Second Australian Greens senator forced to quit over dual citizenship

Larissa Waters (left) and Scott Ludlam served as co-deputies to Greens leader Richard Di Natale.
ANDREW MEARES/FAIRFAX

Larissa Waters (left) and Scott Ludlam served as co-deputies to Greens leader Richard Di Natale.

The Greens have lost their second co-deputy leader, after Larissa Waters was caught in the same constitutional dual-citizenship muddle as Aus-NZ citizen Scott Ludlam.

The Queensland senator, who was first elected in 2011, said she recently discovered she is a Canadian dual citizen, and, under section 44 of the constitution, is therefore ineligible to stand for the Australian parliament and has been forced to resign from the senate.

Waters' resignation paves the way for former Democrats leader Andrew Bartlett's return to the senate.

There was outcry when Waters put forward a motion in the Senate while breastfeeding her baby, Alia.
ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN/FAIRFAX

There was outcry when Waters put forward a motion in the Senate while breastfeeding her baby, Alia.

Waters, who was born in Canada, said it was with "great shock and sadness" that she made the discovery she was still a citizen of the country she had not visited since she was 11 months old.

READ MORE:
MP with NZ-Australian citizenship Scott Ludlam resigns from Parliament
Australian senator breastfeeds baby while moves a motion in parliament

In an emotional press conference she held in Brisbane on Tuesday, Waters said if she had been born a week later, she would not be in this position.

Waters said she had lawyers look over her status over the weekend, following her colleague's discovery, and discovered late Monday afternoon she held dual-citizenship.

"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.

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"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.

"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."

Waters became the second Greens senator in less than a week to step down because of the constitutional oversight, with Senator Ludlam stepping down on Friday after a decade in the red chamber, after discovering he was still a New Zealand citizen.

Waters said she will talk with her party, which has been thrown into chaos with the loss of two of its most experienced performers in a matter of days, about her future, but remains proud of her achievements, which include becoming the first woman to breastfeed in Federal Parliament and working to maintain key environmental protections.

"It has been an honour to work with my Greens colleagues in the parliament and in the Queensland party," she said.

"They are the best of people and I am devastated to leave them. My focus now is on working with the party to ensure Queenslanders still have a strong Green voice in the Senate, and working with our state candidates, members and supporters to elect Greens into the Queensland State Parliament.

"Despite my personal circumstances, I still have unshakeable hope for our common future on this planet.

"Our movement is so much bigger than any one person, and we will win in the end. Farewell dear friends."

Waters said while it was "my job to check", the Greens would review their selection processes.  But she said it was "way bigger than one person".

In response to questions from independent senator Derryn Hinch, prime minister Tony Abbott published a document last week that he had renounced his British citizenship in 1993.

 - Brisbane Times

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