Australia’s government rocked by latest MP resignationHeat Profit
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The fate of Malcolm Turnbull’s Australian government has been cast into further doubt after another MP resigned over rules preventing parliamentarians from holding dual citizenship.
The move on Saturday by John Alexander, a Liberal party backbencher and former professional tennis player, left Mr Turnbull’s ruling Liberal-National coalition holding just 74 seats in the 150-seat lower house chamber.
Mr Alexander’s resignation leaves the government dependent on the votes of crossbench MPs, loyal to neither the coalition nor the opposition Labor party, to thwart a potential motion of no-confidence from the opposition Labor party — a move that would trigger an election if successful.
The government’s position was already precarious after the country’s High Court last month ruled that the National party’s Barnaby Joyce, deputy prime minister, held New Zealand citizenship and was therefore ineligible to sit in parliament.
Mr Joyce has since renounced the New Zealand citizenship he unwittingly gained through his father, and is hoping to regain his seat of New England in a by-election early next month.
Mr Alexander, a three-time Australian Open men’s singles semi-finalist, quit on Saturday after saying he probably held British citizenship that he had inherited from his father.
“My right to remain in parliament depends on my belief that I am solely Australian. Given what I have learnt about the constitution and understanding now about the High Court decision a couple of weeks ago . . . I can no longer with sufficient certainty maintain that belief,” he said.
“Therefore I must resign. I think there is a great need for certainty to clarify the situation, and to do so as expeditiously as possible.”
Despite being one of the world’s most multicultural nations — half the country’s 24m population were born overseas or have at least one foreign-born parent — an archaic clause in the country’s 116-year-old constitution bars dual nationals from sitting in parliament.
Many of the politicians who have been caught out by the rules, including five senators and two lower-house MPs, were unaware of their dual citizenship, which in many cases was automatically granted by descent.
Mr Alexander’s resignation will force a by-election in the Sydney seat of Bennelong, which has traditionally been a Liberal party stronghold and is likely to be retained by the former tennis player.
However, the several Labor and independent lawmakers are also under scrutiny over their nationality, throwing the composition of the lower house into further uncertainty.
Politicians caught out by citizenship rules
Barnaby Joyce, Nationals MP and deputy PM — New Zealand citizen. Ruled ineligible by the High Court but has renounced his New Zealand nationality and is recontesting the seat of New England in a by-election
John Alexander, Liberal MP — British citizen. Resigned in November and will contest a by-election for the seat of Bennelong
Scott Ludlam, Greens senator for Western Australia — New Zealand citizen. Resigned in July
Larissa Waters, Greens senator for Queensland — Canadian citizen. Resigned in July
Malcolm Roberts, One Nation senator for Queensland — British citizen. Disqualified by High Court
Matt Canavan, Nationals senator for Queensland — Italian citizen. Kept Senate seat after High Court found his mother applied for his citizenship without his knowledge
Fiona Nash, Nationals senator for New South Wales — British citizen. Disqualified by High Court
Nick Xenophon, Nick Xenophon Team party senator for South Australia — British overseas citizen. High Court ruled him eligible because his type of dual nationality lacked core features of citizenship, such as right to live in Britain
Stephen Parry, Liberal senator for Tasmania — British citizen. Resigned in November