NEWS

Woman With Fijian Link Is A Labor Candidate For Deakin In Federal Poll

Australian Labor PARTY defending key Victorian marginal seats after concerns were raised of Shireen Morris’s eligibility.
09 May 2019 11:24
Woman With Fijian Link Is A Labor Candidate For Deakin In Federal Poll
Shireen Morris, who is the Labor candidate for Deakin in the 2019 Australian federal election, says she is eligible to sit in parliament and denies ever being a citizen of Fiji. Photo: Julian Smith/AAP

Shireen Morris, who has maternal links to Fiji, is one of the Labor candidates for Deakin in the 2019 Australian Federal election.

Ms Morris hit the news headlines in Australia recently when the party came out defending their Victorian marginal seat after concerns were raised about the eligibility of Ms Morris in Deakin.

Labor, according to the Guardian Australia, had rejected a Liberal threat to challenge Ms Morris on the basis she may have Fijian citizenship.

In her AEC checklist Ms Morris has denied ever being a citizen or subject of another country.

Ms Morris, who is in her 30s, grew up in North Ringwood, went to the local primary school and worked at the local Bi-Lo. Her mother was born in Fiji and her father in India.

“My parents ran a local family medical practice and as GPs, were active in the community in promoting access to healthcare. Coming to Australia as migrants, they faced many difficulties and worked hard to establish themselves in a new country,” she said on her political social media page.

She said their experience taught her the importance of hard work, fairness and equality.

“I am passionate about ensuring every Australian has a fair go and has access to good quality education, health and social services,” Ms Morris said

“For too long, this Government has been preoccupied with scheming and political games and sadly, we have all had to pay the price.

“Quite frankly, I am fed up and have had enough of politicians plotting and scheming in Canberra. Our community deserves better.”

Ms Morris has worked as an actress, a lawyer and an advocate for indigenous Australians.

“I know that Australians are doing it tough under this Government,” she said.

“I am standing for Parliament because our community needs someone that will put them first again. I will fight for fairer funding for our local schools and hospitals, fight against cuts to penalty rates and fight the Liberal’s attempts to lift the retirement age.

“I want to know what matters to you and your family.”

A family member who chose to remain anonymous said: “Her parents are proud of her. She is multi-talented.”

Here is the full report from the Guardian Australia:

Major parties stare down election eligibility questions in two Victorian marginal seats

The major parties in Australia are defending their candidates in two key Victorian marginal seats after concerns were raised about the eligibility of Labor’s Shireen Morris in Deakin and Liberal Katie Allen in Higgins.

Labor has rejected a Liberal threat to challenge Ms Morris on the basis she may have Fijian citizenship, while the Liberals have revealed Allen quit a research role before her nomination to avoid a pecuniary interest in commonwealth grants.

Ms Allen, who is vying to replace retiring minister Kelly O’Dwyer, was named as the chief investigator on three lucrative National Health and Medical Research Council grants, including a $2.5 million grant for research on food allergies and $1.7 million to investigate whether vitamin D supplements can help kids’ allergies. Both were awarded in 2017 and set to run until 2022.

A Liberal spokesperson told Guardian Australia that Ms Allen had “resigned her position at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute prior to nominating and she has removed herself entirely from all grants mentioned”.

The institute has confirmed Ms Allen quit her roles with respect to the grants, effective March 30, 2019, and has “resigned paid employment”.

Section 44 of the constitution disqualifies anyone with a “direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement” with the commonwealth from sitting in parliament, in addition to the bar on foreign citizens.

On Tuesday the Herald Sun reported the Coalition had legal advice Ms Morris may be ineligible because of a gap in Fijian law created by the 1997 Constitution.

Ms Morris’s mother was born in Fiji and her father in India. In her AEC checklist Ms Morris denied ever being a citizen or subject of another country.

She said the law of both countries prohibits dual citizenship.
“I am an Australian citizen. As such, I cannot also be an Indian or Fijian citizen.”

The Coalition’s advice is that a separate saving provision – that the 1997 constitution “does not affect the citizenship of a person who was a citizen immediately before it came into effect” – may have preserved Ms Morris’ citizenship entitlement. A Labor spokesperson labelled the claim “dishonest and dumb” .

The issue replicates a legal dispute between Australia and Fiji about whether Islamic State recruiter Neil Prakash has Fijian citizenship, triggered by home affairs minister Peter Dutton’s decision to revoke his Australian citizenship.

The director of the Fijian Immigration Department, Nemani Vuniwaqa, denied Mr Prakash had Fijian citizenship, explaining to Guardian Australia that children born outside Fiji needed to apply to take it up.

In the 45th parliament 14 MPs or senators resigned or were ruled ineligible due to dual citizenship, while Bob Day lost his Senate spot for having an indirect interest in the lease of his electorate office and Rod Culleton was disqualified for a conviction, later annulled.

On Saturday Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there “may well be issues” with Ms Morris’ citizenship status in response to questions about the eligibility of the Liberal candidate in Canberra, Mina Zaki.

Ms Zaki claimed in her Australian Electoral Commission checklist that her renunciation was effective on April 16, but only supplied a document of that date from the national director of citizenship renunciation to the Afghan ministry of justice requesting it be processed.

On Monday Ms Zaki defended her eligibility, claiming that she had received a further document with presidential approval accepting the renunciation before nominations closed.

Ms Zaki told ABC Radio Canberra the document was not publicly available.

“I’m not obliged to bring it forward,” she said.

“Why can’t my word be taken for granted, why do I have to go through that extra step of proving myself as a migrant? That just isn’t fair.”

The joint standing committee on electoral matters recommended a referendum to reform or repeal section 44, but the Coalition ruled it out in favour of new rules requiring candidates to disclose details of potential disqualifications on a candidate checklist.

Feedback:  jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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