A Strange Saga Over Dual Nationality Is Shaking Up Australian Politics

A Strange Saga Over Dual Nationality Is Shaking Up Australian Politics
Australia Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and New Zealand Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee hold a press conference, Sydney, Australia, May 4, 2017 (AP photo by Rick Rycroft).

A rarely invoked section of Australia’s constitution barring dual nationals from holding seats in parliament is suddenly playing a major role in the country’s domestic politics, leading to the resignation of one senator and threatening many more members of parliament, including at the highest levels of the Turnbull government. In an email interview, the Lowy Institute’s Alastair Davis explains the origins of the unexpected saga, what it means for Australia’s relations with New Zealand, and how a country as diverse as Australia will cope with it all.

WPR: Why has the question of dual nationality suddenly become an issue in Australian politics, and how much of it has to do with antagonism toward New Zealand?

Alastair Davis: Section 44 of the Australian Constitution bars anyone who “is under any 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” from running for parliament.

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