Editorial: Citizenship not just defined by constitution

BARNABY Joyce has never been shy to buck the trends. 

And he’s proved that yet again by employing a Tamworth law firm to represent him when his dual citizenship case heads to the High Court.

While most of the other politicians embroiled in the controversy surrounding section 44 of the constitution have engaged big-city firms, Mr Joyce decided to keep it local, employing Everingham Solomons.

It’s a huge feather in the cap of local legal eagles Mark Grady and Clint Coles, who probably never had dreamed of stepping foot in the High Court – let alone representing the country’s Deputy Prime Minister. 

Mr Joyce’s dual citizenship saga has been lengthy and divisive. In August, the New England MP referred himself to the High Court after it was revealed he inherited dual citizenship through his father, who was born in New Zealand.

He has since been at the centre of heated public debate. His face was splashed across the front page of nearly every Australian paper when the news broke.

There were very public and relentless calls for him to step down.

Others empathised with the oversight.

A week after it broke, he thanked his electorate for the “overwhelming support”.

“I have always been an Australian citizen,” Mr Joyce said at the time. “I was born in Tamworth in 1967 to an Australian mother, just as my grandmother was one hundred years earlier. My father came to Australia in 1947.

“Back then, the concept of New Zealand citizenship didn’t exist. He migrated to Australia not as a New Zealander, but as a British subject.

“It’s an incredible honour to represent the people of New England. I went to primary school in Tamworth and went on to study at the University of New England in Armidale.”

Love him or loathe him, Mr Joyce is just about as New England as they come. And irrespective of what the High Court rules, Mr Joyce’s passion for his electorate is evident in him choosing a local firm to represent him – unlike his political counterparts.

His lawyers will be asking the court to take a more liberal approach to what being a citizen means. Should it be defined by the constitution, or is it time we set a precedent to apply our own interpretation of whether they have acted in a way that makes them seem to be a citizen of a foreign country?

If the latter’s the case, he’s got some solid legs to stand on.