Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Passing for Canadian

Recently we noted with approval how the Australian official opposition removed and replaced its leader by vote of the parliamentary caucus, as is proper in parliamentary democracies.

Now the same parliamentary process has made Kristina Keneally premier of Australia's largest state, New South Wales. The premier was removed from the state's Labor Party leadership by his caucus, which then chose Keneally, a cabinet minister, to replace him as party leader. She was thereupon sworn in as premier on December 4. Accountability of governments to parliamentarians is rarely a problem in parliamentary democracies -- except in ours.

Some of the buzz about Keneally has a slight "birther" tinge, based on the fact that she was born and raised in the United States. She immigrated to Australia about 1995 and only became an Australian citizen (and eligible for elective office in NSW) in 2000. She is also the niece by marriage of the writer Thomas Keneally.

Some comments on her American background has made note of another immigrant Australian politician, the flamboyant King O'Malley (1858-1953), a member of the founding national parliament of the country. O'Malley successfully claimed he was eligible for election because, having been born in Canada, he was a British subject with the same rights throughout the empire (there being no separate Canadian or Australian citizenship at the time). It was widely suspected, however, that O'Malley was actually an American (one Australian biography of him is entitled O'Malley: The American Bounder). There is no record of him in census or birth records in either Canada or the United States, so he may not even have been King O'Malley before he arrived in Auz in 1888.

One piece of evidence suggesting he was American: though Australians, like us, generally use the "ou" spelling in words like "favour" and "labour," King O'Malley established that the Australian Labor Party would drop the "u" - as it still does today.

(Thanks for Fruits and Votes's Australian thread for launching me on this.)
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