• Hannah Phillips

A Referendum on Dual Citizenship is Unlikely

On Thursday the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JASCEM) released its report on dual citizenship in which it recommended a referendum to amend Section 44 of the Constitution so that politicians, rather than the High Court, could determine the eligibility of Members of Parliament to take up their seats.

The Prime Minister immediately put the kybosh on a referendum: “We don’t have time to deal with a referendum between now and the next election,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Even in the long-term,” the Prime Minister said, “I very much doubt whether Australians would support a change to the constitution to allow people with dual nationality to sit in the Parliament.”

On Friday Inside Canberra reported that Committee Chair Senator Linda Reynolds had said that a referendum was unlikely in the short term but that some remedial action was needed to recognise the changing face of the Australian population:

“20 years of Parliamentary Committee reports and a Constitutional Convention have all predicted that without constitutional reform to parts or all of s[ection] 44, challenges would occur to otherwise qualified and validly elected Members of Parliament.

“Problems with the operation of s. 44 have come to public attention over the past year as a result of the high number of s. 44(i) citizenship matters referred to the High Court. While public discussion has been on these citizenship cases, two other sub sections of s. 44 were also the subject of High Court consideration.”

Senator Reynolds said that, in addition to the previously identified problems with s. 44, recent High Court decisions have created new uncertainties and future opportunities to manipulate election results, which are likely to end by being referred to the High Court.

“Recent High Court decisions on the interpretation on s. 44 are clear – to nominate as a candidate, all reasonable steps must be taken prior to nomination to ensure all candidates are not disqualified to be on the ballot paper.”

At this stage the JASCEM proposals, which we reported on Friday, appear to be still under consideration.

In the circumstances it appears that people who want to stand for election will have to go through the hard graft of demonstrating that they do not have dual citizenship if they want to be a candidate.

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