That seems clear enough, yet so far half a dozen members of parliament have been found to have broken the rule. Two senators resigned in July, having discovered that they were still citizens of countries from which they had emigrated as infants. The most recent MP to be rumbled, Barnaby Joyce, the tub-thumpingly patriotic deputy prime minister, is considered a citizen by New Zealand, since his father was born there. The fate of the government may hang on whether he is forced to resign
Trying to make sure that lawmakers do not owe allegiance to a foreign power is fair enough. But the accident of birth and possession of particular citizenship papers are poor measures of loyalty, all the more so in a time of global travel, migration and mixed marriages. People of more than one nationality should not be treated with suspicion. As long as they pay their taxes, they should be celebrated.
It is not just Australia that has archaic rules of eligibility for parliament, although it is feeling the problem more acutely because it has become vastly more cosmopolitan than it was when its constitution was drafted in the 1890s. Fully 26% of Australians were born abroad. An even bigger percentage would be eligible for (and may indeed hold) citizenship of some other country by descent, like Mr Joyce.
Egypt, Israel and Sri Lanka, among others, do not allow dual citizens to be MPs. Three of the four most populous countries in the world—China, India and Indonesia—do not allow dual citizenship at all. Japan and
Germany severely restrict it. In America only a “natural born citizen” can become president—a rule that dogged a previous president, Barack Obama, during the absurd “birther” controversy. Myanmar bars people who have married foreigners from the presidency, which is why Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of the country’s independence hero, Aung San, cannot hold the job; instead, she has invented the post of “state counsellor” to run the country. Mexican law bars not only immigrants from the presidency, but also their children in certain circumstances. Naturalised Mexicans, who must renounce any other passports, are not allowed to serve in the police, fly a plane or captain a ship.
These rules are derived from crude notions of identity based on blood and soil. They might have appealed in times of frequent inter-state wars and mass conscription. They make no sense in this age of volunteer armies and globalisation.
There is no reason to suppose that dual nationals are any more inclined to treachery than anyone else. Many examples point to the contrary. The only Australian MP to have been accused of doing another country’s bidding in recent years is Sam Dastyari, a senator who made statements sympathetic to China after taking money from companies with ties to the Chinese government. He is not of Chinese origin.
Money, ideology or blackmail are more likely to procure “allegiance, obedience and adherence” than a passport. Think of Benedict Arnold, an American general in the war of independence who asked for £20,000 to defect to the British side; or of the “Cambridge Five”, upper-crust Britons who spied for the Soviet Union. And remember that the Battle of Britain against Nazi Germany was won with the sacrifice of, among others, many Polish and other foreign pilots.
In praise of mongrelsThese days most people’s contribution to their home countries is through their work, talent, ingenuity and investment. Closer relations between countries are a good thing, diminishing the chances of conflict and increasing prosperity through trade. Who better to knit those ties than those of mixed nationality? If voters are worried that politicians with two or more passports might not be acting in their best interests, they can always vote them out. But they should also be given the choice to vote such people in.https://www.economist.com.