I just returned from a two-week trip to Australia and New Zealand. During my trip, my friends and I spent a few days each in Sydney and Auckland, and went on a cruise across Tasmania in between. We had a wonderful time experiencing the culture and history of all the different places we visited.
My intent was to avoid anything about politics during my trip Down Under. Unfortunately, politics dominated the airwaves every time I turned on the TV.
In their own way, the latest Aussie and Kiwi political developments reminded me of political scandals that we are all too familiar with in the United States.
For example, Australia’s government has been rocked by a citizenship scandal.
The Australia High Court ruled on Oct. 27 that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and four other Members of Parliament were ineligible to serve because they held dual citizenship. According to the Australia constitution, those with dual citizenship are prohibited from serving in Parliament.
This puts Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on thin ice as his party holds a razor-thin margin in Parliament. Absent these members in his governing majority, his hold on power is now shaky at best as he awaits the results of by-elections.
Following the court ruling, Senate President Stephen Parry revealed that he too may be a dual citizen and may have to resign. Altogether, 8 Members of Parliament have been caught up in the scandal, and there may be more. Channeling the words of many U.S. politicians, Prime Minister Turnbull this week decried the “witch-hunt” over the citizenship of MPs, and rejected calls for a citizenship audit.
New Zealand’s political situation also mirrors America’s with a new Prime Minister taking office last month despite not winning the popular vote in the election.
In September’s parliamentary election, Prime Minister Bill English and his party won the most votes and the most seats in parliament – 56. But that was not enough to lead the next parliament as 61 votes are required to form a government.
Thanks to the support of the NZ First party’s 9 seats and the Green Party’s 8 seats, Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern cobbled together enough votes with their 46 to become the new prime minister.
Mr. English, now the opposition leader, has declared that he will not cooperate with the new government and said, “it’s not our job to make this place run for an incoming government that’s a minority.” Sounds like something that could have come out of the mouths of Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi.
Despite not being to escape wall-to-wall politics while on vacation, it’s comforting (I think) to know that America is not alone in facing wild and often-bizarre twists and turns in its politics.
Tim Anaya is communications director for Pacific Research Institute.