Alstonville High School Student Jack Fletcher was one of 120 delegates apart of the 23rd National Schools Constitutional Convention last month.
Alstonville High School Student Jack Fletcher was one of 120 delegates apart of the 23rd National Schools Constitutional Convention last month.

Student takes Government House by storm

ALSTONVILLE High School student, Jack Fletcher, was one of around 120 senior student delegates taking part in the 23rd National Schools Constitutional Convention.

Students from all over Australia gathered at Old Parliament House on March 20 to 22 to debate the topic 'is Section 44 of the Constitution relevant in modern Australia?'.

Section 44 of the Australian Constitution lists the grounds for disqualification on who may become a candidate for election to the Parliament of Australia.

This was particularly relevant in 2017, as a number of MPs were disqualified from parliament after being found to hold multiple citizenships.

Alstonville High School Student Jack Fletcher was one of 120 delegates apart of the 23rd National Schools Constitutional Convention last month.
Alstonville High School Student Jack Fletcher was one of 120 delegates apart of the 23rd National Schools Constitutional Convention last month.

Students heard from a range of government officials, politicians, high commissioners and university lectures before working in groups to workshop and vote in a mock referendum managed by the Australian Electoral Commission.

Overall, delegates agreed it was necessary to include in the constitution the grounds for disqualification of members of the Australian Parliament.

However it was also agreed that in some instances amendments were required to reflect modern Australia and its history as a nation demonstrating a commitment to participatory, representative democracy inclusive of all.

The majority of people and majority of states agreed on proposed new section (i).

"Any person who at the commencement of their term in Parliament is under any active acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is an active subject or a citizen or has sought the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power shall be incapable of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.”

The key proposed amendments to this section (i) were:

  • The inclusion of the word 'active' in relation to active knowledge and as an active subject.
  • The wording 'at the commencement of their term in Parliament'.

The outcome was incorporated into a communique and will be presented to the senate for inclusion in Hansard, which will be tabled in parliament.

Students were also treated to a reception at Government House hosted by the Governer-General and received a tour of the High Court of Australia. Zack Bryers, 2018 ACT Young Australian of the Year was the dinner speaker.

The Convention was funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training as part of its ongoing commitment to civics and citizenship education and led by Emeritus Professor John Warhurst.