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Australia citizenship saga

First two Australian senators resigned on learning they held citizenship of New Zealand and Canada.

While multicultural Australia is vastly different now - even Britain was declared a "foreign power" in a 1999 High Court ruling on Section 44 - Dr Kildea said the principal behind the clause still stood.

"If the Australian parliament is presented with a bill which affects another nation, the clause is designed to ensure that MPs will be putting Australia's interests first," he said.

Dr Kildea said the clause could be altered to reflect modern Australia's make-up - either to demand more simply that candidates have Australian citizenship, or have them declare their dual nationality and let the voters decide. A third way was for the High Court to make a ruling, which could then be cited as precedent, that an MP had to have been aware of his or her dual nationality to be ineligible.

Regardless of the motivations behind the clause, Dr Kildea said there were still questions over whether it served its designed purpose.

"Just because an MP is not a citizen of a certain country doesn't mean they won't favour that country, as things like political donations from foreign countries have shown," he said.

Far from being dismissed as quirky oversight, the current saga has brought calls for Australia's parliamentarians to observe the same bureaucratic requirements imposed on the population.

News Corp Australia political commentator Malcolm Farr wrote that the exposed MPs had appeared "unable to properly fill out basic official forms - the type of incompetence which earns some on welfare a string of nasty communications from [welfare agencies] and financial penalties".

"It is all up to the candidates, and those who can't match the demand for detail surely cast doubt on their ability to be parliamentary representatives," he said.

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