Constitutional change likely in Australia to address dual citizenship ban on Parliament

by Ray Clancy on October 31, 2017

in Australia

It looks likely that the Australian Constitution will be changed so that people who inherit the citizenship of another country through their parents are not barred from standing from Parliament.

It became clear after a ruling in the Australian High Court that politicians are being unwittingly caught by a 116-year-old clause that prevents people born in Australia who have not renounced inherited dual citizenship from standing for election.

Australia Flag Law

(Evlakhov Valeriy/Shutterstock.com)

The ruling has been described by Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull as ‘strict’ and the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has been caught out and had to resign. The court found that he had not acted deliberately and he will now contest a by-election with a view to getting back into Parliament.

‘The decision of the court is clearly not the outcome we were hoping for but the business of government goes on. We’ll closely evaluate the full implications of the court’s decision, which will now be carefully considered by Australians and, of course, in particular by the Parliament,’ said Turnbull after last week’s ruling.

He explained that the Government will refer the decision to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters so that it is able to consider, among other things, whether any changes to Section 44 should be recommended.

He hinted that a change is likely and he support such as move to minimise the risk of political candidates being in breach of the ruling. He said he believes that in a multicultural society all Australians should be able to confidently stand for and serve in our Parliament.

‘What the court has said is that knowledge is immaterial. So they have said that if a person is, despite them having no knowledge of it, and perhaps no reason to even suspect that they might be a citizen of another country, they will still be disqualified. I think, a lot of people would see that as being a very hard, very tough outcome,’ Turnbull said.

‘But, that’s the interpretation that they have given. That’s their decision. So what we need to do now is look at that very carefully, and in particular, we need to consider whether we should be recommending a Constitutional amendment to Section 44,’ he explained.

‘We’re are a big multicultural country. More than half of the people, of Australians, were either born overseas or have a parent who was born overseas. If you were to go back and say how many of us have a got grandparent who was born overseas, I think that would be a majority. I don’t know whether we have statistics on that but common-sense would say that would be huge,’ he pointed out.

‘So this raises big issues for how we ensure that every Australian, in this, the most successful multicultural society in the world, is able, confidently, to stand for and get elected to and serve in Parliament. Surely our objective is to ensure that Parliament is open to everybody, every Australian citizen,’ he added.

However he has rejected an idea from the Referendum Council for an amendment to the Constitution to provide for a national Indigenous representative assembly. ‘Our democracy is built on the foundation of all Australian citizens having equal civic rights, all being able to vote for, stand for and serve in either of the two chambers of our national Parliament. A constitutionally enshrined additional representative assembly for which only Indigenous Australians could vote for or serve in is inconsistent with this fundamental principle,’ said Turnbull.

‘It would inevitably become seen as a third chamber of Parliament. The Government does not believe such a radical change to our constitution’s representative institutions has any realistic prospect of being supported by a majority of Australians in a majority of States,’ he concluded.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Russell Watts October 31, 2017 at 3:34 pm

Leave section 44 of the constitution alone as it is a safe guard against our country being taken over through the government by another country. You read and sign a Statutory Declaration saying you are a citizen of 1 country and 1 country only. ignorance is no excuse. You declare that you are only a citizen of Australia and then it is proved that you are a dual citizen then you have also breached Section 11 of the Statutory Declaration Act 1959 which is a criminal offense and carries a 4 year imprisonment penalty. If the Section 44 of the Constitution is changed then it leaves it open for any country to take over Australia and change all our laws to suit them. So Australia could become a Muslim country under Sharia Law or become part of China under communist rule.

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