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Dual citizenship should be a plus in modern Australia

  • 21 July 2017


There are layers of frustration around the resignation of Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters due to dual citizenship. The immediate loss of two of Australia's better parliamentary performers — on any side of politics — is unfortunate.

That it happened in the same fortnight that the Prime Minister misspoke about the primacy of Australian laws over mathematics, and the Immigration Minister unjustifiably accrued even more power, deepens the sting.

How a simple administrative error was left uncorrected to this extent is also frustrating. Both Ludlam and Waters, in spirit and practice, believed they were Australian and saw no other home than here.

For no one in their orbit and nothing in the AEC nomination process to have caught something so fundamental is unsettling — but perhaps not that odd. Presumptions of Australian-ness are more or less adjudicated on a certain kind of look and surname.

As writer and comedian Sami Shah caustically tweeted, 'Wouldn't have happened if Greens leaders weren't so white. PoC know their citizenship all times, in case someone's gonna try deporting us.' Even when I travel overseas, I pack a copy of my citizenship certificate like a talisman, to ensure I'll be allowed back in.

It has also been frustrating to watch an already self-absorbed political stratum in the throes of even more self-absorption. The Greens have much to contend with, but the issue has also gripped other federal politicians — more than 20 of whom were born overseas. The flurry of earnest press statements and tweets from foreign-born MPs and senators has never ensued from consequential things like Indigenous incarceration, abusive conditions on Nauru and Manus, climate change, and homelessness.

Lest we forget, dual citizenship was a flashpoint before this. In 2015, new laws were introduced to strip citizenship from dual-citizen Australians who fight in conflicts overseas, or commit terrorism or terrorism-related offences. Setting aside the merit of such policy (and it was heatedly debated at the time), the notion that citizenship is conditional for a specific subset of the citizenry surely undermines citizenship itself.

Which brings us to section 44 of the constitution, which disqualifies dual citizens from running for office or sitting in federal parliament. A formal act of revocation is therefore required from candidates.


"The matter has come to a head in a way that reflects contemporary realities and exposes the persistent hollowness of our understanding of identity. How can it be that duality is seen as a deficit