Legislation penned more than a century ago banning anyone in Australia with dual citizenship from standing for office is about to claim another high-profile victim as the country’s government teeters on the brink.
It is a scandal that shows no sign of abating, an ancient law banning anyone from holding dual citizenship from running for office that has already unseated the deputy prime minister and four other politicians leaving the Australian government on a knife edge — as well as another high profile casualty on the brink of resigning.
Australian senate president Stephen Parry announced on Wednesday, November 1, he will now have to resign after it was confirmed that he is a British dual citizen by descent through his father.
In a statement, the senior government figure said it was with “heavy heart” that he was standing down, but the High Court of Australia ruling on Friday, October 27, had given “absolute clarity” on constitutional rules that prevent the election of dual citizens.
He will become the third government member to lose their job as a result of the law drawn up 114-years ago, following the disqualifications of deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and regional development minister Fiona Nash. The saga has also claimed three senators from minor parties — Larissa Waters, Scott Ludlam and Malcolm Roberts.
His replacement to preside over Australia’s upper house has yet to be confirmed, although it is expected to be another government senator who will be chosen through a recount of election votes.
British Blogger Unearthed Secret
The man behind the scandal has been named as William Summers, a British blogger, who uncovered the former deputy prime minister’s status as a dual national through his New Zealand-born father. He insists, however it was never his intention for Mr. Joyce to lose his seat.
“I’ve always said he shouldn’t lose his seat. But, if you are going to have this rule, you have got to treat everyone the same. The constitution had this rule about people not being able to have dual nationalities. It has been in there all the time. Successive governments have known it is a problem, but they kicked it into the long grass,” Mr. Summers said.
Now living in Melbourne, having moved from the UK, the blogger posted his findings surrounding the deputy prime minister online on July 28 — receiving 30,000 hits before it went viral.
The news ultimately forced Mr. Joyce to stand up in Australia’s parliament and admit his election may not have been entirely legal.
Revealing his shock, the politician said: “Neither I, nor my parent have ever had any reason to believe I may be a citizen of another country.”
The case was heard before the high court in Australia on Friday, October 27, when the judges ruled he should be disqualified along with the others.
The disqualification of Mr. Joyce means Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is effectively deadlocked in the lower house because the speaker — a government MP — will not vote.
This means he has to rely on non-government MPs to pass legislation there until at least December 2, when Mr. Joyce hopes to return following a by-election.
Independent MP Cathy McGowan has also indicated she will support the government against any vote of no-confidence put forward by Labor opposition politicians.