Australia deputy PM disqualified from office over dual citizenship

Australian Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce and four other politicians were wrongly elected because they held dual citizenship, a court has ruled.

The High Court of Australia decision means three of the politicians, including Mr Joyce, are disqualified from office. The others quit in July.

Australia’s constitution prohibits dual citizens from being elected.

Mr Joyce’s exit puts pressure on the government, which only had a one-seat majority when he was in office.

He could return through a by-election.

The deputy prime minister, who renounced New Zealand citizenship in August, has pledged to re-contest his lower house seat.

“I respect the verdict of the court,” Mr Joyce said immediately after the verdict.

“We live in a marvellous democracy, with all the checks and balances they have given us all the freedoms we see. I thank the court [for] their deliberations.”

The other four politicians – Fiona Nash, Malcolm Roberts, Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam – had been elected to the Senate.

Another two politicians under scrutiny, senators Matt Canavan and Nick Xenophon, were ruled to have been validly elected.

The dual citizenship saga has captivated Australian politics since July, prompting dozens of MPs to publicly clarify their status.

During three days of hearings, the government told the court that only Mr Roberts and Mr Ludlam should be disqualified, arguing the others did not knowabout their dual citizenship when they were elected last year.

Mr Roberts claimed he had tried to revoke his citizenship. Mr Ludlam and Ms Waters, the only MPs to resign over the saga, did not offer a defence – arguing all seven should be ineligible.

The seven-judge bench deliberated for two weeks before ruling that five politicians were ineligible as a “subject or citizen of a foreign power”, under to the constitution’s section 44(i).

The court ruled that Mr Canavan and Mr Xenophon were not dual citizens, according to the constitutional definition.

The court was not satisfied that Mr Canavan had attained Italian citizenship through descent, while Mr Xenophon’s class of inherited UK citizenship did not give him full rights and privileges. (Courtesy BBC)


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