Dual citizen MP ban to stay, changes made

Angus Livingston, AAP Senior Political Writer
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MALCOLM TURNBULL ELECTORATE VISITS

Malcolm Turnbull says there's no time for a referendum to overturn the ban on dual citizen MPs

More than half of Australia's voters can't run for parliament, but Malcolm Turnbull says there's no time for a referendum to overturn the ban on dual citizen MPs.

Instead, changes will be made before five by-elections to make sure candidates publicly confirm they are qualified to sit in parliament.

A cross-party committee of MPs on Thursday recommended a referendum to change the constitution, after more then a dozen MPs were forced to quit over dual citizenship.

"We certainly don't have enough time between now and the federal election, which is roughly a year away, or let alone the by-elections," Mr Turnbull told reporters on Thursday.

But he did flag changes in which candidates will report their citizenship status to the Australian Electoral Commission, which will make the details public before elections.

The committee found more than 50 per cent of Australian voters were likely ineligible to run for parliament, providing a strong reason to change the constitution.

"The committee recommends that the Australian government prepare a proposed referendum question to ... repeal sections 44 and 45 of the constitution," the committee's report said.

If the referendum doesn't go ahead, the report recommends a "workaround" be found to make sure MPs aren't falling foul of the law.

Committee chair Linda Reynolds agreed with the prime minister that the conditions for a referendum weren't there, but she said momentum needed to build to change the constitution.

"It is stuck in the past," she told AAP.

Foreign citizenship, treason, bankruptcy, having a conviction with a penalty of a year or more in jail, holding an "office of profit under the Crown" and having a pecuniary interest in the public service also disqualify candidates.

"Only eight million Australians (are) eligible to nominate for election without having to take additional measures," the report said.

The High Court has recently ruled some elections were invalid because successful candidates were foreign citizens at the time, and the committee said this opened a can of worms.

"A successful candidate could have their election challenged on the basis of preference flows from an ineligible candidate," the report said.

"This raises the possibility of deliberate manipulation of disqualification rules to overturn an otherwise valid election."

The Greens say a referendum would get rid of a barrier to entering parliament in Australia's multicultural society, while Labor welcomed moves to improve the candidate nomination process.

Liberal MP Ben Morton produced a dissenting report where he argued Australia should sign deals with other countries to fast-track citizenship renunciations instead of holding a referendum.

The AEC will on Friday conduct a special count to replace former Labor senator Katy Gallagher, who was disqualified over her British ties.