The Australian government is defending its case in High Court over a recent ruling on the basis of Section 44 of the constitution. The origin of the law goes back to the colonial legal system.
Section 44 of the Australian constitution prohibits people with dual citizenship from serving in the parliament. Things got complicated when the law disqualified seven senators, including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and four other MPs.
While the decision seems legitimate from a constitutional perspective, the Australian government is asking the High Court to look beyond the lines and understand the original idea behind forming such laws.
Government Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue argues that the law is intended for those who have a foreign allegiance of any sort. According to him, the law should not apply to “naturalized” Australians.
Donaghue believes former Greens co-deputy Larissa Waters, Nationals senators Fiona Nash and Matt Canavan, crossbencher Nick Xenophon and Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce should be allowed in the parliament. These “natural born” Australians were not aware of the dual citizenship, Donaghue claimed as he defended his clients.
“A person may have the status of being a subject or citizen of a foreign power but nevertheless not be disqualified by section 44(i).”
Donaghue defended Waters for not renouncing her Canadian citizenship. He said it was reasonable for her as she believed it was optional for her to apply for it, The Australian reported.
Two other senators, Scott Ludlam and Malcolm Roberts, were born in New Zealand and India respectively. These two fall in the category of “naturalized” Australians.
Also, Donaghue said that these politicians should not be suspected to have “sufficiently high prospect” of any foreign ties, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Donaghue, who appeared on behalf of Attorney-General George Brandis, also argued that the law should be applicable to those who were aware of their foreign citizenship but “shut their eyes to it.”
Meanwhile, the High Court heard that Joyce was unaware of the fact that his father had been a citizen of New Zealand. However, he renounced the citizenship awhile ago. Joyce found out about it only in August, Donaghue said.
The Australian government will continue to defend its case until Thursday.
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