Ruling party lawmaker latest in Aussie dual-citizenship saga

Lawmaker Alex Hawke was born to a Greek mother who immigrated to Australia in the 1950s and automatically obtains citizenship even if it is not exercised.
Lawmaker Alex Hawke was born to a Greek mother who immigrated to Australia in the 1950s and automatically obtains citizenship even if it is not exercised.PHOTO: ALEX HAWKE/FACEBOOK

SYDNEY • Australian ruling Liberal Party Lower House lawmaker Alex Hawke may be a dual citizen and ineligible to sit in Parliament, News Corp reported yesterday.

The lawmaker was born to a Greek mother who immigrated to Australia in the 1950s and automatically obtains citizenship even if it is not exercised, The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported, citing the Greek Embassy in Australia. But the citizenship must be registered on the Records of Municipality of the Hellenic Republic, according to the newspaper.

Mr Hawke is the ruling coalition government's second Lower House lawmaker to be caught up in an ongoing citizenship saga that has wiped out Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's one-seat majority.

Australia's Constitution says people are disqualified from becoming federal lawmakers if they are "a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power".

Mr Hawke said in an e-mailed statement: "I was born in Wollongong, have lived my whole life in Australia and have only ever solely held Australian citizenship."

"I am an Australian citizen only and have never held or acquired or sought Greek or any other citizenship," he added.

The saga has so far claimed five lawmakers, including Mr Stephen Parry, the leader of the Upper House and a member of Mr Turnbull's Liberal Party as well as former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce.

Mr Parry last Wednesday announced he was resigning after being told that, along with his Australian citizenship, he also held British citizenship by descent. His father was born in Britain before moving to Australia as a boy in 1951, which automatically gave Mr Parry citizenship by descent.

His resignation followed last month's High Court ruling that Mr Joyce was ineligible to sit in Parliament as he held dual Australia-New Zealand citizenship when elected.

That ruling meant the government lost its one-seat majority in the Lower House and must now rely on independents for its political survival.

Mr Joyce has since relinquished his New Zealand citizenship and will recontest his seat in a Dec 2 by-election.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2017, with the headline 'Ruling party lawmaker latest in Aussie dual-citizenship saga'. Print Edition | Subscribe