The Dual-Citizenship Crisis Rocking Politics Down Under

The Dual-Citizenship Crisis Rocking Politics Down Under

The Australian government is at risk of collapse after it emerged on Aug. 14 that National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is a dual citizen of New Zealand and Australia. The discovery might bar him from public office and threaten his governing coalition:

THE LAW

Australia's 116-year-old constitution prohibits subjects or citizens of foreign powers from sitting in Parliament. Since July 14, five politicians have admitted they inherited or have been given dual citizenship; all but one say they did not know until recently. The high court now must decide whether they should be prohibited from holding public office.

THE POLITICS

Joyce, who says he had no idea he automatically inherited New Zealand citizenship from his father upon birth, is the most senior figure yet to be caught up in the scandal. If the Deputy Prime Minister is forced to resign by the high court, his Liberal-National Coalition would lose its single-seat majority in Parliament, adding yet more instability to a country that has had four Prime Ministers since 2013.

THE FALLOUT

Australian politicians are falling all over themselves to prove they are 100% Australian. British-born former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, for example, tweeted a letter from the U.K. government confirming that he renounced citizenship. But opposition politicians and journalists are continuing to seek other offenders, and they may find them: roughly a third of Australia's population of 24.3 million was born overseas.