Second Australian senator resigns over dual citizenship

Second Australian senator resigns over dual citizenship

A second Australian senator in less than a week has said she is quitting parliament after discovering she was a dual national and had therefore never really been elected.

The controversy has raised questions about how many other politicians might also have no right to be there.

Larissa Waters, co-deputy leader of the Greens party, said she was quitting after six years as a senator after the Canadian High Commission in Canberra told her on Monday that she was Canadian.

On Friday, the Greens' other co-deputy, Scott Ludlam, revealed that he was a citizen of New Zealand as well as Australia, which made him ineligible for the Senate job he has held since July 2008.

Australia's constitution states that a "citizen of a foreign power" is not eligible to be elected to parliament.

Ms Waters, who in May became the first politician to breastfeed in parliament, was born in the Canadian city of Winnipeg on February 8 1977 to Australian parents.

She moved to Australia before her first birthday.

Ms Waters said she thought she had an option of becoming a Canadian citizen and did not take it.

She has since found that the law changed a week after she was born, meaning she automatically became a Canadian unless she took steps to prevent it.

Ms Waters said other foreign-born politicians among the 226 in parliament could find themselves in a similar predicament.

"There are many politicians in the Senate and the federal House of Representatives that were born overseas and it may well be that others have to make this embarrassing revelation as well," an emotional Ms Waters told reporters.

"But I can hold my head up high knowing that the moment I found out, I have taken the step of announcing that I will sadly have to resign," she added.

After Mr Ludlam's resignation, government politician and former prime minister Tony Abbott posted on social media a document confirming he had renounced his own British citizenship in 1993, a year before he was elected to parliament.

Sydney University constitutional lawyer Anne Twomey said Canada and New Zealand were not considered foreign powers when the Australian constitution came into force in 1901 because, like Australia, they were part of the British Empire.

The High Court has ruled that Britain has been regarded as a foreign power under Australian law since 1986.

One or two prime ministers might have been dual nationals in the past, but politicians' eligibility was never tested in the courts until the 1970s, Ms Twomey said.

"Up until then, people didn't look too closely. It's only been in recent times when perhaps politics has become a bit more visceral ... that these issues have arisen," Ms Twomey told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Mr Ludlam was exposed by Australian lawyer John Cameron, who had investigated whether the senator and another New Zealand-born politician, Derryn Hinch, were dual nationals.

Mr Hinch, an independent senator, had renounced his citizenship.

The Greens are likely to retain all eight Senate seats and their balance-of-power role despite the two resignations.

A recount of votes at the last election a year ago will probably deliver the seats to other Greens candidates.

But both Mr Ludlam and Ms Waters could be forced to repay their salaries.

Mr Ludlam was reportedly paid more than 1.6 million Australian dollars (£966,000) during his nine years in office.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale said that he was "gutted" by the loss of his deputies and that the party will tighten procedures to prevent ineligible candidates from running again.

AP

More in this Section

Youth just seconds from death in lethal rail prank in WalesYouth just seconds from death in lethal rail prank in Wales

Judge rejects legal challenge calling for Brexit deal to be ruled unlawfulJudge rejects legal challenge calling for Brexit deal to be ruled unlawful

Lebanese PM offers 72-hour ultimatum amid nationwide protestsLebanese PM offers 72-hour ultimatum amid nationwide protests

Extinction Rebellion climate protester scales Big Ben scaffoldingExtinction Rebellion climate protester scales Big Ben scaffolding


Lifestyle

Sunday Lunch costs €45 per person and includes several set courses but with a choice of mains.Restaurant Review: Bastible Restaurant, Dublin

It never ceases to stop me in my tracks when I hear my husband intone to our children one of the oft overused phrases from my stockpile of, “Can you just not?” categories.Lindsay Woods: If my children feel I’m doing it wrong then I must be doing it right

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness — John Keats had it right about autumn.Eyes on the pies: Eight apple tarts put to the taste test

In honour of our Made in Munster special edition, Joe McNamee creates a four-course meal showcasing the best produce from the province. And there’s a lot to celebrate.The Menu's Made in Munster six course dinner - One from each county

More From The Irish Examiner