Aus­tralian cit­i­zen­ship cri­sis deep­ens as 8th law­maker falls

Cit­i­zen­ship cri­sis hits Turn­bull hard

Kuwait Times - - International -

SYD­NEY: The cit­i­zen­ship cri­sis en­gulf­ing Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull’s gov­ern­ment deep­ened yes­ter­day as an eighth law­maker ex­ited par­lia­ment and the main op­po­si­tion party drafted in a high­pro­file can­di­date for a key by-elec­tion. Turn­bull’s cen­tre-right gov­ern­ment has al­ready lost its ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment, ac­count­ing for four of the eight law­mak­ers to be forced out or to re­sign from par­lia­ment in re­cent weeks be­cause they were dual cit­i­zens. That sta­tus is banned un­der the Aus­tralian con­sti­tu­tion to pre­vent split al­le­giances.

Ad­her­ence to that rule in a coun­try where more than half the pop­u­la­tion of 24 mil­lion was ei­ther born over­seas or has a par­ent who was born over­seas has only come un­der the spot­light in the cur­rent cri­sis, with the High Court con­firm­ing a strict in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the law. Jac­qui Lam­bie, an in­de­pen­dent and out­spo­ken sen­a­tor for the is­land state of Tas­ma­nia, con­firmed yes­ter­day that she was the eighth law­maker in a par­lia­ment of 226 to fall foul of the dual cit­i­zen­ship law, with po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts warn­ing that sev­eral more are likely to fall.

The op­po­si­tion La­bor Party upped the stakes yes­ter­day by an­nounc­ing it was putting for­ward former state premier Kristina Ke­neally to con­test the seat va­cated by a law­maker in Turn­bull’s Lib­eral Party. The by-elec­tion in the in­ner Syd­ney seat of Ben­ne­long, along with an­other one for the seat of former Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Barn­aby Joyce, who was ejected by last month’s High Court rul­ing, will be key to restor­ing Turn­bull’s small ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment. “This is a chance which I think a lot of peo­ple in Aus­tralia would like to have that has fallen to the peo­ple of Ben­ne­long to send a mes­sage against the dys­func­tion and the chaos of the cur­rent gov­ern­ment, the pol­icy paral­y­sis, the fail­ure of lead­er­ship,” La­bor leader Bill Shorten told re­porters yes­ter­day.

While Joyce is widely ex­pected to win back his safe ru­ral seat af­ter re­nounc­ing his New Zealand cit­i­zen­ship, the en­try of the pop­u­lar Ke­neally into the Syd­ney race has made that con­test far less cer­tain. Pre­vi­ously a safe con­ser­va­tive seat, it fell to the La­bor Party in 2007, be­fore the con­ser­va­tives won it back in 2010. “Elec­tions are no­to­ri­ously volatile, any­thing is pos­si­ble,” Ni­cholas Economou, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Monash Univer­sity, told Reuters. “Vot­ers of­ten use by-elec­tions to give a sting­ing re­buke to a gov­ern­ment that’s at war with it­self and that’s what this gov­ern­ment is. It’s game on in Ben­ne­long.”

The cit­i­zen­ship cri­sis has hit Turn­bull hard, with a poll re­leased on Mon­day show­ing he had slipped to a new low in voter pop­u­lar­ity amid crit­i­cism that he has failed to act de­ci­sively. In­de­pen­dent law­mak­ers have threat­ened to use their new-found power in the lower house to push through con­tro­ver­sial leg­is­la­tion that has been blocked by the gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing a Royal Com­mis­sion into the bank­ing sec­tor. The gov­ern­ment and main op­po­si­tion party cob­bled to­gether a deal on Mon­day to agree to a dead­line of Dec 1 for all politi­cians to dis­close the birth­place of their par­ents and grand­par­ents.

Lam­bie vowed to im­me­di­ately re­nounce her UK cit­i­zen­ship, granted by de­scent cour­tesy of her Scot­tish­born fa­ther. “I won’t be lay­ing down, I’ll just get up and get back on and go again, sim­ple as that,” she told lo­cal ra­dio. Lam­bie, 43, a former army cor­po­ral, has be­come one of Aus­tralia’s most rec­og­niz­able and col­or­ful politi­cians in her short time in of­fice. She has gar­nered head­lines for a range of con­tro­ver­sial com­ments, in­clud­ing her be­lief that China could in­vade Aus­tralia and ap­plaud­ing Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s “very strong lead­er­ship”.— Reuters

Law­mak­ers lose their seats over dual cit­i­zen­ship

SYD­NEY: Former New South Wales state Premier Kristina Ke­neally ad­dresses the world’s largest St Pa­trick’s Day lun­cheon at the Lans­downe Club in this file photo. —AFP

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