Timing of High Court’s citizenship decision shows it couldn’t give a rats about the politics
Just days after the federal budget, and it has all but been lost in the malaise of another development in the dual citizenship fiasco.
So was it delicious or malicious timing from the High Court to screw over the Government’s post-budget sales pitch?
Its judgment in the Katy Gallagher case was delivered just hours after Scott Morrison handed down the Coalition’s economic manifesto.
To be honest, the High Court didn’t give a rats. It has done whatever it’s wanted the whole way through this sorry saga.
Throughout the citizenship fiasco, the court has shown little interest in accepting the fallibility of the nation’s politicians or giving them any leeway whatsoever.
In the first “Citizenship Seven” cases, the justices of the highest legal authority in the land said ignorance wasn’t a defence — just because you don’t know or can’t be bothered to take the time to check your family history, doesn’t mean you get a free pass to sit in the chambers on Capital Hill.
Then the decision on who should replace former deputy Nationals leader Fiona Nash took a harsh turn.
Liberal candidate Hollie Hughes was ruled out of contention because she lacked the Nostradamus-like abilities to see that the citizenship fiasco would race through the corridors of Parliament House faster than canapes and free booze disappear at a lobbyist’s event.
The court ruled she disqualified herself by taking up a government-funded gig in the months after the election.
Now the Gallagher judgment has resulted in another pollie booted, and four more falling on their swords.
The High Court has taken a consistent hardline approach to the law and the timing of its decisions, so this week’s developments can’t be seen as surprising or new.
Political legal lecturing of the Press Gallery comes unstuck
When handing down its decision in the original seven citizenship cases in October, the High Court said the “reasonable steps” defence should only apply in cases where a country made it impossible to renounce.
It’s right there at paragraph 72 of the ruling.
The most common example is that of former senator Sam Dastyari, who couldn’t relinquish his Iranian citizenship because Iranian law wouldn’t allow it.
Hours after Katy Gallagher was shown the door, Bill Shorten defended the other Labor MPs under a constitutional cloud for awaiting a decision before resigning.
He said it set a new test.
It’s not new. The High Court even said so in its judgment, stating Ms Gallagher gave them no reason to depart from their earlier ruling.
In December last year, Mr Shorten and his shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus rubbished questions from journalists about this very issue, quipping about the legal credentials of the fourth estate, and saying they didn’t know what they were talking about.
The Opposition avoided answering, and still claim they had nothing to do with Ms Gallagher’s predicament.
It is true that the original citizenship cases dealt more with failing to renounce citizenship, rather than delays in processing renunciation. But they’re being tricky.
No party has come out clean in this mess.
Fifteen political scalps have been claimed in the dual citizenship fiasco from across the political spectrum.
Mr Shorten continually delighted in saying none of his party members would be stuck in the citizenship swamp.
That went well, didn’t it?
Malcolm Turnbull bellowed in Question Time the High Court would find in favour of his Cabinet members. Then Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash were told to pack their bags.
Another political misfire.
All the while, the justices of the High Court did their own thing. And rightly so.