Parliamentary representation for Aussie Expats?

The Italian election last weekend has produced a cliff-hanger result which appears to have signalled the end of the reign of Silvio Berlusconi – at least for now. While that seems like a good thing to me, the aspect of the election I have been much more interested in has been the innovation of Italian citizens living abroad being able to vote for their own expatriate or ‘diaspora’ representatives. 12 deputies (lower house MPs) and 6 senators, all living outside of Italy, will represent four constituencies (Europe, North & Central America, Latin America, and Africa/Asia/Oceania).

There have been a few suggestions made in recent years about Australia considering a similar type of thing. I can see the benefits of such an approach, although I am yet to be convinced and I think it is a bit soon for the (locally based) Australian public to accept. None the less, I think it is worth more public debate.

Andrew Leigh from ANU suggested something similar in a paper he wrote in 2004. His variation, which I think is better, was to have Australian expatriates register separately and be able vote for a specific expat Senate representative, but not have any vote for a House of Representatives member (on the basis that that “overseas electors who, for the most part, do not pay Australian taxes, (should be) denied the right to influence the formation of the federal government.)”

The current situation for Australian citizens residing offshore is that they are entitled to vote in elections for up to six years after leaving Australia, and must reapply every year thereafter for permission to remain on the electoral roll. Overseas electors continue to be enrolled and vote in the electorate in which they lived prior to their departure. Voting for overseas based Australians is voluntary, although failure to vote may result in a cancellation of enrolment.

There was a Senate Committee inquiry into the Australian diaspora which reported in March 2005, which hasn’t got as much attention as I believe it deserves. As is customary for the current government, they haven’t yet bothered to reply to the report or its 16 recommendations. In amongst many other things, the inquiry considered the issue of voting rights for Australian citizens living overseas. Their views on this are covered in this chapter, from paragraph 5.78 onwards. However, they didn’t cover the issue of specific representation for expat Australians. In short they recommended that:
• Australian citizens moving or living overseas should be entitled to register as an ‘Eligible Overseas Elector’ if they left Australia in the previous three years, or have returned to Australia (for any length of time) in the past three years; and they intend to resume residence in Australia within six years of their departure; and
• Australian citizens who have been living overseas for over six years should be entitled to renew their enrolment as an Eligible Overseas Elector if they have returned to Australia (for any length of time) within the last three years.

The recent report of the Electoral Matters Committee into our electoral system doesn’t seem to have considered the issue at all.

As I said above, the idea of specific expat representation in our national Parliament needs more public debate before it is likely to be accepted in Australia. However, as the Senate Inquiry report acknowledged, we grossly undervalue our expat community, and this would certainly be one very significant way to keep people linked to Australia during any extended time away from the country. In addition, having a representative specifically focused on the issues and views of expats would give them much better representation that is received by the small number who are enrolled and vote. (according to the Australian Electoral Commission, in 2001, there were 10,636 Eligible Overseas Electors registered on the electoral roll. Only 5,822 (54.7 per cent) of these voted at the 2001 federal election.)

According to Andrew Leigh’s paper

Relative to our size, Australia boasts one of the world’s largest diasporas. The Australian
diaspora is currently estimated at around 1 million people, or about 5 per cent of the
population. This is equivalent to the population of Perth or Adelaide, and it is a greater
number than the combined populations of Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the
Australian Capital Territory.

My own view is it may be better for overseas based Australian citizens to be enrolled in their own discrete category. It may be desirable for them to have representation in the House of Representatives as well as the Senate, but as a member who does not have a vote. There is some precedent for this. When Australia’s Territories were first given representation in federal Parliament, they were as non-voting members and Senators.

This would also give Australians (offshore and onshore) time to get used to the idea before it directly affected the outcome of decisions on legislation or who formed government. This is probably a good idea, especially as Italy’s first experience with this experimental idea seems to have ended up with the diaspora vote being crucial in giving the new government a majority in the Senate!

The incoming government coalition appears to have won 158 Senate seats to 156 for the opposition, plus 1 independent, but only because they won 4 of the 6 Senate allocated to voters outside Italy. It will be interesting to see if the offshore voting experiment survives, especially as the ability of the new government to pass legislation may depend on these Senators traveling all the way to Italy whenever Parliament is sitting.

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27 Comments

  1. I’m not sure how the expats would know what was going on here unless they keenly read on-line news. I’m sure there are a dedicated proportion that do – probably the 5822 of them who voted.

    Once you leave Australia there’s a disorienting lack of news available. “strangely” we don’t register very big in the international media. Although now I think of it, the news here isn’t that useful for finding out what’s really going on ;)

    When I heard the Italians being interviewed it seemed two of their big concerns were about pensions and citizenship arrangements. I’m guessing that would be different with most Aussie expats because Italians migrated here in big numbers post War.

  2. Ok… as long as we have compulsory “roll marking” then every citizen no matter where they are should have the right and ability to vote at election time.

    As for expats being members of parliament… even the Italians I know (and I know lots) think its a stupid idea.

  3. I think the “special electorate” idea is a poor one. In the Italian case, for example, you had a candidate who also ran one of the major (and in many cases only) Italian-language newspapers in that overseas electorate. ie a large proportion of Italians in that electorate would live in Australia, and the successful Senator is the proprietor of Il Globo.

    I’m not sure that you get fair elections that way, but I’m not sure how you’d prevent it with external electorates.

  4. Thanks for posting the Leigh paper, AB, I’ll read it with interest. I think it is an excellent idea to have overseas electorates. As a former member of the diaspora with friends and relatives still overseas, I think it would mean more attention to giving people the opportunity to vote, which despite the rhetoric is actually very difficult if you are not in a capital city with an Australian consulate. No doubt this is why many Australians overseas do not vote.

    Have there ever been any polls indicating who they would vote for? Not that this should matter, of course.

    Australians really are a ‘global’ people. I find the ideas of parallel democracies and electorates also rather intriguing. On one level it undermines the notion of the territorially discrete nation-state, but on the other reaffirms individual membership of such a thing wherever you are.

  5. I’m just reading the expat report’s recommendations, and I must say they are straightforward and basic enough to warrant a government reply.I suppose the government is ‘too busy’ to read it!

    John Howard and Downer have basically comeout and said: “Sorry people, we’re too busy to govern right now.” “Too busy to pay attention” etc [!!!!!??]

    One has to ask, busy doing WHAT exactly??

  6. I don’t have any in-principle problem with overseas franchise, as you’re right, we do undervalue Australian expatriates.
    Before we do that, though, we ought to extend a voluntary franchise inside the country to people with permanent residency visas—another class of people whose contribution to the country we undervalue.

  7. Anne MacGregor wrote of a very busy expat Aussie set of communities linking up online to lobby over all sorts of citizenship issues including this one. See Griffith Review (6) ‘Community Despite Geography’. Andrew Leigh contributed to another piece in the same volume.

    While we’re officially becoming more insular, real life Australians are among the most cosmopolitan people in the world.

  8. Eleri: It may have been the case 20 years ago that news OS was difficult to come by. However, since the internet has come along there is no difference to actually living in Australia – that is if you choose to remain informed. Many people residing outside Australia are actually *better* informed than a lot of people living here.

    I was overseas for 6 years and had to jump through hoops to remain on the electoral roll. It was really frustrating, as I really *wanted* to vote, yet it required a significant amount of effort to do so. And as it was, the only way I managed to vote in the last election was because of a fortuitous 3 month visit a couple of years before.

  9. Chris
    I’m sure you can stay in touch with the news when you are OS … if you want to. But you have to go out of your way. I agree with you that many OS are better informed than some here.

    A couple of years ago I interviewed someone who had been out of the country for 5 years but had done their best to remain in touch. This person was smart, politically aware etc. The thing I noticed was that they had missed the nuances and relative importances of things that happened. Reading the ABC website or the capital city dailies on-line doesn’t give you real sense of priorities and how stuff is going down with the public. That’s the bit that seems really hard and kind of fits with my own experience as well.

  10. Chris is right: it is very easy to stay in touch with Australian news while living overseas these days. Perhaps for the very few that do not have access to the internet, keeping in touch would be difficult, but that is not the case for the majority. The Australian media sites have been good for many years and are getting better. Very detailed news and commentary is available through blogs and podcast.

    Anyone with an interest in current affairs can have a very good idea of what is going on – including being able to tell what is and what isn’t a big story. That’s in part because many of us supplement the news with regular conversations by phone. Interested expats know all about local potholes, traffic congestion on the motorway, and drug-dealing neighbours, as well as Aunty Mary’s latest skin cancer removal.

    As much as it saddens me, a fair swag of Australians – regardless of where they are living at the time of an eleciton – vote without having much of an idea of election issues. Many thousands have an idea of what they think is going on those ideas don’t exactly line up with reality (remember hearing “if Australia becomes a republic we won’t be able to participate in the Commonwealth Games”??). Why penalize those who don’t happen to be in the country at election time?

    Eleni mentioned that only 5,822 expats voted in an election. That such a low number of Australians that are overseas currently vote is NOT an indication of either their ignorance nor of their lack of interest. It is somewhere between difficult and impossible to vote overseas. Access to information about election issues is not the problem.

    Many expats are not eligible to vote. As I understand the law, once we have lived out of the country for three years, we are not eligible to vote unless we have returned for 90 days during that time …. and that rules out just about anyone that has to work for a living as well as those that are low on cash.

    For those that are eligible to vote, it is very difficult to get hold of ballot papers if you can’t get to an embassy. I’ve been studying in the US for coming up to six years now. Trying to get hold of postal ballot papers for the 2001 federal election was in the end impossible …. For some strage reason I didn’t receive mine and nor did my Australian friends. The embassies simply don’t have the resources … and, I suspect, they do not backed by political will. Oh, for a better Minister for Foreign Affairs.

    Rather than having their own representatives, I’d like to see expats: 1. eligible to vote; 2. resourced to vote, and 3. voting for home or other electorates. Working out what those electorates would be – whether the electorates we last voted in, those of our birth, parents’ electorates, or others – would be complicated but I’d like to see us give it a go. Maybe then my local member would actually lift a finger and write back to me.

  11. Elira, Once you leave Australia there’s a disorienting lack of news available.

    WTF? There is the internet. I am a diasporan and probably more involved in the ins and outs of Australian politics now than when I was at home.

    To add to Andrews list of links is the Lowy Institute’s report on the diaspora. “Diaspora. A World Wide Web of Australians” [pdf]. They claim that the diaspora has moved on from backpackers to gold collar workers.

    The diaspora is turgid, with people constantly coming and going. It will be a fact of life of global labor markets. We have to expand the meaning off being Australian beyond which piece of dirt you happen to be standing on.

    There is currently no-one exclusively representing diasporan interests in government. I am fully in favour of representatives and senate representation for the diaspora.

  12. Cameron I don’t think we are in disagreement. There is the internet and it can be a much better way of getting news than the mainstream media. My point is – you have to WANT to seek information out.

    I’m absolutely sure you seek out news and that I would if living o/s. But sadly too few Australians, wherever they live, are that interested. (I’m reflecting on members of my own family here!)

    Re: globalisation you said “We have to expand the meaning of being Australian beyond which piece of dirt you happen to be standing on.”

    Good point that Tanya made about voting overseas and how difficult it is.

  13. This is an interesting article but I have a few reservations:
    Firstly, a senator for the diaspora sounds very nice in theory but is such a proposition compatible with the Australian Constitution? I don’t think it is directly analogous to territorial senators because there is no geographical boundary under Australian sovereignty. (I could be wrong about this).

    Secondly, who would pay for said representative? There has been a slew of recent articles on highly-paid, young, professionals extolling the virtues of life as expatriates as they are not burdened by the ‘oppressive’ Australian tax system ( and in many cases abrogating their resposibilities for HECS, etc). Quite frankly, as an Australian taxpayer, I am not the slightest bit interested in funding a political representative for people who don’t pay tax within the country. And I’m sure the rest of the non-diasporans would agree.

  14. Andrew, special treatment for the diaspora is a dumb idea.

    Lately the poor dears have been whinging that Australians don’t recognise their truly outstanding capabilities when they return. No doubt a few laws could fix that.

    While we’re at it, we could provide subsidies for expensive international air travel.

    Those comments relate to the organised lobby group surrounding Southern Cross.

    But there’s another insidious element too – foreign nationals who acquire Australian citizenship as protection while they engage in dodgy deals or drug running in Asia or the Middle East. These folk expect and receive consular assistance and other measures if they’re caught.

    No doubt these guys would agitate for even more taxpayer-funded protection for their overseas escapades.

    Enough. No special treatment for these whingers.

  15. Why is this special treatment? These people are Australian citizens and, as such, are they not entitled to vote in their country’s elections? For whatever reason, the current government seems to want to disenfranchise them.

    I’m also not sure why you call them whingers. Is anyone who wants government representation a whinger?

  16. I’ve had a chance to look at more of Andrew’s links and so can hopefully add thoughts that are more helpful. This is a long post and so please accept my apologies in advance …

    A simple expansion of the ability Australians living to access our current electoral arrangements would minimise distortion of our parliamentary structure, minimise financial costs, and increase the quality of representation. Specifically, I believe we should maintain overseas Aussies’ eligibility to vote for home electorates at all levels of government, ensure MPs and senators are aware of the need to represent citizens overseas, remove restrictions on long-term overseas enrollment, facilitate overseas reenrollment, and adequately support AEC and embassies’ efforts to help overseas citizens to vote in the same way that they would be able to vote if they were in Australia.

    The idea of a Special Representative for Australians living overseas is problematic from both idealist and realist perspectives. Such a change would distort our current parliamentary system and not substantially improve the representation of overseas Aussies. Although Australia has had non-voting representatives in the past, such positions are far from ideal and I very much wonder if such a representative would have any power to raise issues let alone make changes. I appreciate the idea that On-shore Australians might need time to get used to the idea of a representative of overseas Aussies but, without voting power, we would only have increased parliamentary costs and mockery.

    I don’t want to shoot down our arguments this early in the game, but, ah, it sounds like being a special representative would be a really cushy job involving little accountability and lots of jokes in the chamber when the Honorable Member for Those-That-Think-They’re-Oh-So-Fancy-Overseas-Orrstralians rises to provide the nation the benefit of their overwhelming intelligence. Overseas Aussies do need better representation but I can’t see that a Special Representative would have a very busy schedule. We wouldn’t want them swanning around the world searching for voters on punters’ dollars, would we?? And, okay, I admit, as a former student politician, shivers run up my spine at the thought of special representatives for special groups that, strangely, turn out to be spineless, oxygen-wasters for political parties (mmm, “what’s new? that’s how most pollies are”, some might say).

    Instead, overseas Aussies should be able to vote in the elections of their past upper and lower house electorates. While one of the ideas behind enfranchising overseas Aussies is that geography matters less these days, it is the case that almost all Australians have associations with specific geographic areas within Australia. This is indeed why we have a House of Representatives. One of the disadvantages with a Special Representative is that we would lose the element of geographic association. It is a good idea to encourage overseas Aussies to maintain their geographic associations: if we know a local area then we are better placed to vote for the person/party that best represents the needs of the area. Although it seems a little convoluted, I think the votes from our diaspora would be best channeled via local electorates.

    One of the advantages of extending on the current home electorate system is that we wouldn’t need to set up Special Representatives at each level of government. Much of the discussion about overseas voting centers on voting in the federal election. We do need to also think about state and even local government elections. If we have a Special Representative at the federal level then shouldn’t we have one in each state parliament?

    Andrew Leigh argues that Australians living overseas should not be able to vote for House of Reps elections because some do not pay Australian taxes. While Dr Leigh has many excellent ideas to will improve and extend democracy in Australia that are very worth of support, this particular one is dangerous for democracy. Although the idea ‘no taxation without representation’ should operate in that order, the reverse should not apply. Just as we should not have ‘electoral knowledge’ qualifications for voting (nor the perhaps even more important, parenting), we should not have financial qualifications for voting. Thousands of Australians do not pay tax – for various reasons, including genuinely low income and legal minimization – but they are not formally disenfranchised. Indeed, we have people who are net drains on Australia: should we disenfranchise them too? After all, it wasn’t that long that white, wealthy, landed men withheld the vote from indigenous Australians, women, and non-property owners. If thought of at all, these people were deemed to not be making any worthwhile contribution to the nation and nor to know anything about its best interests. This is clearly NOT Dr Leigh’s intention or even distant sentiment but it is important to follow this idea through to its logical conclusion.

    Another problem with the ‘pay cash, get votes’ idea is that overseas Aussies actually have in the recent past, do at this current time, and will in the near future contribute very substantially to Australia’s financial well-being. Honestly, we really aren’t un-Australian – just take a look at our money! Firstly, residency status does not neatly map tax status. Quite a few overseas Aussies do pay Australian taxes – on property, on earned rent, on shares, etc. Secondly, other overseas Aussies do not pay Australian taxes but they do send to Australia hundreds of millions of dollars in business that otherwise would not make it to Australia. Thirdly, some of us are conducting research relevant to Australia that would cost the government tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars per student/researcher if they were to fund the research in Australia. Many researchers only live overseas because Americans and Europeans will actually fund research that is relevant to Australia. (No Joe and others, I’m not whinging but merely pointing out well-documented fact that can be seen in any international comparison on R&D expenditure.). Some overseas Aussies are a drain on the public purse but most of them are pensioners who have retired to Asia or southern Europe after decades of paying Australian taxes. I dunno, it seems to me that it would be morally problematic to disenfranchise these people.

    Yes, Australia could start down the slippery slope of ‘pay cash, get votes’, but to do so is actually self-defeating. As a plethora of government and business delegations show, there’s money to be made from overseas Aussies. But what do these overseas Aussies ask for in return? Simply, to be just like Aussies at home. One of the nifty factors about universal suffrage is that it sends a clear signal to all citizens that they matter. Disenfranchise citizens and they figure they don’t matter anymore, so why bother to do their bit? Instead, we could take the far more productive route and use enfranchisement as an incentive to maintain ties with Australia … the country to which overseas Aussies have, do, and will contribute and the one that the vast majority of us intend on returning to within ten years. What’s even cooler about enfranchising overseas Aussies is that it is one policy can be provided at very low cost.

    One potential problem to consider is the impact of overseas Aussies on local electorates. overseas Aussies being drawn from a small number of electorates, such that they could significantly influence the outcomes of House of Reps elections. A lot of these are not swinging seats but we would need to think about what this would mean for the size of electorates. This would be more of a problem if voting by overseas Aussies were to be made compulsory. We could see some sort of branch stacking but realistically I can’t see that happening (oh, the logistics). It would probably take a number of elections before a very large number of overseas Aussies would become powerful. A trial period/sunset clause on home electorate enrollment could be a way to test the water without major electoral changes.

    Joe: Here’s the deal, mate. Some overseas Aussies whinge. Some on-shore Aussies whinge. Ironically, both groups ‘whinge’ about a problem that is large part due to the size of the Australian labor market and is an important force in driving local innovation and wealth creation. I don’t know if we can put our whinging tendencies down to our shared genetic heritage, but what I do know is that those who go out of their way to remain informed about Australia and then to seek to vote are not at all complacent about being Australian. Your comments regarding the use of Australian citizenship by criminals are not particularly helpful. The number of people who engage in criminal activity is infinitesimal. It would not be a good idea to center Australia’s electoral laws around the deviant very few.

    Jane: Your concerns about HECS are important. However, rather than engaging in the current counter-productive acts of disenfranchisement, a better policy for the Australian people would be for the government to work out a HECS collection procedure with the British, Canadian, and American governments at the very least. New Zealand has established a foreign student-debt-collection system that is doing reasonably well. A fair amount of outstanding HECS debt could be collected through the UK/US taxation systems alone. And, given the country’s need for highly qualified, unusually-experienced, English-speaking, Australian-culcha-understanding workers, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for the government to rethink its general tax policies for wage/salary earners, especially for those in the middle brackets … again, this is a policy that On-shore Aussies would benefit from even more than overseas Aussies.

  17. Tanya,
    Whew, that was a long post …but very well argued.

    I agree that HECS debt, etc, could be better targeted – yes the NZ model may be a start.

    I was not suggesting that franchise should be contingent upon ‘pay cash, get vote’ but rather that a representative for an OS constituency would be almost fully paid for by onshore taxpayers. I think this is a very different issue. Sure there are lots of people in every local constituency who pay no tax or are ‘net drains’ but all these people share nuanced social and economic imperatives.

    I’m still not sure of the constitutional aspect. I haven’t read all the links so there may be some info in there I haven’t seen. Would there need to be some sort of referendum to establish extraterritorial representation? If so, I can imagine how it would be argued…and it would never get up.

  18. Jane, I’m not certain about how we would go about allowing for extraterritorial representation. It’s an interesting question. I agree that if a referendum was necessary then it wouldn’t get up.

    On the topic of costs for a special representative, I imagine that we wouldn’t be looking at anything under of two million dollars per annum if we were to FULLY COST such a position.

    I think that we really should look for alternatives that make best use of our existing system – specifically, using our current representatives. We would need to see a range of costings from the AEC to work out the cost of increasing overseas voter participation. In the scheme of things, it wouldn’t be particularly expensive …. and it would probably be a lot more useful than, say, paying for the upkeep of Kirribilli House.

    That said, I really don’t see the cost of voting as something that should be a deciding factor.

  19. I think Australian companies should be made to recognise the superior contributions that overseas Australians can make when they return, so we should establish quota systems for employment.

    Do the same for university appointments. After all, everyone knows a Harvard or Oxford doctorate is superior to one from an Australian university.

    Overseas residents should also enjoy lower tax on property and Australian income, since they don’t use Australian infrastructure.

    And we need well-resourced legal departments in major offshore centres to assist Australian citizens caught in drug deals or corrupt behaviour (whatever their original nationality.)

    That will do for a first bargaining position for the diasporan community. Politicians, offer them more to get their block vote.

  20. Inetresting that for many on this topic – the availability AND interest to access news appears to be a pre requisite criteria for democracy? Doesn’t say much for thier views on democracyy and remote Australia.

    Given that the whole nature of our system of govenrment is supposedly based on “representative” democracy ie the elected representative is supposed to repersent the inetrests of his / her constitueancy. Just what interests does an oerseas australian have to represent – future interests perhaps?

    I dont have a problem with O/S having a vote, and the time limt and process for reapplication indicates a committment to the country and persumably some ongoing intention to return. This seems quite reasonable. I mean what on earth gievs Rolf Harris, Greer, Hughes, Norman, Kewell, James et al any right to have any infleucne however minimla on matters here other than some notion of birthright?

    I also agree that people who have been here for an extended period of time also should have the right to vote as mentioned earlier.

  21. I am against Italian citizens voting in Italian elections and I would feel the same for Australians.

    Randazzo (one of the ‘Australians’ elected in the Italian senate) has apparently said in an interview that he would vote against the proposed bridge linking Sicily to the mainland.

    Why? why would someone who has lived for the past 40 years on the other side of the world be able to influence something that concerns only those living in Italy?

  22. What a waste of time.

    I am overseas, and will come back when I am ready; and will vote if I can, and don’t really care if I can’t.

    Forget the whingeing expats, they are hardly representative; anyway we have compulsory voting.

    What credibility would an OS representative have with say 10% of eligible expats on the roll and say 20% of them voting. Do I get a fine when I come home if I don’t vote on the special OS roll.
    Honestly, what a fuss over nothing

  23. I don’t see any need to change the current system.

    Why should people who don’t live here be entitled to a say in how we run the place?

    As Ken notes, many prominent “diasporans” have spent most of their time overseas, and if Germaine Greer is any example, don’t have a clue about what goes on in this country. Let them take out citizenship in the countries where they choose to make their homes, and vote there.

  24. A special ex-pat Senator, with voting rights, doesn’t seem too far-fetched an idea, but to lose representation in the House and thus in the formation of the government on a federal level seems unduly punative. How many Australian’s are living overseas? How many of these keep close ties or even maintain their identity as Australians? Back in 2001, while my Australian wife and I were living in New York, there was a sizable on-line local Australian community, very interested in matters back home and asserting their cultural identity. Now that we’re living in Sydney, I find myself in the same situation, and grateful for the expatriate groups I’ve been able to find. One such, Democrats Abroad – Australia, is a branch of the U.S. Democratic National Party, and we’re very active on behalf of our membership and all U.S. citizens living in Australia, ensuring they maintain their registration to vote – which must be done annually – in state and local as well as federal elections, as well as using our website and mailing lists to get the issues out, again, not just federally, but for individual states. Our numbers in Australia are not clearly known – estimates range from 40,000 to 100,000 – but our political will is fully represented. On the Federal level, we send a delegate to the national convention, and along with other regional delegates participated in the nomination of presidential candidates. But as for giving up my local representation in Congress or in New York State or even New York City, I, like many other Americans, maintain a keen interest and would be very reluctant indeed to give that up, regardless of whether I ever return or not. I expect many expatriate Australians feel much the same. Our families may still be there, we have our roots in specific regions and communities. These are not small considerations. The conditions of Autralia’s parliamentary system make local issues essential to the formation of national government perhaps more so than in the American system, but the ties remain and remain in force, not to be easily dismissed. Regardless of what anyone things of Germaine Greer, Clive James, or Nicole Kidman. The ones who don’t care give up their rights, like Rupert Murdoch did, and the ones who do care keep their citizenship, even if they don’t necessarily keep up well.

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