Australia High Court Rules Against Labor Senator as Citizenship Crisis Widens

File Senators Scott Ludlam Larissa Waters Barnaby Joyce Matthew Canavan and Malcolm Roberts

Five Australian lawmakers were forced from Parliament on Wednesday in an ongoing legal wrangle over a 117-year-old constitutional ban on dual citizens standing for election. The fifth MP, Rebekha Sharkie, is part of minor party Centre Alliance.

Australia has lurched into a fresh political crisis after a court ruled that a Labor senator was ineligible to sit in parliament because she had failed to renounce her British citizenship, triggering a spate of MP resignations.

The High Court has disqualified ACT Labor senator Katy Gallagher from sitting in parliament, in a decision opening the way for four byelections, three of them in Labor seats.

Gallagher said that while she is very disappointed by the outcome of the case, she respects the decision of the court.

But the question remains: given the multicultural nature of Australia as a nation, why not change the Constitution to allow for dual citizenship?

"Every opportunity I am given to ask the people of Fremantle to trust me with the responsibility of being their representative in the national parliament is an opportunity I will relish", he said.


Gallagher had argued that although she was a dual national when she was elected in 2016, she had taken all reasonable steps to renounce the British citizenship that she had inherited from her father.

The ABC reports that all of the pollies bar Lamb have successfully renounced their dual citizenships after being elected.

Attorney General Christian Porter earlier called on opposition leader Bill Shorten to force the Labor MPs under a cloud to resign.

"It is a crystal clear clarification of the law as it was stated in the [Matt] Canavan decision past year, and anyone, Bill Shorten or anyone else, who says this is a reinterpretation or a change, is talking absolute rubbish", he said. But the Home Office didn't register that she was no longer British until August 16.

"The High Court has adopted the strictest possible reading", said Dr George Williams, professor and Dean of Law at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. "It is quite clear that Great Britain does not provide an insurmountable obstacle for any person wishing to renounce their citizenship", he added.

Late a year ago, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called yet another inquiry into Section 44 of the Constitution to see if changes should be made to either make it easier to renounce dual citizenship or whether the requirement should be deleted.

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