a number more are under a citizenship cloud. The decision of senior members of the government to keep secret the Senate President’s dual citizenship poured fuel on the political bonfire.

None of this had to be. Politicians have been made acutely aware of S.44 of the Constitution over the course of the last three decades thanks to a number of High Court rulings. The most recent, prior to the current debacle, was a 1996 challenge against newly elected MP Jackie Kelly.

Since 1996, the Labor Party has had a rigorous process to ensure its candidates don't hold dual citizenship. Whether that process is robust enough we can't be certain but so far, so good. In any case, the responsibility to ensure he or she complies with S.44 of the Constitution rests with the candidate. If either of your parents or grandparents are citizens of another country you remove any doubt that you may also have a right to citizenship in another country by writing to that country to surrender that right. So easy!

So think about that the next time someone tells you the whole citizenship controversy is silly and that you should have sympathy for the person caught out. 

Think about this too. The people who wrote our Constitution decided that if you want to sit in the House of Representatives or the Australian Senate you must have allegiance to Australia only.

While there are some parts of our Constitution that seem a bit dated, I don't believe the ban on dual citizenship is one of them. 

I have zero sympathy for any politician caught up by S.44. I do though have sympathy for the taxpayers who are funding the legal defence of those caught up in expensive by-elections. 

The government has effectively stopped governing. Its every day is consumed by crises, one after another. It has to end, one way or another!

Joel Fitzgibbon, Federal Member for Hunter, Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Rural and Regional Australia

Too resistant to change

THE citizenship fiasco has become farcical and the culprit is not the government, it is the Constitution.

This antiquated document, as interpreted by the High Court of Australia, won’t permit a citizen of this country to sit in our parliament if they also have citizenship rights in another country. 

Let’s not forget that close to half our population was either born overseas or has at least one parent who was born overseas.

Add to this the fact that the foreign citizenship may be granted by the foreign government without the knowledge or acquiescence of the individual concerned.  

Add, further, that prior to 1949, when the Constitution on which this ruling relies had been in existence for 48 years, there was no such thing as Australian citizenship.

Add, finally, the fact that two previous parliamentary reports have called for changes to Section 44 lest it wreak havoc on the democratic fabric of our nation. 

Parliament chose not to act.

The real problem remains our national reluctance to change the Constitution by referendum.

John Buckley, Floraville 

Forgotten transport plan

THE discovery of remnants of the Burwood line (‘Here’s one we prepared earlier’, Newcastle Herald, 4/10) during the digging up of Hunter Street for light rail and revelation of the number of lost railways around Newcastle, which was reported recently, may have generated interest in these long lost railways. I wonder how many are aware of the Tewksbury plan, which was put forward for the Burwood line to become part of Newcastle’s suburban network.

The Tewksbury plan was an interesting but flawed idea, which came about as a result of problems of congestion in the city. In 1925 the Newcastle council invited the state’s Town Planning Association to look at the city and suggest improvements. They found the city was over-crowded, badly laid out, unhealthy and inefficient. As may be imagined, the council was dismayed and much discussion followed.

The Newcastle Betterment Board was formed and it called for suggestions for an ideal town plan for Newcastle. A young local engineer A.G.C. Tewksbury put forward a plan that involved moving the railway station back to Bank Corner and a new station built at Darby Street on the Burwood line. The plan also called for the Burwood line to be extended and connected to the Belmont line. Extensions to the tramway network were also proposed. The railway land east of the Bank Corner was to be vacated and given over to development.

Businesses in the east opposed the plan as they feared a loss of business to those in the west end while the commissioner for railways, James Fraser, said the plan would push Newcastle station out into the suburbs. Business groups in the suburbs supported the plan. In any case it went nowhere. 

The plan to incorporate the Burwood line into the suburban rail network had considerable merit given the development that was taking place in the suburbs at the time. However, the biggest flaw was terminating the line at the edge of the CBD near King Street.

Had the line followed the existing railway into the city, access from the south of the city would have been faster and more efficient.

Not that any of this makes much difference now. Just about all trace of the Burwood line has gone and any opportunity to make it part of the suburban network that could have improved access to the city from the south has gone with it.      

Reference: Our Region Our Railway by Robert McKillop and David Sheedy Newcastle, The Making of an Australian City by J.C. Docherty.

Peter Sansom, Kahibah

Refreshing insight

I HAVE been meaning to write for some time that the story by Lily Ray (‘Power of Love’, Herald, 17/6) was refreshing and most interesting.

Providing an insight to the differences both with living in different countries and the differing government complexities.

That Australia is costly in these matters and has much to learn. And the practical aspects as well.

The follow-on article in October was enjoyable to read.

Well done to Lily and I wish them well. Interesting writing to keep me glued to reading.

Haydn Monroe, Kilaben Bay