Sec­ond Aussie se­na­tor quits over dual cit­i­zen­ship

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

CAN­BERRA, Aus­tralia — A sec­ond Aus­tralian se­na­tor in less than a week said on Tues­day she was 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 law­mak­ers might also have no right to be there.

Larissa Waters, co-deputy leader of the mi­nor 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’s held since July 2008.

Aus­tralia’s Con­sti­tu­tion states that a “cit­i­zen of a for­eign power” is not el­i­gi­ble to be elected to Par­lia­ment.

Waters, who in May be­came the first law­maker to breast­feed in Par­lia­ment, was born in the Cana­dian city of Win­nipeg on Feb 8, 1977, to Aus­tralian par­ents. She moved to Aus­tralia be­fore her first birth­day.

She 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.

Waters said other for­eign­born law­mak­ers among the 226 in Par­lia­ment could find them­selves in a sim­i­lar predica­ment. “There are many politi­cians ... were born over­seas and it may well be that oth­ers have to make this em­bar­rass­ing rev­e­la­tion as well,” Waters said.

“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 said.

Af­ter Lud­lam’s res­ig­na­tion, law­maker 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 law­mak­ers’ el­i­gi­bil­ity was never tested in the courts un­til the 1970s, 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.”

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

But both Lud­lam and Waters could be forced to re­pay their salaries. Lud­lam was re­port­edly paid more than $1.3 mil­lion dur­ing his nine years in of­fice.

LUKAS COCH VIA REUTERS

Larissa Waters breast­feeds her daugh­ter as she speaks at Par­lia­ment House in Can­berra, Aus­tralia, last month.

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