As a result of the dual citizenship scandal, which sparked two resignations within the Australian Greens Party, the whole issue of allegiance towards Australia is spreading like an epidemic among some Australian politicians. They appear totally ignorant, and to some extend irresponsible regarding their legal obligations around their citizenship status and understanding of Section 44 of the Australian Constitution which clearly states that: ‘any person who is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the right or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power […] shall be incapable of being chosen of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.’
“It is pretty amazing that you have had two out of nine Green senators that didn’t realise that they were citizens of another country and it shows incredible sloppiness on their part,” stated Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in a recent interview with Australian media outlets.
“When you nominate for parliament there is actually a question you have to address that section and you have to address the Section 44 question, you’ve got to tick the box and confirm that you are not a citizen of another country, so it is extraordinary negligence on their part,” Prime Minister Turnbull added. Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, was also very clear and reassuring about the Labor Party processes surrounding the dual citizenship obligations of its elected members.
“We just don’t rely on someone ticking a box. I understand from speaking to the party administration that if you are born overseas you have to record that fact and tell the party. If you’ve got a parent that was born overseas, then you have to show what steps you’ve taken,” says Bill Shorten.
Nick Xenophon, an Australian-born senator with Greek Cypriot heritage, and leader of NXTeam Party was one of the first politicians to state his position and current status on a matter that many have described as both divisive and somewhat unfair in a modern-day multicultural Australia.
Xenophon took to the media last week reassuring his supporters that he is a proud Australian and he has never acquired either Greek or Cypriot citizenship.
“I have never applied for a citizenship and I have never been interested to be citizen of another country,” said Xenophon in a recent interview with the ABC.
“I am very proud that I was born in Australia and that I am an Australian citizen; I did go through a process when I ran for the Senate where I wrote to both the Cypriot High Commission and the Greek Embassy saying that while I never held citizenship, I wanted to make absolutely clear that I don’t want citizenship of your country and renounce any rights I have,” explained Xenophon whose mother is Greek and his father originates from the island of Cyprus.
Senator Xenophon didn’t stop there and continued to reveal a conversation he had with the High Commissioner of Cyprus at the Adelaide Airport a few days prior, while visiting and attending a series of commemorative events, hosted by the Cypriot Community of South Australia (CCSA), marking 43 years since Turkey’s military invasion of Cyprus.
“I ran into the Cypriot High Commissioner and I told her that I have never been a citizen of Cyprus, I don’t ever want to be a citizen of Cyprus and she graciously replied saying, ‘we don’t want you to be a citizen of Cyprus either’,” Senator Xenophon revealed, meanwhile his statements seem to have resonated within the Greek and Cypriot communities.
“I am proud of my heritage but at the same time I respect Senator Xenophon’s view,” said former president of the CCSA, Christos Ioannou, in an interview with Neos Kosmos.
“Everyone is free to voice their opinion, but I also feel that it was the High Commissioner’s right to express her opinion when she met Senator Xenophon and they had this brief discussion. That’s what she did,” says Ioannou, a founding and highly-respected member of the CCSA who has been working tirelessly towards the unification of Cyprus for decades.
“Personally, I encourage all our patriots to start the process, apply and obtain their Cypriot citizenship and thus support our country that needs us,” added Ioannou, when asked to comment on Xenophon’s dual citizenship position.
“Obviously Nick was born here and he has the right to choose which citizenship he wishes to keep, especially given that there are issues [about] politicians’ dual citizenship. I feel that Nick is still proud to be Cypriot but he is now forced to make a choice, Cyprus or Australia,” said current president of the CCSA, Professor Andreas Evdokiou, who was also asked to comment on Xenophon’s position.
“Nick chose his Australian citizenship but just because he says he doesn’t want to be a citizen of Greece or Cyprus, this doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want to have any links with Cyprus or Greece.
“I don’t think people should take that out of context. Nick has been a good support of the Cypriot community and we are proud of him.”