Australia

Coalition rejects call for referendum to repeal dual citizenship ban

0:00

The Turnbull government has rejected a recommendation to hold a referendum to repeal the parliamentary ban for MPs who hold dual citizenship.

The Turnbull government has poured cold water on the idea of a referendum to overturn the ban on dual citizens sitting in parliament.

Within minutes of a cross-party committee recommending the constitutional change, Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann said the government was "not inclined" to back a referendum.

However, changes will be implemented ahead of five by-elections due in coming weeks to ensure all candidates take steps to ensure they are qualified to sit in parliament, including reporting their citizen status to the Australian Electoral Commission.

Parliament's electoral matters committee on Thursday released a report on section 44 of the constitution, which has seen many MPs kicked out of their jobs in recent months.

"The committee recommends that the Australian government prepare a proposed referendum question to ... repeal sections 44 and 45 of the constitution," the report said.

If the referendum doesn't go ahead, the report recommends the government find a "workaround" to make sure MPs aren't falling foul of the law.

Senator Cormann said while a referendum was not a priority, the government would immediately move to improve the candidate nomination process.

0:00

After the High Court ruled elections were invalid because successful candidates were foreign citizens at the time, the committee said this opened a can of worms.

"A successful candidate could have their election challenged on the basis of preference flows from an ineligible candidate," the report said.

"This raises the possibility of deliberate manipulation of disqualification rules to overturn an otherwise valid election."

The report said the founding fathers had no concept of "Australian citizenship" when they drafted the law in the 1890s, but rather considered themselves citizens of the much larger British empire.

But Liberal MP Ben Morton produced a dissenting report where he argued against changing the constitution.

He said Australia should sign agreements with other countries to fast-track citizenship renunciations of prospective MPs.

Mr Morton also suggested moving the date for disqualification to allow successful candidates to renounce their citizenship once they know they've won.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said it's not hard for candidates to renounce British and New Zealand citizenship, which have been the cause of most of the disqualifications.

The AEC on Friday will conduct a special count to replace former Labor senator Katy Gallagher, who was disqualified over her British ties.

The count is expected to confirm union boss David Smith as her replacement.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch