Greens senator Scott Ludlam has resigned today, after realising he’s ineligible to stand in Parliament.
The co-deputy of the Greens discovered he holds dual citizenship of New Zealand and Australia, which makes him ineligible to hold elected office in the Federal Parliament under the Australian Constitution.
He has been a senator for the past nine years.
In a statement, Senator Ludlam said he apologises unreservedly for this mistake and doesn’t wish to create a lengthy dispute 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,” he said.
After leaving New Zealand as a child and becoming an Australian citizen in his teens, he assumed he had renounced his New Zealand citizenship.
However, last week “someone who had done some digging” alerted him to the dual citizenship.
This person is not believed to be a journalist or political opponent.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale said in a tweet that he was devastated by Senator Ludlam’s resignation.
“Scott’s decision shows absolute integrity,” he said.
“The Senate will be poorer without him.”
While it’s not yet clear what his resignation means for the Senate, the Greens expect to retain the seat following a recount.
Jordan Steele-John, a 22-year-old from Western Australia who has cerebral palsy, was third on the Greens 2016 WA Senate ballot.
Mr Steele-John, a strong disability advocate, will possibly get the seat as a result of the recount.
In a Facebook post he said if it comes down to it, he’d be happier putting the choice of candidate back into the Greens party membership.
“Like everyone else in the party I’m going to be spending the next week in sad shock and/or swearing loudly into a pillow,” he said.
“We can worry about who, and how the hell we try to substitute someone else in for Scott later.”
Murdoch University senior lecturer in local politics and policy Ian Cooke said he believes Mr Steele-John would make a great addition to Parliament of his fresh voice, when Parliament is typically made up of middle-aged people.
“I think that on one level the Greens have often struggled to be effective in Parliament, and having someone who has been around politics longer might give them a better position,” he said.
“But in terms of representing young people, which the Greens generally cliam to do, having a 22-year-old involved, I think would be a really good look for the party.”
Senator Ludlam has been co-deputy of the Greens, with Larissa Waters since 2015.
While it’s possible he could come back into Parliament if he renounces his dual citizenship, he said it’s too early to discuss a comeback.
“I’ll find a way to continue making a contribution in some different capacity, but thank you all for sharing this remarkable ride with me,” he said.
However, Dr Cooke said he believes Senator Ludlam will make a comeback eventually.
“I think Scott Ludlam has been a fairly effective representative of the Greens and he has sort of caused problems for both [the Liberal and Labor] parties in terms of their policies around the environment and around Internet security,” he said.
“So, I think both of the major parties are going to be quite pleased to not have Scott Ludlam around, at least for a while anyway, I assume he’ll make a comeback at some stage in the future.”