Australian senator who breastfed baby in Parliament resigns over dual citizenship

Australian Greens party Senator Larissa Waters reacts during a media conference to announce her resignation in Brisbane, Australia on July 18, 2017.
Australian Greens party Senator Larissa Waters reacts during a media conference to announce her resignation in Brisbane, Australia on July 18, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's third-largest party, the Australian Greens, lost a second senator on Tuesday (July 18), forced to resign after realising she had dual citizenship and was ineligible for office, only days after another Greens senator resigned for the same reason.

The Greens hold a key bloc of senate seats and have stymied legislation by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's conservative government, which does not control the Senate.

The resignations provide some temporary relief to Mr Turnbull, who could now seek to push key legislation, on health and media laws through the Senate before replacements are appointed.

Australian politicians are not eligible to be elected to Parliament if they are hold dual or plural citizenship.

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Greens co-deputy leader Larissa Waters said she would resign from the Senate after realising she had not renounced her Canadian citizenship prior to be elected in 2011. She recently garnered global attention for breastfeeding her baby during Parliament

"I left Canada as a baby and I've never been back. I had no idea that I was Canadian citizen," Ms Waters told reporters.

 
 
 

Only days earlier, fellow Greens co-deputy leader Scott Ludlam resigned after realising he held New Zealand citizenship, ruling him ineligible for the past nine years he had been in the Australian Senate.

The two resignations place the issue of political eligibility in the spotlight, with nearly a third of the Australian population born overseas, data from the Bureau of Statistics shows. "There are many politicians in the Senate and Federal House of Representatives that were born overseas and it may be others will be forced into this embarrassing revelation," said Ms Waters.

Former conservative prime minister Tony Abbott last week published proof he renounced his British citizenship in 1993, six months before he was first elected to Parliament.

Several parliamentarians on Tuesday took to social media to address questions of their eligibility as the issue quickly emerged as the most popular subject on Twitter in Australia.