Australia: Citizenship drama threatens to widen as spotlight falls on MP’s marriages

The silliness of Article 44 becomes more and more apparent. Only medium-term solution is constitutional change:

Parliament’s dual citizenship drama threatens to widen further after the Turnbull government made it clear its disclosure regime will include marriage.

The original version of the disclosure regime – agreed to by the government and opposition earlier this month – focused on citizenship by birth and descent. It would have required MPs to disclose details relating to their birthplace, parents and grandparents, but not necessarily spouses.

The government and Labor Party have reached consensus over the citizenship issue to hopefully put the crisis to rest but both sides are claiming credit for making it happen.
But the government has now confirmed MPs will be required to disclose relevant details relating to marriage.

Dozens of nations grant citizenship by marriage – or have done so in the recent past – and in a number of them the conferral is automatic.

Is the Parliament in chaos? Here’s how the government’s numbers look
Chief government whip Nola Marino may be a dual citizen by marriage
Questions have been raised about at least one Coalition MP, chief government whip Nola Marino, who was considered at risk of disqualification from Parliament due to citizenship by marriage.

She married her Italian-born husband, Carmelo Marino, in Western Australia in 1972. Official Italian government advice clearly states: “Foreign women who married an Italian citizen prior to 27 April 1983 automatically acquired Italian citizenship on the date of marriage.”

But Ms Marino has now moved to clarify her status, saying her husband lost his Italian citizenship when he naturalised before they were married

The government has also sought to raise doubts about Labor senator Kim Carr, with The West Australian reporting at the weekend he may have inadvertently obtained Israeli citizenship with his marriage to Carole Fabian.

Citizenship was automatically granted to spouses under the Law of Return before 1999. But Senator Carr has denied he has dual citizenship.

Senators have until this Friday to submit their details to parliamentary authorities, with the disclosures to be published on Monday. Lower house MPs will have until Tuesday night to submit their papers.

It is widely believed the disclosures will lead to further referrals to the High Court, potentially creating more Senate vacancies and sparking further lower house byelections.

Nine MPs have already been forced from Parliament as a result of the fiasco, with two government MPs – Barnaby Joyce and John Alexander – now defending their seats in byelections. Section 44 of the constitution forbids dual citizens serving in the Australian

via Citizenship drama threatens to widen as spotlight falls on MP’s marriages


Australia’s citizenship saga projects an insular image: Grant Wyeth

Good commentary:

The current saga concerning dual citizenship of Australian parliamentarians goes far beyond electoral politics. Australia needs a serious conversation about how it sees itself, contends with its plural nature, and how its internal character and national spirit fosters engagement with global society.

Most of the media focus has been on who will be deemed ineligible and how this will affect numbers in parliament. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to abandon a sitting week appears a case in point. But the consequences of the drama for Australia’s highly plural civil society has largely been ignored. As at the core of this issue remains an attempt to define ‘national loyalty’, with a division created between those who are and are not sufficiently loyal.

Liberal democratic states such as Australia are defined by their ability to embrace, or at least absorb, pluralism. This pluralism is a recognition of humanity’s capability to adopt or tolerate more than one approach of life. For an immigrant society like Australia, it is especially important to recognise that an attachment cultural heritage and a commitment to Australia’s national interests are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Yet ‘birth’ remains a dominant marker of identity, not matter how problematic. To assume a person is ‘loyal’ to their place of birth discounts a range of influential factors – from values absorbed during upbringing, to sub-culture, to ideology. It places too much emphasis on a random event and continues to ignore the movement of people as a fairly common occurrence in the modern world, often producing complex ancestries.

Most significantly, it removes power and respect from those who have actively sought to live in Australia. The soft power attraction of the country’s values has the potential to be far more potent than simple osmosis, and the questioning of one’s birthplace (and the birthplace of one’s parents and grandparents) demonstrates a lack of faith in this soft power attraction. Tying identity to birth also creates a loyalty test that one’s actions cannot negate. This becomes especially problematic if someone is from a minority community.

Social media made fun by nominating Barnaby Joyce for New Zealander of the year. Those from Anglo-Celtic backgrounds are better positioned to weather any great suspicion due to the ethnic dominance of the group in Australian society. But the situation became highly disturbing when the media decided to ‘weed out’ Josh Frydenberg as potential dual citizen.

The concept of ‘insufficient loyalty’ was a driver of the persecution of European Jews during the 1930s that led to Frydenberg’s family becoming stateless, and millions of others being slaughtered. This ‘body and soul’ relationship to the state subsequently became the daily test of loyalty – best illustrated by Václav Havel’s The Power of the Powerless – and the dominant feature of life within European totalitarianism. That Australia should even briefly flirt with such notions of loyalty is highly troubling.

Australia’s close political cousin Canada has approached its plural and global reality with a maturity that Australia is yet to display. Canada has no provision against dual citizens being elected to parliament embedded in their constitution. The public had few concerns about the recent stint of dual citizen Stéphane Dion as foreign minister (2015-17), and only a minimal amount of fuss was made of Thomas Mulcair’s dual citizenship when opposition leader (2012-15).

Canada has had a better understanding of the knock-on effects of economic liberalism, comprehending that open markets require open arms, hearts and minds. This includes the recognition that people who move internationally will retain cultural connections, and that a certain amount of leeway and trust needs to be given on the idea of ‘national loyalty’. Canada’s qualification to become a member of Parliament is simply tied to the right to vote. If you are entitled to vote, you are entitled to become a candidate, a concept that University of Queensland legal scholar Graeme Orr has suggested Australia should adopt.

Australia should consider how the High Court’s current interpretation of Section 44(1) could dissuade people from seeking office. It could potentially set up a two-tiered citizenship, preventing full democratic participation by a large group of citizens who have both Australia’s best interests at heart and a desire to maintain civic connections with their cultural heritage.

This should also be a practical consideration. It is in the national interest to have a population with intimate knowledge and experience within other countries. This is achievable without multiple citizenships, of course, but an extra passport remains highly advantageous tool for global opportunity. With a population of only 24 million people, Australia needs to facilitate its international links, and parliamentarians are essential as representatives of the public and the state.

Furthermore, a strict territorial nationalism limits the ability of Australia to engage in mutually beneficial, trust-building and cooperative behavior. It maintains the perspective of a world filled with ‘hostile states’ (and their subversive agents), even though the number of countries that Australia would deem hostile has significantly decreased since the end of the Cold War. A cooperative, interconnected humanity remains an aspirational idea, one Australia should strive to promote as an essential component of both its physical and economic security.

How Australia sees and projects itself is an important facet of its international relations. The current display of insularity demonstrates a continued suspicion of the world, an insecurity that is morphing a fear of abandonment into a fear of disloyalty.

via Australia’s citizenship saga projects an insular image

Norway’s government wants to allow dual citizenship – The Local

The last hold-out among the Nordics:
Norway’s government is to pave the way towards allowing dual citizenship in the Scandinavian country, with a proposal to be put to parliament this autumn.

The proposal will give new rights to thousands of people with connections to both Norway and a second country.

“We will notify in the state budget that there will be a hearing on the proposal to allow dual citizenship,” immigration minister Sylvi Listhaug told NRK.

For pro-dual citizenship NGO Norwegians Worldwide, which has long campaigned for a law change in the area, the announcement represents a positive change in the government’s position on Norwegians with an international outlook.

“We are extremely happy that the government wants to change an outdated and unfair law that has huge consequences for Norwegian families worldwide. This is a key issue for us and we are delighted on behalf of all those affected by the law against double citizenship,” Norwegians Worldwide general secretary Hanne K. Aaberg said in a press statement.

Donna Fox, co-founder of lobbying group ‘Ja til dobbelt statsborgerskap’ (Yes to dual citizenship) also welcomed the announcement.

“This announcement is fantastic news. After three years of lobbying for the principle of dual citizenship in Norway, Ja til dobbelt statsborgerskap has succeeded in convincing the government to change its outdated mono-citizenship law. Thousands of Norwegian families with connection to two countries, long term permanent Norwegian residents, and future generations will benefit from the right to vote, live and reside without restriction between their countries of citizenship,” Fox told The Local.

Norway is currently the only Nordic country and one of only a small handful of European nations that does not allow dual citizenship, although exceptions to citizenship rules do provide for it in some cases.

Source: Norway’s government wants to allow dual citizenship – The Local

Brexit: Dutch nationals living in Britain will be allowed dual citizenship | The Guardian

Dutch pragmatism:

The new Dutch government will allow its citizens living in the UK to take up dual citizenship, according to a coalition agreement announced on Tuesday, which pledges to prioritise both its people and EU unity in the Brexit negotiations.

After a record 208 days, agreement was struck between four parties on Tuesday to form a centre-right government led by the liberal prime minister, Mark Rutte.

The blueprint – agreed by Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, the Christian Democrats, the centrist and pro-European Union D66 party and the faith-based Christian Union – spells out plans for tax cuts, lessons in national identity and an experiment with state-sanctioned cannabis plantations over the next four years.

It also pledges to fight for the Dutch fishing industry in the Brexit negotiations, maintain solidarity with the EU in the talks with the UK, and legislate to allow its citizens living in Britain the chance to have dual citizenship.

The document says: “The cabinet will prepare proposals for the modernisation of nationality law. It concerns an extension of the possibility of possession of multiple nationalities for prospective first generation emigrants and immigrants.”

Until now, Dutch nationals who take British citizenship to avoid having to leave the UK after Brexit would have been stripped of their Netherlands passports due to limits on dual nationality.

Even as late as July, Rutte defended the policy, telling reporters that “countering dual nationality remains one of this cabinet’s policies”, in response to a petition with 22,000 signatures calling for a government rethink.

About 100,000 Dutch nationals living in Britain face an uncertain future after March 2019. The UK and EU are yet to reconcile their differences on the citizens’ rights issue.

Sophie in ‘t Veld, a Dutch MEP, said her party, the liberal D66, had pushed for the change to help Dutch citizens in the UK.

She said: “It is a major step forward, but it doesn’t apply immediately. We will have to legislate. But when we do, people who emigrate will have the right to dual nationality, although their children will have to choose their single nationality at some point.

“The document also pledges to maintain EU solidarity in the talks, which may disappoint some in Britain but that is the way it is.”

Source: Brexit: Dutch nationals living in Britain will be allowed dual citizenship | World news | The Guardian

Singapore debates dual nationalities, cites overseas Indian citizenship as option | world-news | Hindustan Times

Interesting account of Singapore debates:

Singapore has debated the option of dual citizenship for its nationals, with some citing concepts like ‘Overseas Citizenship of India’ given by New Delhi to Indian diaspora as a middle path.

Diplomats and academics have raised pros and cons of allowing Singaporeans to have dual citizenship, according to a report in The Sunday Times on Sunday.

In 2013, the government had responded to parliamentary questions, saying that Singapore being “a small and young nation” is concerned as it could dilute citizens’ commitment to the country.

The issue of whether Singapore should one day consider dual citizenship has been raised from time to time in discussions about the future of Singapore citizenship.

Barry Desker of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, a prominent advocate of dual citizenship, argued that it would help Singaporeans living abroad and foreigners in Singapore who are married to Singaporeans.

Singapore “may be losing good people” when Singaporeans living abroad are forced to give up their citizenship, said Professor Tan Tai Yong of Yale-NUS College in the National University of Singapore.

Associate Professor Eugene Tan of Singapore Management University said that dual citizenship should not have a detrimental impact in terms of people’s sense of belonging to the country.

A strong opponent of dual citizenship, Professor Leo Suryadinata of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute argued that citizenship is about political loyalty and it is doubtful if a person can be loyal to two countries.

“In an age of growing nationalism and the potential break-up of the European Union, global trends appear to be moving away from dual citizenship,” he observed.

Institute of Policy Studies researcher Debbie Soon said if Singapore were to one day be in conflict with another country, dual citizenship would be problematic because of the island state’s conscription system.

“But discussions on dual citizenship do not have to yield a binary yes-or-no answer,” argued Associate Professor Elaine Ho of the National University of Singapore.

There are in-between options that may enhance the links people have to Singapore, she noted.

One is the British example of an ancestry visa, which offers foreigners who can prove ancestral links to Britain an inside track to living and working there. A similar concept is the Overseas Citizenship of India.

According to Prof Tan Tai Yong the honorary citizenship, which Singapore grants to a very select group of foreigners who have made outstanding contributions to the country, is also an example of an in-between option.

Source: Singapore debates dual nationalities, cites overseas Indian citizenship as option | world-news | Hindustan Times

Brexit in Germany: ′Citizenship is not a panacea′ for Brits | DW | 13.09.2017

People having to make choices and the instrumental nature of citizenship:

Along with financial settlement and trade, the rights of citizens are a crucial part of the divorce talksbetween the UK and EU. But progress has been slower than many had hoped. In the meantime, anxiety grows among many of the three million EU citizens in the UK and 1.2 million Brits living and working in the EU. Chancellor Angela Merkel has sought to reassure the 100,000 Britons living in Germany that no one will be sent home, but with an election on the horizon, future conditions are anything but clear. Merkel’s advice? Go for German nationality, as she told one British expat: “to put yourself on a completely safe track.”

In Germany, Brits have been scrambling to get citizenship, which they seem to see as an insurance policy, not only to be able to remain in the country but also to retain the broader palette of rights they enjoy as EU citizens. Germany’s Statistics Office released figures in June revealing an “extraordinary increase” in the number of British citizens granted German passports in 2016. Overall naturalizations increased by 2.9 percent in comparison to 2015, whereas the number of Brits granted German citizenship soared by 361 percent to 2,865. While the agency does not specifically gather information on motivation to acquire citizenship, it did note that the surge was “quite obviously due to Brexit.”

For those who are well settled in Germany, applying is an administrative burden, but the requirements are not especially onerous: Those who have lived in the country for eight years (seven, if they pass a German-language integration test) — or for three years and been married to a German for two — are eligible to apply. Other requirements include proof of language proficiency, financial independence, a clean criminal record and a fee of 255 euros ($304).

Time limit for dual citizenship

Nick Wolfe, 29, a lawyer in Munich, says his recent application is “purely pushed on by Brexit” as well as the tight timeframe: “If you want to take German citizenship, you have to renounce your previous one, unless you are an EU citizen. What the relevant authorities here have been saying is that if you actually receive your German citizenship before March 2019, you’re okay. If you receive it afterwards, you will have to give up your British nationality to take up your German one.”

…And if it came to it, Wolfe would find it hard to give up his British nationality: “There’s a very emotional connection to it. So that’s why it’s obviously best if you can have both.”

Indeed, time is running out to submit a citizenship application. The city of Munich received 271 in the first six months of this year and granted 88. But each local authority handles applications separately, and requirements and processing times can vary wildly. In some places applicants wait up nine months just for an initial appointment, a further few months for an appointment to submit their application and then six to 12 months for processing, taking the amount of time to receive citizenship beyond the March 2019 deadline.

“It’s really complicated and there’s no one that gives you any real guidance on it,” Nick Wolfe said. “So you’re kind of at their mercy.”

Brits abroad as bargaining chips

Ingrid Taylor heads the Bavarian branch of the “British in Germany” campaign, which along with the broader “British in Europe” coalition represents UK citizens in the EU, and is awaiting the outcome of a citizenship application she submitted last November.

She speaks scathingly of the lack of support from the British government: “Because we are disenfranchised no one cares about us,” she says, referring to the fact that Brits lose their right to vote in Britain after 15 years of residence abroad. “They’re not going to look after our interests — because we can’t vote, there’s no gain in it for them.”

But fast-track citizenship cannot be the sole solution, according to Jane Golding, chair of the British in Europe: “Citizenship is not a panacea for all the issues. What we’ve had as EU citizens is a really complex bundle of interlinked rights: your right to free movement; to residence; to equal treatment; to work; to have your qualifications recognized; all sorts of rights about pensions and healthcare, all in one bundle. And you need all of them in order to live and work and have a life in another country.”

For Golding, it’s now crunch time: The bargaining-chip status of Brits in the EU must end, and rights must be guaranteed.

“We are a finite group of people who in good faith, and with legitimate expectations, thought that our rights were for life. What we are asking is that all of our rights, our complex bundle of rights are simply guaranteed.”

And as the withdrawal agreement is taking much longer to draw up than hoped, they are also asking for citizens’ rights to be ring-fenced for the rest of the negotiations: “Because we are people, these are people’s lives, and we have been living in limbo and uncertainty for all this time.”

Source: Brexit in Germany: ′Citizenship is not a panacea′ for Brits | Germany | DW | 13.09.2017

A Test of Australian Identity: Waleed Aly – The New York Times

The best piece I have seen to date on the Australian political “crisis” over dual citizenship and the obsolescent and overly broad nature of the prohibition:

It will be a fascinating legal test, boiling down to whether the Constitution is meant to cover cases in which people say they had no idea they were citizens of another country. On that point, the wording isn’t encouraging. The Constitution expressly prohibits anyone from Parliament who “is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power.”

But legal intricacies aside, it’s the talk of “subjects” that is most telling. As it stands, Section 44 of the Constitution is beginning to look like something of a relic, a monument to the 19th century that created it, and a pointer to just how profoundly Australia has changed.

Its animating idea is one of loyalty: that Australian parliamentarians must be shorn of any “allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power.” But this was written at a time when Australian citizenship didn’t properly exist.

Australians were subjects of the British Empire, and the thought of simultaneously being subjects of another country would have been seen as a conflict. But the British Empire is no more, and since the end of World War II, this particular British outpost has become a thoroughly immigrant nation. That’s a rapid transition for a nation that had a “White Australia” policy until the early 1970s.

Today, nearly half of Australians were either born overseas or have at least one parent who was. In this context, dual citizenship is part of the grammar of Australian society. That’s why even the most avowedly nationalistic parties, like One Nation, have been caught up in this mess. It doesn’t matter how exclusively Australian you say you are, chances are you’ve come from somewhere else not very long ago.

That’s more than a mere demographic change. It’s a change in the notion of Australian identity.

We could say there are two ideal (and simplified) kinds of nationhood: one anchored firmly in ethnicity and culture and another built on a civil creed. Germany is frequently cited as an example of the former (it shed its citizenship laws requiring a blood connection to the country only in 2000). America, with its civil religion of individual liberty, is the classic example of the latter. Australia’s story is of a gradual, if incomplete, transition from the European to the American model.

It began as a self-consciously derivative nation, drawing its sense of self overwhelmingly from the Empire, and became a cosmopolitan New World society. Any attempt to maintain an exclusive ethnic sense of Australianness would inevitably fall apart under those conditions. There is nationalist resistance to this, but Australian identity has now become something that exists in combination with any number of other cultural identities.

This leaves Australia in a conundrum. To exclude dual citizens from Australian politics is to exclude contemporary Australia itself, and yet this is what Australia’s Constitution demands.

In the foreseeable future, this probably means a wave of political candidates renouncing their foreign citizenship. But at no stage are anyone’s loyalties likely to be altered.

Modern Australia has multiple, simultaneous identities, whether expressed in government documents or not. We will remain a nation of people with emotional attachments to foreign lands of which we’re not citizens, and of citizenships of lands to which we feel no attachment. In this instance, it’s not our dual citizens but our Constitution that’s un-Australian. Funny, that.

Australia: Coalition warned it has ‘uphill battle’ in high court over citizenship and postal vote | The Guardian

As noted, only reasonable solution in an immigration-based country is to repeal section 44 and allow dual citizenship:

The government faces an “uphill battle” in major high court cases dealing with the same-sex marriage postal survey and the eligibility of seven parliamentarians on the current reading of the law, George Williams has warned.

In a speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday, the constitutional law expert and University of NSW professor accused the government of “a surprising constitutional adventurism” in testing the limits of its power and relying on a “creative, quite liberal and generous reading of those powers” by the court.

In October the high court will hear the cases challenging the eligibility of the deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, the Nationals senator Matt Canavan, the resigned Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, and the One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts. Nick Xenophon and Fiona Nash will also be referred.

Williams said that “on the current law it is difficult to see … that any of the seven parliamentarians who will face the high court are likely to survive that challenge”.

“It is hard to see any of them have taken the reasonable steps that the high court requires to divest themselves of foreign citizenship.”

Williams suggested Labor’s Katy Gallagher could also be in difficulty, depending on the high court ruling, and likened citizenship by descent to a “Pandora’s box” that could claim up to “20 or more parliamentarians”.

Section 44 of the constitution disqualifies anyone who “is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power” from sitting in parliament.

The Turnbull government insists it has strong legal advice from the solicitor general that the better view of the law is that some element of intention or acquiescence to foreign citizenship is required.

Williams warned that view was based on William Dean’s dissent in the case of Sykes v Cleary and it was “exceedingly rare” for a later court to adopt a dissenting view.

Another possible reading – to exclude only those members who have foreign citizenship by birth – had no support in the constitution, he said.

Williams said Joyce’s and the Greens’ eligibility problems “speak less of a constitutional problem … and more of complacency and poor vetting” by political parties. He cited a simple check he had performed online to confirm a person in Joyce’s situation was a New Zealand citizen by descent.

“In this case it is hard to see why the high court would fashion an exemption when candidates have been warned of this problem and when the information is very easy to obtain through a simple check on the internet.”

Williams described Malcolm Turnbull’s confidence that the high court will find Joyce eligible as “misplaced”.

Williams said section 44 was out of date, arguing it was “hardly consistent with our sovereignty, our stability as a democracy” to allow eligibility for parliament to be determined by other countries’ laws.

Source: Coalition warned it has ‘uphill battle’ in high court over citizenship and postal vote | Australia news | The Guardian

Citizenship changes are risky, says Australian Human Rights Commission | The Guardian

Valid reservations, with clear impact on some groups:

The Australian Human Rights Commission has warned the Turnbull government to tread carefully with its citizenship changes, saying the Coalition needs to be mindful of a perception Australia is departing from a non-discriminatory immigration policy.

Members of the commission, including the new president, Rosalind Croucher, appeared before a Senate committee on Wednesday to outline concerns they had about the controversial citizenship overhaul being proposed by the immigration minister, Peter Dutton.

The race discrimination commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, told the committee Australia was a remarkable international success story when it came to the integration of immigrants, and he said if changes were contemplated to the citizenship regime, the case needed to be “compelling”.

He said there was a danger of the government sending a negative signal with onerous new requirements, including an English test requiring university-level language proficiency, which could deter people from taking out Australian citizenship.

“Care must be taken to ensure the wrong signal isn’t sent,” Soutphommasane told the committee.

The race discrimination commissioner also argued the task of managing civic integration was not one that should be confined to aspiring Australian citizens. He suggested there was also scope for improving the civic literacy of Australian-born citizens.

The Turnbull government proposal, which has been badged a national security measure, makes a number of changes to the current citizenship regime.

The legislation extends permanent residency requirements from one year to “at least four years” before someone can apply for citizenship and requires most applicants to provide evidence of “competent” English-language proficiency before they can become a citizen.

It would also give the immigration minister power to overrule decisions on citizenship applications by the administrative appeals tribunal if the minister didn’t think the decisions were in the national interest, and also give the minister power to decide whether or not the applicant had integrated into the Australian community.

A written submission from the AHRC to the Senate committee examining the legislation recommends that the government’s proposal not be passed in its current form.

It says the government proposal will make it harder for a number of vulnerable groups to become Australian citizens, including children born in Australia to asylum seeker or refugee parents, even after those children have been lawfully in Australia for up to a decade.

“These proposed sections would deny citizenship by birth to certain children born in Australia solely based on the immigration status of the child’s parents,” the submission says.

“The child may have held valid visas and been lawfully present in Australia for his or her entire life, but will be denied citizenship under the 10-year rule because his or her parents arrived in Australia without a valid visa”.

As well as raising concerns about the impact of the citizenship overhaul on children, and people with disabilities, the submission also says the harder English language test will have a “considerable” impact.

The submission notes many Australia-born citizens “would not possess a written or spoken command of English equivalent to this standard”.

It is unclear whether the government’s overhaul will pass the parliament. Labor has raised substantial objections, and the Nick Xenophon Team has also raised concerns about the impact of particular measures.

Source: Citizenship changes are risky, says Australian Human Rights Commission | Australia news | The Guardian

Australian deputy prime minister under citizenship cloud – ABC News

A more sensible approach would be to revise the law given the number of representatives from all parties that have been found in violation despite having lived in Australia for all their lives or close to it and not having meaningful connections to other countries:

Australia’s deputy prime minister on Monday became the latest lawmaker to reveal he might have breached a constitutional prohibition on dual citizens becoming lawmakers, after the New Zealand government declared he was a kiwi.

Barnaby Joyce told Parliament he would become the fifth lawmaker to be referred to the High Court since last month for scrutiny over whether he was entitled to remain in Parliament.

Joyce, who leads the conservative Nationals minor coalition party, said he had legal advice that he would be cleared by the court and would not stand down from Cabinet.

The 116-year-old section of the constitution that bans dual nationals is taking an extraordinary toll on the finely balanced Parliament elected in July last year. Before the careers of five came under a cloud since July, only two elected lawmakers were caught. Both were elected in the late 1990s and were quickly disqualified by the High Court, the first over New Zealand citizenship and the second for being British.

Critics of the constitutional rule argue it no longer suits the modern multicultural Australia in which almost half the population was born overseas or has at least one overseas-born parent.

If Joyce was disqualified, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s center-right government could lose its single-seat majority in the House of Representatives where parties need a majority to govern. The other four lawmakers are senators who if disqualified would be replaced by members of their own parties.

Joyce said he was notified by the New Zealand High Commission on Thursday that the New Zealand government had discovered “I may be a citizen by descent of New Zealand.”

“Needless to say, I was shocked to receive this information,” said Joyce, whose father migrated from New Zealand in 1947. Joyce was born in Australia in 1967.

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English said he was told last week that Joyce was a New Zealand citizen.

“Unwittingly or not, he’s (Joyce) a New Zealand citizen and then it’s a matter for the Australian system to decide how Australian law applies in his case and how they deal with the issue,” English said.

The Australian opposition demanded that the government refuse to accept Joyce’s vote in Parliament and dump him from Cabinet until the court resolved his status. But Turnbull said he was confident that Joyce was eligible to sit in Parliament.

“We did not refer this matter to the court because of any doubt about the Member for New England’s (Joyce’s) position, but because of the need, plainly in the public interest, to give the court the opportunity to clarify the operation of the section (of the constitution) so important to the operation of our Parliament,” Turnbull told Parliament.

Source: Australian deputy prime minister under citizenship cloud – ABC News