Skip to Content

Status anxiety: Who's who in the dual citizenship mess

by August 18, 2017 General

In what’s been dubbed “the world’s most ridiculous constitutional crisis“, Section 44(i) of the Australian constitution continues to wreak havoc, with a bevy of politicians’ futures unclear because it turns out they are dual citizens.

We know it can be hard to keep up with what’s happening, so here’s a quick rundown of who’s affected — and how.

High Court: Barnaby Joyce (Nationals)

Barnaby Joyce looks slightly off camera as he speaks at a media conference. The Australian flag is in the background.


Referred to High Court


Mr Joyce was born in Australia, but his father was a New Zealand citizen, which automatically confers citizenship to the Deputy Prime Minister under New Zealand law. He was referred to the High Court after Fairfax Media journalists raised questions about his status.

What happens next?

Mr Joyce has refused to step aside from his ministerial duties or the Parliament and Malcolm Turnbull backed him to stay.

If the High Court were to find him ineligible to sit in Parliament, a by-election would need to be held in his NSW seat of New England.

Mr Joyce has renounced his New Zealand citizenship and would be eligible to run in the by-election. There are no guarantees he would win, but he currently holds the seat by a margin of 8.52 per cent.

High Court: Fiona Nash (Nationals)

Fiona Nash speaks at the podium.


Referred to High Court


Senator Nash told the Senate she may be a British citizen by descent, as her father was born in Scotland.

She sought advice from the UK Home Office after her colleague and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce revealed his status as a New Zealand citizen.

What happens next?

Senator Nash has refused to stand aside from her ministerial duties, or the deputy leadership of the Nationals.

If the High Court finds she was ineligible to be elected, a recount of the NSW Senate vote would be conducted. Her seat could possibly go to the fifth candidate on the Liberal/Nationals ticket, Hollie Hughes, or someone else, depending on the flow of preferences.

High Court: Matt Canavan (Nationals)

Matt Canavan looks down as he speaks to the media at Parliament House.


Referred to High Court


Senator Canavan has ancestral connections to Italy via his grandparents. The Senator told the media he was not born in Italy, nor had he ever visited.

His mother, who has never visited either, registered herself and her son for overseas citizenship at the Italian consulate in Brisbane in 2006, unbeknownst to him.

What happens next?

Senator Canavan has resigned from his ministerial duties as minister for resources and northern Australia, but not from Parliament.

Should the High Court find he was ineligible to be elected, a recount of the Queensland Senate vote would be conducted, and his seat could possibly go to sixth candidate on the Liberal National Party ticket, Joanna Lindgren, or someone else, depending on the flow of preferences.

High Court: Malcolm Roberts (One Nation)

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts at a press conference


Referred to High Court


Senator Roberts was born in India to a Welsh father. The Senator has released a statutory declaration denying he is a dual citizen, but has yet to release documents confirming when his dual citizenship was officially renounced.

Senator Roberts has said that before nominating as a candidate in the 2016 election, he sent three emails to the British authorities saying he did not believe he was a British citizen, but if he was, he renounced it. The UK did not confirm his status until well after he was elected, but Senator Roberts argues that he complied with the rules by taking all reasonable steps to renounce his dual citizenship before nominating.

What happens next?

It’s complicated — Senator Roberts has not stood aside, but should the High Court disqualify him, ABC election analyst Antony Green has said that his spot would likely go to the third candidate on the One Nation ticket in Queensland, Fraser Anning.

The complicated part is that Mr Anning could be an undischarged bankrupt, which would also disqualify him.

“Under Section 15, the Senate would notify the Queensland Governor that a Senate vacancy exists. The Queensland Parliament would then fill the vacancy, with the proviso that the replacement must be approved by One Nation,” Green told the ABC.

This could mean, in theory, that One Nation replaces Malcolm Roberts with … Malcolm Roberts.

Unclear: Nick Xenophon (NXT)

Concerned looking Nick Xenophon sitting in ABC Radio studio




Senator Xenophon’s father is from Cyprus, which was a British colony until 1960, and records show he travelled to Australia in 1951 as a British citizen.

The Senator is seeking clarification from the UK Home Office as to whether he is a British citizen by descent. Senator Xenophon’s mother was born in Greece and he has previously written to both the Greek embassy and Cypriot high commission to renounce any potential citizenship of those countries.

What happens next?

Should the UK Home Office answer Senator Xenophon’s query on his British citizenship in the affirmative, the matter would be referred to the High Court, which would decide whether he was eligible to be elected.

If the High Court disqualifies the Senator, there would be a recount of the South Australian Senate vote, which could possibly elect the Nick Xenophon Team’s fourth candidate on the ticket, Tim Storer, or someone else, depending on the flow of preferences.

Resigned: Scott Ludlam (Greens)

A close-up of WA Greens senator Scott Ludlam's face as he speaks during a media conference.


Resigned, referred to High Court


Mr Ludlam was born in New Zealand and left as a three-year-old, which makes him a citizen under New Zealand law and thus, possibly ineligible to sit in Parliament under section 44. He resigned after this was brought to his attention.

What happens next?

If the High Court finds that Ludlam was ineligible to sit, ABC election analyst Antony Green has said that the third in line on the Greens’ WA Senate ticket, Jordan Steele-John, would likely be elected in a recount.

Resigned: Larissa Waters (Greens)

Greens Senator Larissa Waters tears up as she announces her resignation.


Resigned, referred to High Court


Ms Waters was born in Canada but left as a baby and has not returned since then.

Under Canadian law, which was changed a week after her birth, she was a Canadian citizen and was required to renounce it. She resigned after the resignation of her Greens colleague Scott Ludlam prompted her to investigate her own citizenship.

What happens next?

If the High Court finds that Waters was ineligible to sit, the next in line on the Greens Senate ticket in Queensland, former Australian Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett, would likely be elected in a recount.

In the clear: Tony Abbott (Liberals)

Tony Abbott sits in Parliament.


In the clear


Former prime minister Tony Abbott was born in the UK and has in the past faced calls from the public to prove he is not a dual citizen. Mr Abbott has released documents proving that he renounced his British citizenship on October 12, 1993. He was elected to Federal Parliament in 1994.

In the clear: Julia Banks (Liberals)

Julia Banks smiles as she arrives at Parliament House.


In the clear


Julia Banks’ father was born in Greece, and there were fears that this may confer citizenship to her by descent.

But after the Liberal Party made enquiries with the Greek Embassy, the party told the ABC that “we have received confirmation from the Greek Embassy that according to records Julia Banks is not registered as a Greek citizen and also is not entitled as a Greek citizen”.

Other parliamentarians born overseas

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam was the first parliamentarian to fall afoul of section 44, and in the weeks since, a surprising array of unexpected personalities have joined him in the scandal.

The Greens are calling for a full audit of all federal parliamentarians, and both major parties have been threatening to refer their opponents to the High Court over the issue.

Here’s a list of other politicians who have known ties to other countries by birth.


  • Senator Mathias Cormann (Liberal)


  • MP Anne Aly (Labor)


  • Senator Eric Abetz (Liberal)


  • MP Maria Vamvakinou (Labor)


  • Senator Sam Dastyari (Labor)


  • MP Tony Zappia (Labor)


  • Senator Penny Wong (Labor)

New Zealand

  • Senator Derryn Hinch (Independent)


  • MP Sussan Ley (Liberal)


  • MP Ian Goodenough (Liberal)
  • Senator Peter Whish-Wilson (Greens)

United Kingdom

  • Senator Doug Cameron (Labor)
  • MP Paul Fletcher (Liberal)
  • Senator Alexander Gallacher (Labor)
  • Senator Nick McKim (Greens)
  • MP Brian Mitchell (Labor)
  • MP Brendan O’Connor (Labor)
  • Senator Nigel Scullion (Country Liberal)
  • MP Josh Wilson (Labor)
  • MP Rebekha Sharkie (Nick Xenophon Team)


  • Senator Lucy Gihuchi (Independent)