Our Federal Politicians and the Dual Citizenship Debacle

Our Federal Politicians and the dual citizenship debacle

Over the past months the dual citizenship issue has rattled Federal Parliament forcing the disqualification or resignation of four members from the House of Representatives (HOR), four Senators and raising the question above the heads of many more.

Each of these vacancies must now be filled according to pre-established electoral rules. For the HOR, a new member is chosen via a by-election in the affected electorates and the ousted member may seek re-election if they can renounce their foreign citizenship in time. In the case of the Senate, the disqualified Senators will be replaced by the next candidate receiving the highest votes from the same party or coalition as shown on the ticket at the last election.

The section in the Australian Constitution responsible for forcing the disqualifications of these Politicians (section 44) says …

Any person who ….is a citizen …. of a foreign power…. Shall be incapable of being chosen as a Senator or a member of the House of Representatives”

Although the disqualification ruling came from the full bench (7 Judges) of the High Court, one might think even a primary school aged child would be able to look at section 44 and realise what it meant. Some Politicians claim they were unaware of the dual citizenship issue, but the High Court has already ruled on this exact point twice before, once in 1996 and again in 1999. In 1981, a full Senate Committee examined and recommended amendments to section 44 but nothing was ever done.

In each case, it has only taken a few days for the affected politicians to enquire and determine their foreign citizenship status and where relevant, an equal or less amount of time for them to renounce it.

It is estimated By- Elections will cost the Australian tax payer $1 – 2 Million per electorate. In the case of the Senate, disqualified One Nation Senator Malcom Roberts will now be replaced by Fraser Anning who received just 19 votes at the last election and until recently was himself facing bankruptcy proceedings for unpaid debts.

Federal politicians are the people we elect into power to make the rules that the rest of us are required to follow. Is it too much to ask that they bother to read the rule book and make sure they comply with it themselves?

Michael Zande is the Principal of Zande Law Solicitors, with over 25 years’ experience in practice. Zande Law Solicitors is located at Suite 7, Norwinn Centre, 15 Discovery Drive, North Lakes. To contact Michael for advice, phone 3385 0999.

The information in this article is merely a guide and is not a full explanation of the law. This firm cannot take responsibility for any action readers take based on this information. When making decisions that could affect your legal rights, please contact us for professional advice.