Australian 101: Dual Citizenship Debate

Australian 101: Dual Citizenship Debate

The Issue:

  • Australia is in the throes of a dual-nationality crisis following an enquiry by the High Court of Australia into the eligibility of politicians within the Australian Government who may hold dual citizenship.
  • Under Section 44(i) of the Australian Constitution, any individual is disqualified from service in the national parliament if they hold foreign citizenship.
  • In September, seven politicians were involved in the enquiry with five of the seven, including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, ruled ineligible.
  • In October and November, four more MPs resigned including lower house MP John Alexander and Senator Stephen Parry.
  • According to the ABC, the citizenship of a further 28 MPs is in question.

Community Response:

  • In the face of the disqualification of MPs, Prime Minister Turnbull has lost his majority in the 150-seat House of Representatives.
  • Prime Minister Turnbull is facing calls to resolve the saga with a parliament-wide audit, a move Mr. Turnbull calls a ‘national witch hunt’.
  • The Australian Government has cancelled a week of parliament, with the lower house set to return on 4 December to allow time to resolve the dual citizenship saga. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has presented a letter to Mr Turnbull co-signed by four of the five House of Representatives crossbench MPs, demanding the House sit as scheduled to deal with 53 outstanding bills.
  • Due to Australia’s status as a migrant nation (26% of Australians were born overseas according to 2016 census), the saga has brought forward a debate about whether full loyalty to a country can only be ensured through single citizenship.

Future Outlook:

  • Prime Minister Turnbull has announced new rules requiring all federal politicians to declare their citizenship status. The plan will need to be voted on in both upper and lower houses before coming into force.
  • The new plan will require a formal declaration of citizenship status, as well as details about the time and place of their birth and that of their parents. If dual citizenship is held, details must be given on how and when it will be renounced.
  • By-elections in New England and Bennelong, to be held on December 2 and December 16 respectively, will determine if Turnbull will maintain a razor edge parliamentary majority after the ineligibility of Barnaby Joyce and John Alexander.

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