It’s come to this

To say I’m depressed about the current state of Australian politics would be an understatement. But of all the things that depress me, the possibility of a section 44 case against Josh Frydenberg is the most gratuitously awful. If someone had said, ten years ago, that the Australian-born son of a Jewish refugee was ineligible to stand for Parliament because he had failed to secure necessary documents from the neo-fascist government that currently rules Hungary, they would have been laughed at, and rightly so.

Yet, that appears to be the state of the law, as rendered by our appalling High Court. I don’t know what I find worst about this. Is it:

  • The gratuitous silliness of the specific rulings in s44 cases ?
  • The absurdity of legal literalism, particularly in the context of constitutional law, where unintended implications can only be fixed by referendum ?
  • The possibility that the Court will add hypocrisy to stupidity by finding some way of rejecting the case against Frydenberg, thereby showing that there was no need for any of the previous rulings?
  • The fact that the case is being brought by a defeated Labor candidate, cheered on by lots of Twitter users, most of whom are apparently on the left?

The only consolation is that, as in all previous cases of MHRs (but not Senators) found ineligible, Frydenberg will be able to fix things up (wasting time and effort that might better be spent running the country) and win the unnecessary by-election created by our finest legal minds.

66 thoughts on “It’s come to this

  1. “The fact that the case is being brought by a defeated Labor candidate, cheered on by lots of people on the left”

    The case is not being brought by the defeated candidate. According to the Australian, before the paywall hits, “Former candidates who contested Josh Frydenberg’s seat of Kooyong are reluctant to challenge his eligibility to sit in federal parliament …”

    The case is being brought by a maverick Labor party member, who may actually be a former member because the Labor Party says they expelled him, though he reckons they didn’t. He has published a novel called The Holocaust Denier, which is summarised on Amazon thus:

    Under the influence of a charismatic ethno-socialist named Kubizek, Constable Ward Price who is a member of the police force begins to question the nature and extent of the Jewish Holocaust. He trawls through the ashes of the Third Reich in search of truth. Unable to discriminate between places of light and dark, he finds himself locked into a world of use-by dates. In this novel, there are no heroes, whether survivors, perpetrators, believers or deniers!

    Unsurprisingly, *everyone* is running as far and fast from this challenge as far and fast as they can. Who on the left is cheering it on, other than a few nobodies on Twitter?

  2. What a strange opinion you have expressed John.

    Why bring up the fact that his father was ‘Jewish refugee’? How is this relevant?

    Many of us have been in similar situations, many have had to get documents from those who previously massacred out families and forced us to flee. Josh’s father would have done something similar.

    Josh is in a better position to do this than anyone (skip a few meals, donate the saved money to a charity; make a few phonecalls; and have the satisfaction of having followed the law, just like everyone else).

  3. Smith9, thanks for the correction on the complainant. On your second point, those cheering may be nobodies, but there are a lot of them.

    Anonymous, such is my depression on this that it took me two reads to realise you were being ironic (at least I hope you were)

  4. Anon, I think it’s likely that a refugee will have less loyalty to the country they left than someone who left voluntarily, and their descendants less interest in any citizenship they may have incidentally acquired from it. I think it’s clear that John doesn’t think Frydenberg’s heritage is a necessary condition for a s44 case to be ridiculous.

  5. No John,
    I was not being ironic. I experienced war and came to this country as a refugee. To me this is reality. Someone like you John, can indeed read it as irony.

  6. In my case there’s a small amount of schadenfreude, because while Frydenberg is one of the less awful far right lunatics in parliament, he is nonetheless a far right lunatic. He has at best stood by while awful things were done to people, including refugees, by his fellow travellers and in his name. So seeing him at risk of a good solid dose of law’n’order seems appropriate.
    There’s also the faint possibility that his case will be the one that prompts the hard-heads in his own party to change their minds on this issue. I’m including the possibility that their private position is “we cannot win this fight so it’s best to deny we want to fight”. But at some point they surely have to realise that not fighting is the most stupid possible position because it rules out the possibility of improvement.
    I also cannot understand how any Jew (who is recognised as such by the state of Israel) can survive an S44 challenge, nor how Tony Abbott could either given his public claim that the laws of Rome override those of Australia (in his Pell decision and justification of it). But the legal system remains a mystery to me in a whole variety of way, this not foremost amongst them.

  7. My comment appears to have vanished, no error message or anything. In short:

    Frydenberg at best stood by while awful things were done to refugees by the government he is part of. This is nothing compared to that.

    If we are lucky this will tip the nihilists in his party over into fighting for a constitutional change even if they think they can’t win, simply because the alternative is so awful.

    How Aboott wasn’t subject to a S44 challenge for saying “the laws of Rome override the laws of Australia” in the Pell case eludes me. Diito any Jew given Israel’s ridiculous behaviour around the law of return.

  8. I know what I find worst about this: that s44 hasn’t been changed by referendum. It should have been an afternoon’s work for the leader of any party to knock on the door of his (!) counterparts and say “shall we knock this over at the next election?” and in doing so established the parliamentary consensus required to get rid of s44.

    This failure highlights the near-term impossibility of any meaningful political reform in Australia.

  9. Anonymous: I have a standing rule not to believe biographical claims from anonymous/pseudonymous posters who don’t comply with the rules requiring an email address. Nothing more from you unless you obey the rules, as you encourage others to do.

  10. The Oz is reporting it as thus;

    “A lawyer who has written a book called The Holocaust Denier is threatening to challenge Josh Frydenberg’s election in the High Court, claiming he is a Hungarian citizen by descent.

    Trevor Poulton — also a Labor Party member — said he was working with the Kooyong Independents Group, which is asso­ciated with former Kooyong candidate Oliver Yates, to test the Treasurer’s citizenship status and eligibility to sit in parliament under section 44 of the ­Constitution.”

    Through a host of small fibs it now comes down to “ALP are Jew haters” and the ghosts of the past are being are being used fight the battles of the day.

    There seems to be no end to this racism stuff.

  11. On gratuitous racism etc, it seems that Trump and his crowd of deplorables are able to walk around the law ie Civil Rights Act.

    When is the GOP going to pull this person into line – does he own them all?

  12. “But how to do such, when referendums have proven to be notoriously difficult to gain approval.”

    The LNP, Labor, the Greens and even ONP have suffered under the s44 interpretation so I’d imagine you’d get strong support for a referendum and positive campaigning for it. That should raise the chances of getting it through.

  13. It’s a ridiculous challenge, I agree, just like all the other ones were. What I don’t get is how the right now routinely uses allegations of anti-semitism as a sort of defence shield against any criticism. Why is a Jew any more special than a Catholic, a Moslem or a Klingon who falls foul of Section 44? This weaponisation of anti-semitism by Zionists and the far right to shut people up is beyond the pale. I guess we can expect if he was a Palestinian expat, The Australian and the rest of the Murdoch filth would be queuing up to throw him out of the country. The double standards and mealy-mouthed fake outrage is beyond the pale.

  14. The ideal solution is for a referendum that changes s44 to something more appropriate for the current times. This won’t happen. Instead, s44 is like a wounded bull, goring whomsoever gets in front of it.

    Even so, it is virtually impossible to sympathise or empathise with one of the crew (i.e. the LNP) who use live human beings in indefinite offshore detention as deterrence. It is simply wrong to do that. Furthermore, the homelessness that has become normalised, all in the space of a few years, is terrible. The party in power, they have to accept some responsibility for the current dire situation. Talk of 5.2% unemployment is hollow, when there are people who can’t even put a tent over their heads.

    Crickets chirrup.

  15. Changing s44 to something ‘more appropriate to current times’ is akin to kicking it down the road – s44 has a limited time before it again, becomes inappropriate.

    As s44 is only applicable to federal MPs it’s utility, if it has one, is unclear.

  16. What I don’t get is how the right now routinely uses allegations of anti-semitism as a sort of defence shield against any criticism.

    It doesn’t. That’s not what happens. That story is a fabrication.

    This weaponisation of anti-semitism by Zionists and the far right to shut people up is beyond the pale.

    Again, that’s not what happens. Nobody has been shut up by a weaponised anti-Semitism, whatever that might mean.

    I’m interested in discussion of statements people have actually made, whether they were true, whether (even if true) there was a good reason for making those statements in the particular contexts, what the effects were of those statements being made. Fabrications don’t facilitate that kind of discussion, they obstruct it.

  17. J-D,

    Look at the case of the attacks on John Mearsheimer as an anti-semite because he dared criticize Israeli policy and the Israeli lobby in US politics. It’s quite ironic of course because his heritage is Jewish.

    To say categorically “Nobody has been shut up by a weaponised anti-Semitism” (actually the term in context should be weaponised anti anti-Semitism) is palpably not true. There are cases where Israeli, Jewish and Zionist activists overstep the mark and oppress people. Perhaps you overlook how they oppress the Palestinians.

  18. To say categorically “Nobody has been shut up by a weaponised anti-Semitism” (actually the term in context should be weaponised anti anti-Semitism) is palpably not true.

    On the contrary, it’s obviously true: people who make generalised allegations of this kind are unable to produce empirical evidence to support them in the form of specific cases where what they describe has actually happened. When you try to come up with a specific example, you offer John Mearsheimer: but that’s not a valid example, because nobody has shut John Mearsheimer up. It’s true that people have criticised John Mearsheimer, but that’s not the same thing.

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