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Greens senator Scott Ludlam resigns over failure to renounce dual citizenship

ABC News logo ABC News 14/07/2017 Jessica Strutt and Jacob Kagi


WA Greens senator Scott Ludlam has resigned after realising he has been ineligible under the constitution to sit as a senator for the past nine years because he holds dual citizenship.

The Senate is expected to refer the matter to the High Court for its consideration, but the rules appear clear cut and it is likely his election will be ruled invalid.

Section 44 of the constitution disqualifies potential candidates from election to the Parliament of Australia if they hold dual or plural citizenship, and under the rules Mr Ludlam should have renounced his New Zealand citizenship before he nominated for pre-selection 10 years ago.

Mr Ludlam, 47, who was also co-deputy leader, was elected to the Senate at the 2007 federal election, with his term beginning in August 2008.

In November last year, Mr Ludlam announced he would take a leave of absence from Parliament to treat depression and anxiety.

Ludlam admits responsibility, unreservedly apologises

Mr Ludlam has apologised unreservedly for what he said was his mistake and a "ridiculous oversight".

"This is my error, something I should have checked when I first nominated for pre-selection in 2006," he said.

"It never occurred to me as someone who left the country [New Zealand] as a three-year-old, [as someone who] has never really considered it home.

"This town is home. I have been here since 1978. It never crossed my mind that citizenship might be something that sticks to you in that way."

Mr Ludlam said he had decided against fighting to stay on.

"I could have dug my heels in. But it creates a messy and protracted dispute. That section of the constitution is crystal clear and it has been tested before by others."

"It is not something that I particularly want to put myself, my staff or my party through. This is probably a cleaner way to just make a break."

"I have no wish to draw out the uncertainty or create a lengthy legal dispute, particularly when the constitution is so clear.

"I am personally devastated to learn that an avoidable oversight a decade ago compels me to leave my colleagues, supporters and my wonderful team.

'It's the end of the line'

"It was brought to our attention a week ago while I was still overseas by someone who had done the digging, for whatever reason.

"If I had known I would have dealt with it way before.

"It took a couple of days to confirm with the New Zealand High Commission that that was the case.

"We have had 48 hours or so to do due diligence and make sure our understanding of the legal situation is clear and make sure my staff entitlements are taken care of.

"It is the end of the line."

In 2013, Mr Ludlam was embroiled in a complex electoral fight to keep his place in the Senate.

Following the 2013 federal election, he was initially deemed to have lost his bid for re-election by 14 votes, prompting the Greens to seek a recount, which changed the result in his favour.

However, that result was then thrown out by the Court of Disputed Returns after the discovery there were 1,300 missing votes.

The High Court found the result be declared void, and ruled that WA hold a Senate re-election in 2014, at which Mr Ludlam held his seat.

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