Labor member Justine Keay announces her resignation to the House of Representatives at Parliament House. Keay failed to renounce her British citizenship before the 2016 federal election. Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins
Labor member Justine Keay announces her resignation to the House of Representatives at Parliament House. Keay failed to renounce her British citizenship before the 2016 federal election. Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins

PM rejects push for citizenship referendum

MORE citizenship scandals will be "inevitable" unless an "increasingly undemocratic" section of the Australian constitution is changed, according to a Parliamentary Committee that has recommended a referendum to end the fiasco.

It comes after total number of MPs caught in the current dual-citizenship crisis reached a total of 15 last week, with the dramatic mass resignations of four MPs triggering by-elections across the nation.

"Problems with Section 44 are neither new, nor unforeseen," Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds said today.

The Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters also said the section was becoming increasingly undemocratic and that future referrals to the High Court would be inevitable unless it was changed.

Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds said section 44 of the constitution is becoming increasingly undemocratic. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds said section 44 of the constitution is becoming increasingly undemocratic. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

"20 years of Parliamentary Committee reports and a Constitutional Convention have all predicted that without constitutional reform to parts or all of Section 44, challenges would occur to otherwise qualified and validly elected Members of Parliament," Senator Reynolds said.

The senator said the Committee made no judgment on the dual citizenship issue itself but the question of whether or not the application of these rules meets contemporary Australian expectations was "a different matter altogether and is one for Australians to ultimately determine".

"We believe that issue is one for Australians to consider as part of a wider debate on qualities we want in our candidates when they stand for election and for those who are elected to Parliament," she said.

The report recommended the government propose a referendum to either alter or repeal the section.

The Committee also recommended that Government consider the implications of its report ahead of the upcoming be-elections.

It further suggested that if a referendum did not pass, or even proceed, that the Australian Government consider strategies to mitigate the impact of section 44.

The Turnbull Government will not back a referendum but will force all political candidates to provide proof of their citizenship status, including any documents to support claims they have renounced foreign citizenship, before they nominate.

The Turnbull Government will not back a referendum “at this time”. Picture: AP Photo/Michael Sohn
The Turnbull Government will not back a referendum “at this time”. Picture: AP Photo/Michael Sohn

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the government would consider the report's recommendations but would not launch a referendum "at this time".

"As the Committee itself recognised, successful Constitutional change is challenging and making the case would take more time than is available prior to the next general election," he said.

"The Government is however taking active steps now to minimise the risk of a recurrence of the eligibility issues that have arisen in the 45th Parliament.

"We intend to move now to improve the existing candidate nomination process for elections in accordance with the relevant unanimous JSCEM recommendations on these matters."

Under new measures to prevent future Section 44 issues, candidates would also have to provide information about any other factors that may disqualify them.

"Increasing the transparency of information relevant to the status of candidates for elected office under section 44 of the Constitution is an important step in restoring the confidence of the public in our democratic processes," Senator Cormann said.



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