Aus­tralian cit­i­zen­ship cri­sis deep­ens as eighth law­maker falls

Business World - - THE WORLD -

SYDNEY — The cit­i­zen­ship cri­sis en­gulf­ing Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull’s gov­ern­ment deep­ened on Tues­day as an eighth law­maker ex­ited par­lia­ment and the main op­po­si­tion party drafted in a high-pro­file can­di­date for a key by-elec­tion.

Mr. Turn­bull’s cen­ter- 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 on Tues­day 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 on Tues­day by an­nounc­ing it was putting for­ward for­mer state premier Kristina Ke­neally to con­test the seat va­cated by a law­maker in Mr. 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 Mr. 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 on Tues­day.

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,” said Ni­cholas Economou, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Monash Univer­sity. “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.” —

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