Fresh citizenship crisis hits Canberra

Fresh citizenship crisis hits Canberra: More than 20 politicians could hold seats ILLEGALLY because they were born to British parents

  • Constitution bans a citizen of a foreign power from sitting in parliament 
  • It also bans anyone ‘entitled to the rights or privileges’ of foreign citizens
  • Legal paper says that this may extend to politicians with one British parent 

At least 26 politicians may be ineligible to sit in the federal parliament because they have British parents, according to lawyers.

Section 44 of the Australian constitution bans a citizen of a foreign power from sitting in parliament – and several MPs have been forced to resign because of this.

But it also says that anyone ‘entitled to the rights and privileges of citizens of a foreign power’ is also disqualified. 

A legal paper claims this may extend to politicians who have British parents even if they are are not British citizens, raising the prospect of yet another crisis.

At least 26 politicians including Bill Shorten, may be ineligible to sit in the federal parliament because they have British parents, according to a lawyer

Lorraine Finlay, a lecturer in Constitutional Law at Murdoch University, argues people with the right of abode have the same rights as a British citizen and therefore they may be ineligible to sit in parliament

Section 44(i) 

Section 44(i) disqualifies anyone from sitting in Parliament if they are: (1) under acknowledgement, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power; (2) a citizen of a foreign power; (3) or entitled to the rights and privileges of citizens of a foreign power 

A Commonwealth citizen born to at least one British parent before 1983 is granted the right to live, work and vote in the UK, known as the right of abode.  

Lorraine Finlay, a lecturer in Constitutional Law at Murdoch University, argues people with the right of abode have the same rights as a British citizen and therefore they may be ineligible to sit in parliament.

‘Individuals with a Commonwealth right of abode have practically the same rights as British citizens,’ she writes with co-author Hussein Al Asedy.

Any politician born after 1983 is unaffected because the law was changed so the right of abode is only given to British citizens. 

The authors say the wording of section 44 is ambiguous, but that: ‘There may still be a significant number of current Australian parliamentarians who are not actually eligible to sit in the Parliament’.

According to the report, there are at least 26 MPs and senators who may fall foul of the law, including former Labor leader Bill Shorten whose father was English and Shadow Minister for Health Chris Bowen whose mother was born in the UK.

The authors say more work needs to be done to clarify the constitution so that politicians and the public know who is eligible for parliament. 

The report concludes: ‘Clarifying the scope and reach of section 44(i) is essential to maintain public confidence in the legitimacy of the current Australia Parliament, and also to avoid uncertainty with regards to future elections.’

The report was discussed on Sunrise on Wednesday morning where broadcaster Ben Davies said the constitution needed to be amended to let dual citizens sit in parliament.

‘It is the only place in the country you cannot have a job as a dual citizen, the federal parliament,’ he said, adding that the constitution should have been changed two years ago.

According to the report, there are at least 26 MPs and senators who may fall foul of the law, Shadow Minister for Health Chris Bowen (pictured) whose mother was born in the UK

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