Fact sheet

Fact Check: What does the High Court think about dual nationality?

Australian Labor Party Dual citizenship High Court

The High Court will conduct a hearing in October 2017 to decide whether section 44(i) of the Constitution renders some politicians ineligible to be in Parliament. Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus cast doubt over the eligibility of Government members Barnaby Joyce, Senator Matt Canavan and Senator Fiona Nash, saying, they didn't take reasonable steps to relinquish citizenships of other countries and were therefore ineligible. But the situation is not cut and dried. The High Court's current interpretation of section 44(i) of the Australian Constitution is set out in the majority judgments in two cases. In those cases the court said that for a person to be eligible to stand and be elected to Parliament he or she must take "all steps that could reasonably be taken to renounce" any foreign nationality or citizenship. Looking at the facts in isolation, Mr Joyce, Senator Canavan and Senator Nash did not meet that requirement, as all continued to be dual citizens after being elected. But the matter is not black and white: the court has not had to deal with a situation exactly like this one before. In the previous cases, the people in question were not Australians from birth and there was no dispute that they knew that they obtained citizenship of another country at some point in their lives. It is open to the High Court to completely overturn its existing interpretation of section 44(i). Alternatively, the court can add or clarify its existing interpretation to take into account these different circumstances.
Verdict: Not cut and dried

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