Citizenship matters – Take 2

Here we go again… another Australian politician, Deputy PM Barnaby Joycehas had his eligibility to sit in Parliament challenged based on claims he is a dual citizen!

John Richardson explains why the Australia should NOT allow foreign laws to dictate who can or cannot be a member of Australia’s Parliament. Where an individual has made no claim to citizenship and has not consented to become a citizen, must Australia recognise citizenship granted by a foreign country?

The Australian constitution was written in an era when dual citizenship was rare. Over the past few decades, dual citizenship has become almost common. With many countries granting citizenship by descent, it has become possible to be a citizen without any knowledge of that fact. In the past few weeks, it appears that Australian politicians have virtually weaponised citizenship.

Today’s Australian includes a list of MPs who may have citizenship problems, with leaders of both major parties threatening to refer members from the other side of the aisle to the High Court on this issue.

Citizenship was weaponised in another context when the Australian government agreed to sign an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the US over FATCA. There will be many Australians, born in Australia (or elsewhere outside the US) with a qualifying US-citizen parent, who may never have been registered as a US citizen, or who were registered as a minor without their consent. The US government considers them citizens, but, if they have never consented to that citizenship, should they be considered US citizens by their Australian bank? A High Court ruling that Barnaby Joyce or Matthew Canavan need not be considered dual citizens under Australian law could be useful for those that the US considers citizens who either have not consented to that citizenship or who believe they relinquished their US citizenship long ago, but do not have a US Certificate of Loss of Nationality.

3 thoughts on “Citizenship matters – Take 2”

  1. As anyone reading Australian news today would know, all of the citizenship challenges revolve around Section 44 of the Australian Constitution. The Constitution was written at a time when dual citizenship was rare. In fact, at the time the constitution was written, there wasn’t even separate Australian citizenship, Australians were all “British Subjects”. Australian citizenship wasn’t designated until 1949. The High Court needs to figure out how to operationalise the intent of Section 44 in a modern, inter-connected world where dual citizenship is no longer an unknown concept. Furthermore, as John Richardson states in his post (linked above), the court must do so in a way that doesn’t surrender Australia’s sovereignty.

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