Larissa Waters, Back In The Senate, 'Proud' She Quit After Section 44 Issues
"You've only got one chance to do the right thing. I don't regret it at all."
Greens senator Larissa Waters is "proud" to have quit the parliament after discovering she was in breach of section 44 of the constitution, but was disappointed other politicians didn't follow her lead.
Waters, a senator representing Queensland, was the second politician in the 45th parliament to become embroiled in the dual citizenship saga back in July 2017. Just four days earlier, fellow Greens senator Scott Ludlam had resigned after finding he held New Zealand citizenship, which made him ineligible to stand for office under section 44 of the constitution.
Prompted by her colleague's discovery, Waters looked at her own history, discovered she also held Canadian citizenship after being born overseas, and resigned.
Section 44 states that anyone who is "a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power" is ineligible for office.
Waters and Ludlam were the first in this parliament, but the widening scandal soon enveloped members of almost every party, eventually snaring more than a dozen MPs including Malcolm Roberts, Barnaby Joyce, Fiona Nash, John Alexander, Jacqui Lambie, Rebekha Sharkie and Susan Lamb.
Waters has since officially renounced her Canadian citizenship, and this week re-entered parliament to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Andrew Bartlett, who himself had initially replaced Waters when she resigned. Waters told ten daily she stood by her decision to immediately resign.
"You've only got one chance to do the right thing. I don't regret it at all. It was personally disrupting and traumatising, but you can't be [in parliament] if you're not eligible," she said from her Parliament House office.
"I don't regret taking that action. I’m proud, we did the right thing."
But in contrast to Waters and Ludlam, other politicians embroiled in the section 44 drama did not immediately resign, and chose to stay on and fight High Court cases even after acknowledging they were dual citizens at the time of their election. As the saga ballooned, some claimed Ludlam and Waters may have been too hasty in their sudden departure, and that they should have taken their cases to court.
Waters did not agree, but said she was disappointed others did not immediately quit also.
"I was really dismayed by it, that as more become embroiled, nobody stood down. They stayed on and brought politics into disrepute," she said.
"I took responsibility for the fact I made that error, but when we knew we had to stand down, we did so immediately."
But now back in the parliament, and with the dual citizenship issues (hopefully) well behind Australian politics, Waters said she was looking forward to getting back to work. She has been away for 14 months, spending much of the time raising her young daughter Alia, who was just months old at the time of her resignation, and said the break did her good.
"It was a full-time job. I wasn't living and breathing politics like I was before, so it gave me some useful perspective. There's very much a bubble in Canberra, and it's important to stay connected to the community," she said.
"Ordinary people feel like the political system is rigged against them, and not representing them. I want to change that perception, clean up politics, and put people back into politics."
Waters raised the ideas of campaign donation reform as one of her main focuses, alongside promoting gender equality and action on climate change.
"I’ll be talking a lot about ending dirty donations from big end of town. It’s only the Greens that don't take dirty money, the other parties take money from fossil fuels, gambling, tobacco, property developers," she said.
"Those vested interests buy access and outcomes. No wonder people feel it’s stacked against them. I’d like to see an end to that."
"I feel like I’ve got unfinished business. I'm passionate about making our democracy work properly."