Canada Embraces It’s Dual Citizens While Australia’s Government Throws Itself Into Disarray

22 Mar 2023

The Literal Interpretation Of The Constitutional Rule Has Created An Unprecedented Political Crisis

You cannot be a dual citizen if you want to work in Australian politics. Their constitution prohibits it. The document, enacted on Jan. 1, 1901, includes a section outlining who can and who cannot sit in the Senate, the upper house of the Australian Parliament. Section 44.1 states that:

“any person who is under acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.”

It also applies if a person is “entitled to the rights or privileges” of a citizen. This has been interpreted to mean that dual citizens cannot sit in the Australian Parliament. Many of the politicians caught up in the crisis are citizens by descent – as in – they were not born in the country, but inherited the rights of citizenship through their parents. So far, 12 sitting or prospective politicians have fallen foul of section 44 of the constitution, ending their political careers for the foreseeable future. Interestingly, one of the initial members to get caught in the issue was Larissa Waters, who was born in Winnipeg and holds dual Canadian citizenship. She was forced to resign her senate seat when it was revealed that she had not renounced her Canadian citizenship. The whole issue almost left Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government without its majority – which could have been an unprecedented political event in Australian politics.

Dual and Even Triple Citizenship For Canadian Political Actors Is Increasingly Common

For perspective, the situation is quite different here in Canada. According to the CBC, there are now at least 56 sitting parliamentarians — 44 MPs and 12 senators — born in countries outside Canada, according to information from the Library of Parliament and websites. At least 22 of them have citizenship from other countries and that figure does not include MPs and senators who hold citizenship through descent, naturalization or marriage.

In Canada, the only requirements for seeking a seat in the House of Commons are that you are a Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old, and not serving prison sentence of more than two years. To be a senator in Canada, an individual has to be at least 30 years old, a resident of the province they represent, and own property worth at least $4,000 in that province.