India-born Malcolm Roberts Among Australian MPs Facing Citizenship Issue

The dual citizenship matter, which is now before the court, could decide the fate of seven Australian MPs.


The Australian government has been facing issues related to the dual citizenships said to be held by its lawmakers. Following Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, who resigned, India-born senator Malcolm Roberts’ appointment to the post is under contention, and the matters of dual citizenship of lawmakers are under the purview of the court.

The Australian government made itself clear to the court on Oct. 10: A constitutional ban on lawmakers charged with holding dual citizenships, including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, should not be taken literally. The case could decide the fate of seven lawmakers, and presents the possibility that the ruling party could lose power, thereby calling for a by-election. A three-day court hearing, which concluded on Oct. 12, was inconclusive, and the dates of the next hearing are yet to be decided.

Even if the court rules that Joyce was illegally elected in July last year with a New Zealand citizenship in possession, he would be eligible for a by-election, since he renounced his Kiwi citizenship. The popular opinion, however, has been turning against the by-election, along with a clamor of support for all the lawmakers except Roberts and Ludlam. Solicitor General Stephen Donaghue laid a case for the five lawmakers, saying they should not be disqualified for breach of the constitution because they did not voluntarily acquire or retain citizenship of another country.

“A person is not aware either that they are a dual citizen or of a significant prospect that they are, in our submission by definition that person cannot have a split allegiance,” he told the court.

Bret Walker, the lawyer for Joyce, and fellow Nationals Party minister Fiona Nash, told the court that as soon as they found out about their status, they took all reasonable steps required to sever their foreign ties.

Donaghue, however, came down on New Zealand-born Scott Ludlam and India-born Malcolm Roberts, telling the court that they should be disqualified.

While Ludlam has resigned, Roberts argued that against the disqualification, saying he had taken appropriate steps. The basis of his argument comes from the fact that he had emailed the British government to revoke the citizenship he was passed down from his Welsh father but did not pay the required fee for invalidation.

Roberts, who is a member of the minor One Nation party, was born in 1955 in India to a Welsh father. His mother hailed from Queensland. He was a British citizen until he decided to move to Australia in 1974. The questions surrounding his citizenship came to light after Ludlam and Waters’ resignation. Since then, Roberts has been accused of giving contradictory statements about his knowledge of dual citizenship.

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