Turnbull announces plan to have MPs declare citizenship status after election

By @chelean on
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks during a media conference in Sydney, Australia. Reuters/David Gray

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a plan to force Parliament members to declare that they are not citizens of any country other than Australia when they get elected. He said his proposal would make the eligibility of the MPs transparent.

Under his proposal, MPs would have to declare that they are not dual citizens and provide proof that they had renounced their foreign citizenship, if any, prior to their election. They would have 21 days from being elected to provide information about their country of birth, their parents’ birthplace and citizenship.

The proposed system would see the politicians logging in the Register of Members’ Interest their citizenship eligibility. Current MPs would have to provide proof of their eligibility as well after a proposed resolution passes the Senate and House of Representatives next week and on Nov. 27 respectively.

“We have no place in Australia for witch hunts. That is not part of the Australian way,” Turnbull told reporters on Monday how his proposal would put the onus on the accuser rather than the members who are accused of being dual citizens. He added that any member can refer their colleagues to the High Court to determine their eligibility.

Turnbull’s announcement came after Liberal Senator Stephen Parry confirmed that he is a British citizen, rendering him ineligible to serve as an Australian politician. His father was born in the UK but emigrated to Australian in the ‘50s. He released a statement last week to inform his colleagues that he was resigning as Senate president and Tasmanian senator.

Parry joined the apparently growing number of MPs and senators whose citizenship and eligibility to serve have been questioned. Just last month, the High Court of Australia decided on the fate of the Citizenship Seven, which were namely Barnaby Joyce, Fiona Nash, Larissa Waters, Malcolm Roberts, Scott Ludlam, Nick Xenophon and Matt Canavan.

Only Canavan and Xenophon were ruled to have been validly elected, while the rest were deemed “a subject or a citizen of a foreign power,” and therefore ineligible to be a senator or an MP.

Australia’s constitution states that dual citizens could not be elected. Joyce’s disqualification has stripped the Turnbull government of its one-seat majority.