Liberal backbencher John Alexander, the latest MP to be caught up in the parliamentary citizenship debacle, has announced his resignation, meaning that Malcolm Turnbull‘s government will lose its majority heading into the final sitting days of the year.
Earlier this week, concerns were raised that Alexander may have been a dual citizen by descent, after Fairfax reported that his father was born in Britain and never renounced his citizenship.
The former tennis champion, who spent the week checking his citizenship status, told reporters of his intention to resign in a press conference earlier today. He said:
“I have always believed that I am Australian and solely Australian. In view of recent events and the High Court decision, in my position, I have had to thoroughly examine my situation. Given what I have learned about the Constitution and understanding now of the High Court decision just a couple of weeks ago, I can no longer, with sufficient certainty, maintain the belief that I have held through my 66 years. Therefore, it is my obligation that I must resign. That’s what I will do.”
He apparently delivered the bad news to Turnbull yesterday in a “business-like” phone call, saying of their conversation:
“He encouraged me to be decisive, to act expeditiously, and to put things beyond any question of doubt and that’s what I think the people of Bennelong want. Australia is tired of this absurd situation. I don’t have any degrees, I have a degree in common sense and it doesn’t make any common sense.”
That’s probably a nice way of saying that Turnbull was white-knuckle gripping his desk in a barely-contained rage, wondering why he didn’t just retire and enjoy his millions instead of getting involved in the abject clusterfuck that is federal politics.
Alexander’s resignation, along with the absence of Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce – who was himself caught up in the citizenship fiasco – means that the government will hold just 74 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives as the year wraps up.
There are currently 148 members remaining in the House – Labour has 69, and there are five crossbenchers, so at this stage, the government will be unable to win a vote without the support of at least one of the crossbench MPs.
The government will remain intact for now, but this development will surely put pressure on Turnbull when parliament resumes on November 27. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess what this will mean for a potential vote on marriage equality.
Alexander’s resignation will trigger a December 16 by-election in Bennelong. He holds the seat by a 9.8% margin, and told reporters he will run again, although it’s worth remembering that Labor’s Maxine McKew once ran there and ousted then-Liberal PM John Howard, so anything could happen.
Interesting times, folks.
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