Pacific News Minute: Australian Parliament Convulsed by “Dual Nationality” Crisis

Dec 5, 2017

Australia's Senate Chambers
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Six months of chaos over dual nationality comes to a head in Australia this week. After several senators and MPs were disqualified for office under an obscure law, all of them have to file proof of citizenship this week. But, as we hear from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute, confusion is likely to persist for some time.

Australia’s constitution forbids anyone with dual nationality from running for federal office, which many describe as an anachronism is a country where more than a quarter of the population was born overseas. Like the rest of the constitution, Section 44 was drafted at the turn of the twentieth century and was never intended to exclude citizens of New Zealand, Canada or the many other countries that were part of the British Empire at the time.

But Australia now regards them all as foreign powers. And literal interpretations of the law make the problem even worse.

Take the case of Katy Gallagher, a senator from the Labor Party, she filed forms to renounce the British citizenship she acquired by descent from her father in April of last year. Well before she was nominated to run for federal office in June, but the British government didn’t confirm the change in status until August. And Australia’s High Court has ruled that even taking all steps reasonably required is not enough. Plus she might also be a dual national of Ireland by descent from a grandfather.

Settling all these questions is expected to take quite some time.

Over the weekend, Australia’s National Dictionary Centre highlighted what’s been described as the world’s most ridiculous constitutional crisis. In its annual effort to identify  a word of the year that’s both interesting and distinctively Australian, it settled on the newly popular mash-up of Kiwi and Aussie…”Kwaussie.”