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An electoral anachronism claims more victims

TJ Ryan Foundation Research Associate, Graeme Orr, writes in Inside Story (18.7.17) about the constitutional rules that have seen two Greens senators resign from office over holding dual citizenship.

‘There were nine Green bottles. Within a week, two of them had accidentally fallen. First, WA senator Scott Ludlam; now, Queensland senator Larissa Waters. Both announced that they had unwittingly fallen foul of section 44 of the Constitution, in each case by holding dual citizenship. What is going on with parliamentary representation and qualifications in Canberra? And what can be done to address this farce?

‘First, to brass tacks. Senator Ludlam was born in New Zealand to Australian parents. He settled in Australia when he was eight years old and underwent a naturalisation process in his teens, which he assumed overrode any NZ allegiance. Senator Waters was born in Canada to Australian parents. They brought her back home at just eleven months of age. She, too, grew up believing that her formal Australian naturalisation overrode any Canadian ties. Canadian law was changed when she was a few days old, and subsequently a renunciation was required. The older law, still common in many countries, was that taking out a new citizenship (in Australia, for instance) automatically revoked one’s birth citizenship.

‘The idea that Australians who acquire dual citizenship by default – at birth, say, or via their parentage – are too conflicted to run for or serve in parliament is not so much arcane as absurd. The Constitution in this area is musty, dating from values of the 1890s. But even in those days neither Canada nor New Zealand, nor for that matter Britain, was considered legally “foreign.” So, ironically, in a multicultural twenty-first century, the disqualification is tighter in practice than when it was first written.’

Greens resignations show a need to change dual citizenship requirements

Lorraine Finlay writes in The Conversation (19.7.17) that, given the dramatic resignations of two Greens senators in the past week, now is an opportune time to discuss reform of a section of the Constitution that makes dual nationals ineligible to sit in parliament.

‘On Tuesday, the Greens’ Larissa Waters became the second senator in under a week to resign from parliament, after discovering she held dual citizenship and was therefore ineligible to hold her seat. Her Canadian citizenship revelation followed Greens co-deputy leader Scott Ludlam’s resignation, after he was found to hold New Zealand citizenship.

‘It is expected that the Senate will refer both matters to the High Court, sitting in its capacity as the Court of Disputed Returns. The court will almost certainly find both senators ineligible based on their dual citizenship. It will declare the resulting vacancies should be filled by a recount of the ballot papers from the 2016 federal election.

‘… While not every Australian who is born overseas remains a dual citizen, these figures do highlight the significant number of people who are potentially impacted by Section 44(i). But reform can only be achieved through a constitutional referendum, which is itself a challenging exercise.’

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