Australia dual citizen saga: Government defends five MPs

Australian Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce sits in parliament Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Australian Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce is among seven MPs facing eligibility questions

The Australian government will argue in court that five of seven politicians caught up in a dual citizenship saga are eligible to remain in parliament.

Under Australia's constitution, politicians cannot be dual citizens.

The eligibility of seven MPs, including Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce, will be tested in court next month. The hearing could imperil the government's majority.

In its submission to the High Court of Australia, the government argues that only two MPs should be ineligible.

Senator Malcolm Roberts and former Senator Scott Ludlam, both from minor parties, should never have been elected because they "voluntarily obtained, or retained" foreign citizenship, the government says.

The five other politicians - including Mr Joyce and two government senators - should retain their positions because they had been unaware of their citizenship status, according to the submission.

If the court agrees, it could pave the way for former Senator Larissa Waters, who made history as the first to breastfeed in Australia's parliament, to return to office.

Ms Waters and Mr Ludlam resigned over their citizenship, while the other politicians continue to serve pending the hearing.

Australia's parliament has referred each case to the court since Mr Ludlam's revelation in June prompted dozens of MPs to publicly clarify their citizenship status.

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Media captionLarissa Waters announcing her resignation in June

Mr Joyce's eligibility is crucial for the government because he sits in the lower House of Representatives, where Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has only a one-seat majority.

The court will hear the cases from 10 October.

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