Archaic Obstacles: Australia, Parliament and Dual Citizenship

Dusting away the must on a constitutional text may be a rare thing, but it should be a point of order for the elected officials of a country.  Often, these contain laws that are irretrievably archaic, and resist change by virtue of being embedded in a document deliberated over in another age.

The one provision in the Australian Constitution that has received considerable attention of late is section 44, one unmistakably dull yet absolute in effect:

Any person who is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.

It is a provision that nabs the unsuspecting member of Parliament who discovers, by self-pursuit or otherwise, that he or she is, in fact, seized of the loyalty of another state, with its “rights or privileges”. A mere snifter of benefit from a foreign power disentitles and disables.

This was the situation Greens Senators Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam found themselves when they discovered that their previous nationalities (in Waters case, Canada, in Ludlam’s, New Zealand) had not been extinguished by the act of naturalisation.  This bumbling did not just come at some cost to the Greens: it also excised two able working representatives who risk being hounded for their pay.

The resignations…

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