Kevin Rudd's replacement in the seat of Griffith, Terri
Butler, writes to Tony Abbott asking him to put to rest speculation he
is ineligible to sit in the Australian Parliament due to never having
renounced his British citizenship. Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones reports.TERRI MEGAN BUTLER is the Labor MP for the federal division of
Griffith, basically Brisbane’s inner southern suburbs. It used to be
former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s seat until he spat his final dummy.
Kev’s abrupt but overdue departure triggered a by-election held on 8 February 2014.
Terri, previously an industrial lawyer, had secured Labor pre-selection and, on the day, prevailed over the LNP's Dr Bill Glasson with a 2PP of 51.76%, despite a 1.25% swing against Labor.
It’s probably a much safer ALP seat now and, at 37, Butler has a bright future before her.
IA readers are familiar with the indefatigable Tony Magrathea as the man trying to uncover the truth regarding the Tony Abbott’s citizenship status. The results of his attempts have been well-documented in IA.
Fed up with frustrations attending the almost-impossible task of proving something doesn’t exist, in this case Abbott's 'Form RN' – his renunciation of British citizenship – Magrathea decided both-barrels, choke off, was the best approach.
So he a emailed a question to every MP in the land the following:
If a politician were to find out about something that might orAfter explaining the possible legal repercussions of their staying quiet, Magrathea asked:
might not be a crime, should they make that decision themselves or
should it be left up to the police? I know most state crimes acts
require all who are aware of a crime to let the police know, otherwise
they risk being charged with perverting the course of justice,
especially if the politician and potential criminal are mates and there
has been some sort of monetary or political advantaged gained by staying
I ask because the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
declared in an FOI request, 2014-159, in October last year, that Mr
Abbott is still a dual citizen of Britain and Australia. They said his
renunciation paperwork for the British citizenship does not exist. If a
politician were to find out about something that might or might not be a
crime should they make that decision themselves or should it be left up
to the police? I know most state crimes acts require all who are aware
of a crime to let the police know otherwise they risk being charged with
perverting the course of justice, especially if the politician and
potential criminal are mates and there has been some sort of monetary or
political advantaged gained by staying quiet.
Now that you are aware of the crime or potential crime, will youCoincidence, by definition, is a funny thing. Terri was on the ALP
advise the police or make the decision yourself that all is OK? I would
hope you forward the matter to the CDPP, the AG department and the AFP
or at least ask a question in Parliament so we can all find out what's
campaign trail in Rockhampton on 22 January and got chatting to booth
IA notes it has not yet spoken with Butler, we will try
although she is a tad busy at the moment, so the next bit is an
informed, but not confirmed, reconstruction.
It seems the ALP booth workers filled a hitherto unknowing Butler
into the detail of the Abbott citizenship scandal and Tony’s findings to
date in that regard. She contacted her staff, who advised the content
of Tony’s email advising MPs of a possible criminal breach — not only by
Abbott, but anyone else who knew and was deliberately concealing a
Butler is now on record as the only MP, and that includes the crossbench zoo, to respond to Magrathea’s mass entreaty.
She begins her reply:
Dear TonyShe concludes her reply to Tony Magrathea:
Thanks for emailing me.
As you’d know, Britain is a foreign power for the purposes of section 44(i) (Sue v Hill
 HCA 30; 199 CLR 462; 163 ALR 648; 73 ALJR 1016). That suggests
that if the Prime Minister had yet to renounce his British citizenship
before being re-elected in 2013, he would be ineligible to sit.
I understand the Prime Minister’s office has said that the Prime
Minister has renounced his British citizenship. If so, he would have
done so by paperwork filed with the British government, which may
explain why there aren’t Australian government records amenable to FOI.
Not having seen any proof that the claim is a lie, I am not in a
position to make any statement as to its veracity. I’d say that the
person best placed to know the Prime Minister’s citizenship status is
the Prime Minister himself. For that reason I accept his statement at
face value. Having said that, I intend to write to him, in the terms of
the enclosed letter, encouraging him to provide his declaration of renunciation, to avoid the need to continue to discuss this matter.
If it turned out that the Prime Minister was eligible, youA polite dead bat you might think. But you’d be wrong.
wouldn’t get relief from the court. If, on the other hand, the Prime
Minister wasn’t eligible when elected in 2013, it would seem likely that
the court would void the election for his division, and a by-election
would occur (as it did in the Kelly case). I suspect if that was to
occur the Prime Minister would win that by-election, but of course that
would be a matter for the voters in his Division. (I would make the
observation that if all that was achieved through court proceedings and
an expensive by-election was to maintain the status quo, that would be a
shame.)It appears to me that if a person believed that an MP,
including the Prime Minister, was not eligible to hold his or her seat,
the proper approach would be to seek a remedy from the High Court. As
you will have seen from the Hill and Kelly cases, that is generally done
as a petition to the Court sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns.
You could also consider a claim under section 46 of the Constitution
which allows a citizen to seek that the MP be financially penalised for
sitting while ineligible.
If you believe that he has signed any false declarations, that is
a matter that you might consider referring to the police. For my own
part, not having seen any evidence that a false declaration has been
made, I’m not going to make allegations to that effect.
Having made all of those observations, I’d say that I have many,
many disagreements with the Prime Minister. I believe he’s wrong on just
about every issue of public policy about which I’ve heard his views. I
disagree with his government’s attacks on pensioners, students,
families, working people, and households generally. I vehemently oppose
his attacks on Medicare and on access to education, among many other
I hasten to add that nothing in this email is to be taken as
legal advice. You should seek your own advice, especially if you’re
considering commencing court proceedings. You may also be interested in
this e-brief (which I suspect you’ve already seen) about section 44 from
the parliamentary library: http://www.aph.gov.au/about_parliament/parliamentary_departments/parliamentary_library/publications_archive/archive/section44
Terri Butler MP
Because enclosed was also a letter that had been sent to the prime minister:
Like reporting a UFO, Labor risks widespread ridicule if it airs this
thing in in Parliament. What happens if they beat it up, then Peta
reaches into Tony’s satchel and flourishes the RN? Ignominy, that’s
what. And no-one can prove he doesn’t have it. A hippy would refer to
this situation as a mind-fuck.
But now the stakes have been ratcheted up a cog. The PM has received a written request from a sitting MP.
Will Tony fess up? Will half the front bench go to gaol for knowingly concealing a crime?
You’ll read it here first.