SYDNEY, (Reuters) – An Australian senator announced plans to resign yesterday, the eighth lawmaker to become embroiled in a citizenship crisis that has already cost Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government its majority in parliament.
Jacqui Lambie, an independent senator for the island state of Tasmania, confirmed that she is a dual UK citizen and that she will officially resign from parliament later on Tuesday.
Seven other lawmakers have already been forcibly ejected from parliament or have voluntarily resigned in recent weeks because they were found to be dual citizens, a status that is banned for members of parliament under Australia’s constitution in a bid to prevent split allegiances.
Adherence to that rule in a country where more than half the population of 24 million was either born overseas or has a parent who was born overseas has only come under the spotlight in the current crisis, with the High Court confirming a strict interpretation of the law.
Lambie’s father was born in Scotland, granting her automatic British citizenship by descent. Some of the other lawmakers who have exited parliament were in a similar position, with political analysts suggesting that several more could still fall. Lambie, an outspoken senator who quit the political party headed by mining magnate Clive Palmer after entering parliament to become an independent, said she would immediately move to renounce her Scottish citizenship and vowed to return to parliament.
“I won’t be laying down, I’ll just get up and get back on and go again, simple as that,” she told local radio.
Lambie, 43, a former army corporal, has become one of Australia’s most recognisable and colourful politicians in her short time in office. She has garnered headlines for a range of controversial comments, including her belief that China could invade Australia and applauding Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “very strong leadership”.
The citizenship crisis has hit Turnbull hard, with a poll released on Monday showing he had slipped to a new low in voter popularity amid criticism that he has failed to act decisively.
Independent lawmakers have threatened to use their new-found power in the lower house to push through controversial legislation that has been blocked by the government, including a Royal Commission into the banking sector.
The government and main opposition party cobbled together a deal on Monday to agree to a deadline of Dec. 1 for all politicians to disclose the birthplace of their parents and grandparents.