Wed | Oct 17, 2018

Another Australian lawmaker quits over dual-citizenship issue

Published:Sunday | November 12, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull now leads a minority government.


Another Australian lawmaker announced his resignation yesterday over a constitutional ban on dual citizens sitting in Parliament, triggering a second by-election that could cost the government its fragile grip on power.

John Alexander revealed last Monday that he was waiting on advice from the British Home Office on whether he had inherited citizenship from his English-born father who migrated as a child in 1911.

The 67-year-old former professional tennis player told reporters yesterday that the "balance of probability of evidence is that I most likely am" a dual citizen.

"The obligation that I have is that once I do not hold the view that I'm solely Australian, I must resign," Alexander said.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is contesting his seat at a by-election on December 2 after the High Court last month disqualified him because he had inherited the citizenship of his New Zealand father. He immediately renounced his New Zealand citizenship.

Alexander also plans to renounce any British citizenship and run for his Sydney-based seat. No date has yet been set for a by-election.




Before the current citizenship crisis bit into the ranks of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's conservative coalition, they held only 76 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives where parties need a majority to govern.

Turnbull congratulated Alexander on his resignation and called on lawmakers in the centre-left opposition Labour Party, who knew they were dual nationals when they nominated for the last election, to also resign.

"I spoke to him last night and he told me that he was no longer sufficiently satisfied, or no longer sure, that he was not a UK citizen," Turnbull told reporters in Danang, Vietnam, where he is attending a Pacific Rim summit.

"John has done the right thing, and the honourable thing. He has resigned his seat," Turnbull added.

Senior Labour lawmaker Tony Burke said all of his colleagues under a cloud had taken "reasonable steps" to renounce second nationalities before they were elected.

The High Court ruled in the 1990s that candidates who have taken "all reasonable steps" to renounce their foreign nationality but failed, perhaps because the country refuses to accept they are not citizens, are eligible to sit in Parliament.

"This is now a government without a majority. It's a prime minister without authority," Burke told reporters.