New rules are to be introduced to make all MPs and senators in Australia register their citizenship status following the scandal that has forced six politicians to quit office – leaving the country’s government deadlocked.
Current and future MPs and senators will have to lodge declarations and produce evidence that they are not foreign citizens before standing for official office under a new disclosure measure announced by Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday, November 6.
The move comes amid a dual citizenship crisis that has already led to six politicians — some of them high-profile — being forced to quit their government roles after being discovered to have links with another foreign country.
Unveiling the plan — which will need to be voted on in both the upper and lower houses in Australia’s parliament — Mr. Turnbull admitted something needed to be done to ease the public’s “legitimate concern” over the lack of transparency over parliamentarians having foreign citizenship — something that is banned under an ancient 116-year rule in Australia’s constitution.
Now any politician seeking office will be required to make a formal declaration about their citizenship status, provide details of the place and date of birth of themselves and their parents.
If the individual had dual citizenship of another country they will be asked when and how they renounced it.
A time limit of 21 days will be imposed on current politicians to comply with the new measure, while future members of parliament will have to make the declaration when they are elected and sworn in.
The prime minister said the new system was not an audit because “there is no auditor,” and insisted that only the high court could determine if a member of parliament was ineligible.
Warning Over False Information
Mr. Turnbull warned, however, incorrect or false statements would be “a serious breach of (parliamentary) privilege.”
He declined to say what the penalty would be, but admitted the political consequences alone would be “very dramatic.”
“What we have seen is a concern, a legitimate concern that there is insufficient transparency. Members and senators have been put squarely on notice now and so they will be turning their mind to their own affairs and the issues of citizenship,” Mr. Turnbull said.
The prime minister has also suggested the disclosures might prompt some parliamentarians to resign if they discovered they were not eligible.
In October Australia’s highest court decided that five politicians — including deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce — were wrongly elected because they held dual citizenship.
Many of them had argued they had not been aware they were dual nationals.
The crisis deepened further when the president of the Australian Senate, Stephen Parry discovered on Monday, October 30, that he holds British citizenship.
Mr.Parry announced on Wednesday, November 1, he would stand down after it was confirmed he is a dual citizen through descent.