Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Senator Abetz – Statement to the Senate

Date : Monday, 25 October 2010
Author : The Hon Eric Abetz

Senator Eric Abetz has delivered the following statement to the Senate, to address inaccuracies contained in an article printed by the Mercury Newspaper in Tasmania regarding legal proceedings currently before the High Court. The following transcript is from the Hansard.

N26Abetz, Sen EricSenator ABETZ-I thank the Senate. On Saturday, 23 October, the Mercury newspaper printed an article on page 2 under the heading ‘Citizenship action on Abetz folds’.

The fact is that the matter has not folded; it is for mention again in the High Court on 15 November. I therefore kept my comments to the media on the case to a minimum.

The petitioner, however, used the opportunity to say and have published assertions that are simply incorrect. Allow me to quote the petitioner as reported in the article, “Senator Abetz’s renunciation was dated March 9, 2010.”

He said it meant Senator Abetz had been ineligible, because of his dual citizenship, during the 16 years of his political career until that date.

“You cannot renounce what you haven’t got, so it means that Senator Abetz was a dual citizen and thus ineligible from 1994 to 2010,” he said.

He followed that up with: “If he was a proper chap he would resign.”

I have been advised by my legal advisers that I can respond to these public allegations.

The facts are these: in the lead-up to my becoming an Australian citizen on 3 December 1974, I was given a document, a copy of which I still have, issued by the Australian Government.

It said, in part, under the heading ‘Duties’, ‘before we can become Australians we must renounce our present allegiance and swear or promise to be loyal to her majesty, the Queen.’

Under the heading ‘Privileges’, on that same document, it says, ‘Australians have the right to offer themselves for election as a member of Parliament.’

On 3 December 1974, the oath I swore commenced as follows-and I have a copy of it here: I, Eric Abetz, renouncing all other allegiance, swear by Almighty God. German authorities have advised, and continue to advise on their website in an information sheet entitled ‘German citizenship law’-as follows:

Please note that a German National who is naturalized abroad (e.g. in Australia) loses his/her German citizenship automatically through that naturalization.

Out of an abundance of caution, before nominating for the 1993 election, I wrote to the German embassy on 26 November 1992.

That same article somehow suggested that that letter may not exist, that I had somehow promised to the Hobart Mercury that I would make it available to them.

I never promised to the Hobart Mercury that I would make that letter available to them; I did tell them that it existed. That letter, along with all the other documents, have been provided to the petitioner.

In that letter of 26 November 1992, out of an abundance of caution, I said, in part: Given the latest High Court ruling in relation to the possibility of dual citizenship, I write to advise that any citizenship that I may still have with West Germany or Germany is hereby renounced, and I consider myself simply to be solely an Australian citizen. In the event that anything further is required, please advise immediately so that those matters can be attended to.

I received no response.

To completely clarify the matter, I asked German officials to provide me with a document confirming my non citizenship. I was provided with a renunciation certificate, but with an explanation that ‘the certificate does not necessarily state that you actually were a German citizen before it was issued’.

To assert that I renounced my German citizenship in March 2010 as asserted in the article is wrong. I believe I renounced my German citizenship on 3 December 1974 in my oath and in the application of German law.

To make doubly sure, I wrote in November 1992 to clarify the position.

I now hold a certificate to confirm all of this. To assert that that certificate somehow renounced my citizenship-which I allegedly held up until that time-is, I suggest, demonstrably false. I thank the Senate.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. johnnie in Launnie

    August 26, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Yes saw that…..started in 2010…just being re invigorated now…clearly a much better topic to hunt the Senator on than the pesky Germans not sending a registered letter back to Eric confirming renouncement. If he has done alleged questionable property dealings through a privilege of office, hang him to dry. Guessing there are many that do not appreciate all he does for the state? Time to change the ad then Mr Hawkins….registered interests….time to clarify this one for Eric…or similar.

  2. john hawkins

    August 25, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Johnnie in Lonnie

    If you press on the Advert you will find my article first published on TT regarding Abetz and the allocation of profits from his Tasmanian Channel Highway Land Deals.

    It would appear that in this matter his capital gains tax liabilities are worthy of serious investigation by our tax authorities.

  3. johnnie in Launnie

    August 25, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    #12…certainly not in middle. So TT what is with the ad? will it come down now we know the facts about the good Senators auto citizenship revalation? Has he sent a note in yet requesting it be removed?

  4. Steve

    August 24, 2012 at 2:53 am

    #11; Should it be carried to the left?

  5. johnnie in Launnie

    August 23, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    no matter who is right or wrong, renounced officially or not… TT still carries the Hawkins ad on the right margin of this commentary. Be afraid, be very afraid.

  6. William Boeder

    November 28, 2010 at 9:05 am

    There is much in the Abetzian style of politics that pertains specifically to this particular Senator, as having no sufficient documented eligibility at some time in his past, this that could then have been held as evidence to support his former claims.
    Hence the determined effort to have on hand some form of ‘documented evidence’ to protect this soon to be expected challenge to his present eligibility to re-nominate for his role of Senator in 2010?

    To infer that all was hunky-dory in times prior just by Abetzian word alone, “is something that clearly was not previously ever challenged,” (as per the obligatory probity assessment that seems to have been rather untidily overlooked?)

    Therefore I hold that John Hawkins, (a man of prudent nature,) had every reason to persist in his course of actions, to seek to validate the official status of eligibility, which, since 1994, was known to be of a mere verbal substance only.
    Unsupported statements are generally known to carry within them the prospect of doubt, as such.
    (Not really that of which I personally would accept as proof positive?)
    Thereby the urgent actions that took place in 2010, to pursue any and all forms of supporting documentation by the Senator, were so deemed as vital.
    Also, there existed a secondary vital component in the 2010 pursuit for documented evidence, this was also deemed as necessary, being that this may have been in order so to ‘imply’ that this present action might then cast a favorable light of reflection upon one’s past?

  7. Alpal

    October 26, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    John Hayward and Steve, I can understand why you think Abetz once again renouncing it is a “problem”, but he answers it himself – he renounced in both 1992 and 2010 out of an abundance of caution.

    Whether either letter was technically needed will turn, as Steve rightly suggests, on what the law in Germany was in 1974. If Abetz is right then neither was needed. However, technically sufficient or otherwise, in law it is always prudent to have a back up plan – basically in case you’re wrong. We see this very often in law where arguments are put in the alternative (if you don’t accept argument A, here’s argument B).

    So even though he believes his 1974 renunciation was sufficient we see the 1992 letter. At that point Abetz probably had no reason to suspect a challenge to his eligibility, a situation that changed by 2010.

    In light of a pending challenge, and again out of an abundance of caution, we see the 2010 renunciation. That 2010 renunciation does not mean he was still a German citizen between 1992 and 2010. It was just done out of the abundance of caution, and to nip in the bud any challenge to his eligibility. And that, as it turns out, appears to be exactly the effect that it had, with the petition seemingly ending without the need to proceed to hearing.

    We probably won’t ever know if the High Court would have ruled in the absence of that 2010 renunciation. What we do know is that Abetz is currently eligible to serve as a Senator, and never properly challenged as to his eligibility before this term.

  8. Steve

    October 26, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    7; Not necessarily so crf. There’s also a question of how far a private citizen should stick his neck out to sort out an issue that’s actually a public responsibility.
    I’m not privy to any of the ins and outs of this case but I can easily see that a petitioner could easily be put in a position where there’s only a 50% chance of success and loss could carry some serious financial implications.
    I’m not sure though, does it work that way? It does seem a bit strange that someone could challenge the eligibility of a senator, arguably a public service if there’s any doubt about said senator, and then have to carry the costs of the action. I would have thought that once the question was raised the High Court should investigate the matter regardless. After all, this is a senator, a public officer, we’re talking about. In a democracy, it should not depend on the depth of your pocket when it comes to determining the eligibility of a elected representative.

  9. crf

    October 26, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Steve (#6) states “Surely someone must be able to shed some light on this pertinent point?”.

    Hawkins says he’s withdrawing his case – isn’t that enough light shed on it. If he had proceeded with it, the High Court could have also shed light on it. Now, I know the learned judges of the High Court don’t measure up to TT standards, but they would have been good enough for me.

    I hope Mr Abetz cleans up on costs.

  10. Steve

    October 26, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    4; That’s a very valid point John, and one that has puzzled me before. If the 1992 letter was a case of “an abundance of caution” then surely he would have requested written confirmation of his status?
    On the face of it, he appears to claim to have simply written a letter and dropped into a letter box to take its chances by ordinary mail. Naive behaviour from anyone, let alone a lawyer and really doesn’t sit comfortably with the position that, whilst he was sure that his Australian naturalisation had done the deed in 1974, he wanted to be 100% certain.
    Anyone wanting to be 100% certain would, at the very least, have used certified mail or hand delivered it to the German embassy and requested a receipt.
    Really though, it all hinges on what the German law was in 1974. Surely someone must be able to shed some light on this pertinent point?

  11. William Boeder

    October 26, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    I am of the belief that where there is smoke there is fire, thus the integrity of this whole affair has in its very beginning the Senator at the centre of this entire matter.

  12. john hayward

    October 26, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    The problem with the Alpal (#2) explanation is that it is seemingly contradicted by the responses of the German-speaking lawyer Abetz who was the subject of the affair. Why request an unnecessary renunciation?

    John Hayward

  13. Brad Standish

    October 26, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Even though Abetz is not the most loved person, I’d be inclined to be wary of the Mercury’s claims regarding that a copy of this letter was promised, too.

  14. Alpal

    October 26, 2010 at 1:50 am

    With respect John Hayward, you’ve entirely missed the point of the 1974 renunciation. German law back then (according to Abetz) stated that German nationals automatically lost their German citizenship when they became citizens of another country. No further steps needed.

    The 1974 renunciation therefore was the simple act of Abetz becoming an Australian citizen. There would not be a record of that in Germany. There would be a record in Australia.
    The Cleary case stated as clear as day that one cannot be a member of federal parliament if they are a dual citizen – that is, they owe allegiance to a foreign power.

    To be extra safe Abetz wrote to the German embassy in 1992 renouncing his citizenship. He has previously stated he received no reply.
    To be triply sure, and I speculate because he sniffed the wind and expected a legal challenge to his eligibility, he did it again this year and this time received a reply, hence the quick end to John Hawkins petition.

    But if Abetz is right as to the state of German law in 1974 (and I have no idea how to check that, as I don’t speak German and even if I did I wouldn’t know where to start looking) then his naturalisation as an Australian citizen would have extinguished his German citizenship and with that any allegiance he has to a foreign power. The subsequent letters would not make the matter more certain.

    I await John Hawkins next comment on this with eager anticipation, as his last post suggested it wasn’t entirely over. I’d love to know what’s to come next as this has been highly entertaining.

  15. john hayward

    October 25, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    The famously efficient Germans would surely have a copy of the1974 renunciation whose existence could be verified. It is even odder that the German govt would have again mislaid something as unusual as a second renunciation dated 18 years later, in 1992, or fail to respond to it. It is hard to see how a later renunciation effective Nov 1992 would “clarify the position”.

    John Hayward

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