In an interesting example of governmental interdependence, the High Court of Australia will consider this week whether seven Members of Parliament should be disqualified from their elected positions because they hold dual citizenship. Australia requires its MPs to be Australian citizens; the affected legislators are all technically dual nationals, most of whom share citizenship with New Zealand.
That a court should have to make this decision is not itself particularly intriguing. But there are several unusual and interesting dimensions. First, the hearing will take place over three days — significantly longer than, say, the one hour that the U.S. Supreme Court typically allows for cases of similar importance. Second, the decision will have significant ripple effects, especially if the MPs are ruled to be ineligible. Australia’s narrow governing coalition may be put at risk, new elections will have to be called, and earlier decisions made by the MPs (two of whom are also government ministers) could be challenged. Third, the problem might have been avoided long ago: the dual-citizenship issue has been on the political radar for two decades or more, but all efforts to amend the country’s Constitution to address it have lost steam. Ultimately, the High Court will have to make a legal decision with potentially profound political consequences.