The S44 citizenship saga has thrown up possible queries concerning the citizenship status of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The first is this interview with the Times of Israel in September 2015, recorded when Turnbull ousted former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and took over the top job:
My mother always used to say that her mother’s family was Jewish, he (Turnbull) told the Australian Jewish News two years ago. Judaism is passed from generation to generation on the mother’s side, so if his mother was in fact Jewish, so is Turnbull.
The second is a piece from the Australian Jewish News, August 2013, headlined “Menachem Mandel Turnbull?” in which the same statement is made by Turnbull about his mother, Coral Lansbury.
If Turnbull is Jewish, he is, as is every Jew in the world with the exception of criminals and terrorists, entitled to Israeli citizenship under the 1950 Law of Return.
How does this bring into question Turnbull’s legitimacy as an MP?
Section 44(i) of Australia’s Constitution disqualifies someone from office if that person:
…is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power… (emphasis mine)
We know from recent events that:
The High Court’s reading of section 44 is strict and unsurprising. It means that a dual national is barred from Parliament even where they were born in Australia, are ignorant of their other citizenship and have never attempted to use the rights or privileges of another country. A person can even be disqualified where they become a dual national later in life due to legal changes in another country.
Obviously his citizenship status and S44 were far from Turnbull’s mind in 2013 and 2015, when the interviews were recorded. Yet he was, at the beginning of his political career, like any other aspiring MP whose background carries the possibility of dual citizenship or entitlement to that citizenship, required to establish his status before standing for parliament. His failure to do this places his legitimacy as an MP and Prime Minister in doubt.
For the sake of the country’s stability, Turnbull must immediately address these issues, and rapidly and transparently convey his citizenship status to the Australian people. It is unthinkable that we should continue with a Prime Minister who is ineligible to sit in our parliament.
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg is in the same situation as Turnbull. Frydenberg’s mother is Jewish, and he is also entitled to Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return.
This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.