Contributed by Joe Montero
In 2019, Michael Staindl brought a federal court proceeding against the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. It revolved on the matter of whether the Treasurer is a dual citizen, which, the constitution disqualifies him from having the right to sit in the federal parliament.
The treasurer was singled out, because he happens to be Michael Staindl’s local member of parliament and representing a government that has conspicuously failed to act on climate warming.
Josh Frydenberg’s mother was Hungarian born and may be considered by that country as one of its citizens. But the court failed to take this into account, and ruled that, because she had escaped the Holocaust, she arrived as a stateless person.
Photo from ABC News: Josh Frydenberg
This is an odd decision. If Hungary still regards Frydenberg as one of its citizens and he hasn’t renounced it, he remains a citizen of that country. The rest of it is semantics. One would have expected that this little fact would be judged to be important. It obviously wasn’t, and the failure could be seen as politically motivated.
Some detractors are now accusing Michael Staindl of anti-Semitism. He denies this vehemently, and says he brought about the case to draw attention to the failure of the government’s action on climate and nothing else.
The court ordered him to pay $855,000 in costs, which, reduced to $410,000 through mediation. It is still far too much to cover for someone on part-time work and a sick wife.
if forced to pay, Michael Staindl faces the prospect of bankruptcy and losing his home.
This unusual and punitive action by the court, is another factor suggesting the political motivation. Especially so, when the treasurer has a connection with the law firm representing him, Arnold Bloch Leibler, which he admitted in parliament, does pro bono work for him. Pro bono means he doesn’t pay.
Could you blame anyone for believing this has been an abuse of legal process, and should concern anyone who values a fair go? Could anyone be blamed for believing Michael Staindl deserves support, until the imposed costs are withdrawn, or at least, covered by the government? This is exactly what has happened in other similar cases. Why not in this case?
Whether those with dual citizenship should be allowed to sit in the parliament is a legitimate question. So is whether one being a citizen of another nation as well can’t be loyal to Australia. But this isn’t what this case is about.
In retrospect, Michael Staindl openly admits that this was perhaps not the best way to go about raising the government’s failure on climate.
This doesn’t make right the court’s punitive action, or Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s gloating, when he said, “the rule of law has been applied with those orders, then people should expect them to be followed through and complied with, that’s the fair way in Australia.”
No. It’s not Scott Morrison.