ANTI Coal Seam Gas mining advocate and Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters has resigned from parliament after revealing she failed to denounce her dual Canadian citizenship.
It comes just days after WA Senator and co-deputy Greens leader with Senator Waters Scott Ludlum also caused a major uproar and shocked political followers when he quit federal parliament after also revealing he’d failed to renounce his NZ citizenship.
Like former WA One Nation Senator and farmer Rod Culleton and former Family First SA Senator Bob Day, the matters represent a breach of Section 44 of the constitution regarding eligibility for election.
Hearings are now expected to be held in the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed returns, to decide how the vacancies will be filled.
Questions are also being asked about the eligibility of other overseas born members of parliament facing the same section of the constitution and if they’ve formally denounced citizenships of other countries.
The loss of the two Greens’ Senators and senior party figures also comes amid ongoing reports of internal brawling and divisions between federal party members and NSW Greens Senator and anti-live-exports crusader Lee Rhiannon who was recently banned from party room discussions on core policy issues.
On Twitter, Greens leader and Victorian Senator Richard Di Natale said he was “gutted” by his colleague’s announcement but she had unfinished business that she won’t back away from, inside or outside of parliament.
In a statement, Senator Waters said “It is with great shock and sadness that I have discovered that I hold dual citizenship of Australia and Canada”.
“I left Canada as a baby, born to Australian parents studying and working briefly in Canada before they returned home,” she said.
“I have lived my life thinking that as a baby I was naturalised to be Australian and only Australian, and my parents told me that I had until age 21 to actively seek Canadian citizenship.
“At 21, I chose not to seek dual citizenship, and I have never even visited Canada since leaving at 11 months old.
“However after Scott’s shock discovery, I immediately sought legal advice and was devastated to learn that because of 70 year old Canadian laws I had been a dual citizen from birth, and that Canadian law changed a week after I was born and required me to have actively renounced Canadian citizenship.
“I had not renounced since I was unaware that I was a dual citizen.
“Obviously this is something that I should have sought advice on when I first nominated for the Senate in 2007, and I take full responsibility for this grave mistake and oversight. I am deeply sorry for the impact that it will have.”
Senator Water said it was with a “heavy heart” that he was forced to resign as Senator for Queensland and co-deputy leader of the Australian Greens, effective today.
“I apologise wholeheartedly to all those who have supported me and helped me to become a representative for the wonderful people of Queensland over the last six years,” she said.
“From being the first woman to breastfeed in federal parliament, to being part of stopping the dumping of dredge spoil on the Great Barrier Reef, overturning cuts to domestic violence services and keeping key environmental decision making powers in federal hands, I have relished every moment to make positive change as a Greens Senator.
“While my future remains uncertain, I have more to contribute and will be talking with my party about what lies ahead.”
Senator Water’s statement said Andrew Bartlett - the Queensland Greens convenor and former Senator who has been active in Australian politics since the 1980s - was second on the Greens 2016 Senate Ticket and likely to be appointed by the Court of Disputed Returns countback process, following her resignation.
Senator Di Natale said Senator Water’s departure was “deeply saddening” and the nation and parliament were “worse off as a result of the resignation of two leaders of such integrity and ability”.
“This is an innocent mistake, and Larissa has acted quickly and honestly to correct it - I commend her for that - she’s paid a very high price for this error,” he said.
“Larissa has represented the people of Queensland with tenacity and passion throughout her life and I know that’s not about to change.
“Today I’ve spoken with our Party Convenors and we have committed to an urgent root-and-branch review of our processes.
“As our party grows, we need to strengthen our governance and internal processes including how we vet candidates to prevent this from happening again.
“Today’s news is challenging, but we are a movement founded in our solidarity and our commitment to working together to deliver change and to offer people choice in how we live our lives and make the world a better place for coming generations.”
NSW Nationals MP Michael McCormack said it was incumbent on members of parliament to ensure they were eligible for election from the outset.
Mr McCormack said his party ensured all candidates understood the rules and were made to sign long and detailed documents – totalling about 70 pages at last year’s election – to protect their individual interests and the party’s reputation.
“It’s a shame other political parties didn’t follow the same rigid procedures and protocols, to ensure everything’s above board,” he said.
WA Liberal Senator and farming advocate Chris Back also recently retired from federal politics after serving for eight years and his replacement is likely to be decided at the weekend, at a meeting of the party’s WA state council.
Mr Culleton was replaced by his brother-in-law Peter Georgiou who has a Greek family background and has remained with One Nation, after his predecessor quit the party and turned independent after falling out with leader and Queensland Senator Pauline Hanson.
Mr Day was replaced by Kenyan-born Lucy Gichuhi.
Acting National Secretary of the ALP Paul Erickson said his party worked closely with all of its candidates to ensure that their nomination was sound and compliant with the constitution.
“This is a critical part of our nomination processes,” he said.
“We are confident that every member of the Labor caucus has been properly elected.”