The National Schools Constitution Convention is a meeting place of the great youth political minds of Australia. For three days, students from every state and territory meet to discuss and debate a particular constitutional issue. For the 2018 Convention, the topic was “Is Section 44 Relevant in a Modern Australia?”. For those who haven’t memorised their founding document, Section 44 is concerned about the qualities of an individual that would disqualify them from being nominated as a member of parliament. With the Senate suddenly appearing to be a farcical meeting of the United Nations, Section 44 suddenly came out of constitutional law obscurity to cover the headlines of every newspaper under the sun.
To finish the convention, all the delegates propose amendments to the constitution, and a mock referendum was held between the delegates from each state run by the AEC. Amendments were proposed so that the disqualifying factors only applied when the member is sworn in, not when they nominate for the job. Dual citizens were made eligible for the parliament as long as they did not have an active “acknowledgement, obedience or adherence” to a foreign power or become a dual citizen during the course of their term. As someone who is a dual citizen, and as I discovered during the course of the convention a possible ‘tri citizen’, these amendments were something that I was happy to see. I was also impressed by the results of the referendum, with a double majority being achieved (a majority of the national vote, and a majority of states in favour), and Victoria being the most progressive state with a vote of 83% in favour.
Other highlights included talking with Penny Wong, attending the Senate Question Time and being invited to attend a formal function at Government House with the Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove. For students with a passion in the civic sphere, this is an event that I encourage you to attend. I’m thankful to all the friends I made, the staff from the NCS who helped run the event, and Scotch for providing me with this fantastic extension studies opportunity.