How can I change the Australian Constitution?

Australia - dual citizens are not allowed in parliament - this also applies to picture book «Aussies» like the vice-premier

Dual citizens are not allowed in parliament - this also applies to picture book «Aussies» like the vice premier

An archaic law does the Vice Prime Minister's undoing - and not just him. Several members of parliament have resigned in recent months after realizing their dual citizenship.

He's an “Aussie” straight out of a picture book: someone like “Crocodile Dundee”, ultra-conservative, down-to-earth. And he also wears an oversized hat. Barnaby Joyce is Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. The problem: the man is also New Zealander. He announced that on Monday. And that's why the 50-year-old is not allowed to sit in the federal parliament. This is what the Australian Constitution says. In recent weeks, dual citizenship has become a kind of venereal political disease for several Australian MPs: they are secretly afraid they might have it, but shy away from a diagnosis.

It's the Italian mom's fault

The drama began in July with two green senators: Larissa Waters didn't know she was Canadian since birth. And Scott Ludlam was horrified to discover that he was also a New Zealander. Both resigned immediately. Another shock a few days later: Minister of Natural Resources Matt Canavan is also Italian. He blamed his Italian-born mom. They registered him at the Italian consulate without his knowledge. "I don't speak Italian, I've never been to Italy," says Canavan.

Like his conservative party colleague, Joyce did not draw the conclusions from his "mistake" on Monday, but rather pretends to be stubborn. "I didn't know anything about it," he said in parliament. The Supreme Court should now interpret the law, according to which no MP may "serve other interests".

Constitutional lawyers agree, however, that as archaic the law is, it is binding. Each federal candidate for office signs a declaration prior to taking office stating that he or she is an exclusive Australian citizen. Large parts of the population are shocked that several parliamentarians have handled this duty so lightly.

Constitutional changes are rare

The future of several other parliamentarians is still on the brink. Once these have dispelled all doubts, the debate should begin about what sense such a rule still makes today - in one of the most multicultural countries in the world. 28 percent of the 24 million Australians were born in a third country. Millions more descend from foreign-born parents.

Nevertheless, observers assume that the law will remain in place. Not only because many commentators are demanding that politicians should only be loyal to their home country. But also because attempts to change the Australian constitution have almost always failed over the past 200 years. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull can only hope that the court decision will be in favor of his deputy. Otherwise the conservative could lose its wafer-thin majority in parliament.