Australia’s Dual-Citizenship Contagion Claims 5 More Politicians
Posted May 9, 2018 12:07 p.m. EDT
MELBOURNE, Australia — Four Australian members of Parliament resigned Wednesday after revealing they held dual citizenship, bringing the number of lawmakers forced to vacate their seats because of split national loyalties to 15 in less than a year.
The resignations came hours after the High Court ruled Wednesday that another politician, Sen. Katy Gallagher, a member of the Labor Party, was ineligible to remain in Parliament because she had not renounced her British citizenship before her election.
That decision prompted three other Labor members of Parliament — Justine Keay, Josh Wilson and Susan Lamb — and a member of the Centre Alliance, Rebekha Sharkie, to resign.
Section 44 of Australia’s Constitution bars anyone holding dual citizenship from running for office. Despite the clarity of the law, more than a dozen lawmakers, including a former deputy prime minister, have been found to hold dual citizenship in the past year, prompting their resignations.
The discoveries of lawmakers — sometimes unknowingly — holding dual citizenship has been likened to a virus spreading through Parliament, picking off members month after month. The contagion has affected politicians across the political spectrum, including two deputy Green party leaders and Barnaby Joyce, the former deputy prime minister and National Party leader. (Joyce would win back his seat only to later resign his post after a sex scandal.)
Gallagher had argued that she should remain in Parliament because she took steps to renounce her British citizenship before the election but was delayed because of paperwork. The court rejected that argument.
The four politicians who resigned said they would contest their seats in by-elections that are expected to be held next month. The court ordered a special recount to fill Gallagher’s seat.
Critics have called the law archaic and many cite a statistic that about 50 percent of Australians have at least one foreign-born parent. That ancestor can be enough to earn citizenship by descent in some countries. Some critics have further argued that the law renders about half of Australia’s population ineligible for office.
Among the previous resignations were dual citizens of Italy, Canada and New Zealand. Most of the politicians laid low by the scandal were dual citizens of Britain.
In the wake of the latest resignations, Larissa Waters, former Greens deputy leader and one of the first ousted in the crisis, took to Twitter.
“Go home section 44, you’re drunk,” she wrote.