Expat voting

Sparking off the recent election of Senators representing the Italian diaspora to their parliament, Andrew Bartlett has a thoughtful discussion of various proposals, including one that I wrote based upon what Macgregor Duncan, David Madden, Peter Tynan and myself had said in Imagining Australia, where we proposed that expats have a dedicated person in the Senate, but no House of Representatives vote. I don’t have much to add to what Andrew B. has written, except to say that as the only real blogger in federal parliament, he’d be the frontrunner for the overseas senator job if we ever adopted the Italian model.

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13 Responses to Expat voting

  1. I edited up the Electoral Act to make it more diaspora friendly. I reckon the diaspora should have a new category of elector; the commonwealth elector as opposed to the state or territory elector.

  2. Sinclair Davidson says:

    No, No, No. Representation without taxation is tyranny!!!

  3. Andrew Leigh says:

    Sinc, it’s always hard to tell when your tongue is in your cheek, but we do talk a bit about this issue in IA. It’s the reason we argue that expats should be stripped of their Reps vote.

  4. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Okay. More seriously, there are two problems (at least) with having expat Australians with representation in either house. First, many of them have foreign nationality and so lose their Australian citizenship, i.e. they are ‘ethnic’ Australians but not citizens of the Commonwealth. Now we don’t allow non-Australian citizens resident in Australia to vote, why should we let non-resident foreigners vote? Second, these individuals are not subject to the legal regime they impose on others. The Senate (prior to the status quo) actually has a lot of de facto law making power.

    In any event Asutralian citizens in foreign climes can vote now anyway, so I’m not sure they require special consideration.

    On another note, South Africa takes a different tack. In order to vote you have to be in the country on voting day (actually 3 days). At the last election special arrangements had to be made for the criket team (who were playing offshore) to vote.

  5. Patrick says:

    Sure – give them an observer’s seat. That should strike the right balance, I would think.

    Hey, if I was overseas at the time of the elections, I could vote myself into the Senate! (on the basis that I would be the only person actually bothering to vote)

  6. Sacha says:

    You might have constitutional problems as Senators represent States or Territories. You could of course do something like say that the Australian Antarctic Territory (if it’s a true Territory, which I suspect it’s not) would return one Senator, or do this for some other territory, and that all the votes of Australian citizens overseas would go towards electing that Territories representative.

    Note that the votes of people living on Christmas Island are melded into the Northern Territory votes, and that the votes of Norfolk Islanders are distributed according to something like where they’re “most connected to”.

    You’d have similar problems for House of Reps seats.

  7. Matt Cowgill says:

    the IA book proposes an “Australian International Territory” or something similar to solve this problem (if memory serves)

  8. Sacha says:

    Does that mean that Australia would be claiming the entire world as a sort of shadow Territory? (!!!)

  9. Patrick says:

    That would have to be unconstitutional – just would not be in any way compatible with the word ‘territory’ in the Constitution – but the High Court might not interefere if you simply had a resolution of the two houses that there be a Senator voted in that way.

    But there would be no point trying to pretend that there was a territory involved.

  10. Andrew Leigh says:

    Sacha/Patrick, I should’ve been clearer – we were proposing a change to the constitution. Section 128 is of course the only door to revamping international representation.

  11. Sacha says:

    Ahhh – with a change to the constitution you can of course easily get international representation.

  12. Patrick says:

    And a gaggle of redundant princes, a clutch of pink pigs and a partridge in a pear tree to boot!

  13. Sinclair, Now we don’t allow non-Australian citizens resident in Australia to vote

    We should. By rights they should have a say in the laws they are required to follow. If they are above the age of reason, they should be able to vote.

    these individuals are not subject to the legal regime they impose on others

    The diaspora is turgid. It isnt like immigration anymore. We go back and forth often. I payed GST last year and was fined in Queensland. So our interaction, while not the whole year, is constant.

    Plenty of legislation is repugnant to diasporans. Electoral Act being one. Australians are kicked off the rolls if they dont vote after three years, or if they dont re-enroll each year after their third year.

    Many also have foreign spouses or children and several laws make it difficult. A bloke I met in New York, he is Australian, and she American. They had been living in Australia, but his wife – a banker from NY – couldnt work. So they moved to New York where they could have two incomes again. If there was a Senator representing the diaspora maybe those absurdities would go.

    All nations are seeing the rise of a diaspora. Australia’s is larger and more visible than most. The diasporas are the baby steps toward a global labor market. Nation-states are the biggest inhibition to this. We are going to have to start thinking of what denotes ‘Australian’ as something more than having Bondi sand or Hawkesbury clay under your feet.

    For an Australian diasporan who has been out of the country for three years and plans to return – they can be disenfranchised entirely. Both at home and overseas. We risk the global labour market being dominated by stateless people.

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