From Supranational to Dual to Alien Citizen: Australia's Ambivalent Journey

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This collection of essays explores the value and role of a more “global” view of citizenship, focusing on expatriate voting rights and citizenship in Europe and Australia.

The European Parliament has designated 2008 as ‘The European Year of Intercultural Dialogue’, an idea which embraces more plural and cosmopolitan ideas of identity and citizenship and which is the focus of this volume.

The first two chapters address the theme of expatriate voting, one from a European perspective (Simone Battiston and Bruno Mascitelli) and one from an Australian perspective (Graeme Orr). Voting is one of the rights of citizenship (as well as legally compellable duty in Australia). The position of expatriate electorates poses a challenge for inclusive liberal democracies which, on the one hand, want to recognise the increasingly cosmopolitan nature of the modern human condition (with limitless opportunities for some to work and travel overseas), and on the other hand, the parochial nationalistic concern that only those with residency and a commitment to the community are enfranchised. These paired papers expose how local politics and interest groups influence the public debate and legal reforms relating to expatriate voting.

The challenge for the itinerant citizen who moves across territory and acquires multiple identities is explored in Kim Rubenstein’s chapter ‘From Supra-national to Dual to Alien Citizen: Australia’s Ambivalent Journey’. The evolving character of ‘Australian citizenship’ in many respects tracks the changing relationship between Britain and its antipodean former colonies. Federation in 1901 did not create the category of Australian citizen – rather ordinary federal legislation grafted a new category of citizenship onto the pre-existing ‘supranational’ British subject. Although some degree of dualism of Australia-British identity was permitted, until 2002 federal law mandated the loss of Australian citizenship for those who acquired new citizenship. Reflecting the pressures of globalisation and cosmopolitanism, this strict prohibition on acquiring another citizenship has been revised. But there are also forces counteracting these liberalising tendencies: in the post 9/11 environment, an increasingly strict approach to granting citizenship has been adopted including mandatory testing of applicants on ‘Australian values’. These developments may seem benign, though as Rubenstein points out, there is a danger of holding ‘alien Australians’ to higher standards than Australian-born citizens are expected to attain. The challenge, as she concludes, is to recognise the multiple layers of a person’s national identity in a cosmopolitan world, and ‘better integrate legal understandings of Australian citizenship with that cosmopolitan understanding’.

Returning to the theme of the supranational citizenship from a European perspective, Michael Longo explores the political project to create a new civic common identity called the ‘EU citizen’. The concept of EU citizenship, introduced in 1992 Treaty on European Union, like many EU concepts is sui generis. Unlike other dual nationalities, EU citizenship is a supranational parasite, its existence and validity resting on the underlying national citizenship of the Member State. As Longo points out, this feature presents problems for the political and legal status of third country nationals who reside in the EU. Notwithstanding the EU strong political commitment to participatory democracy, this disenfranchisement of long term non-nationals residents in the EU, hampered by the lack of any consistent approach to citizenship conferral in Member States, undermines the legitimacy of this European civic project. Clearly, to address this deficiency, the EU must further expand its competency in this field.

The four articles together comprise the final paper (No. 29) in the Law and Policy Paper series.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCitizenship in a Post-National World Australia and Europe Compared
EditorsSimon Bronitt, Kim Rubenstein
Place of PublicationAlexandria
PublisherFederation Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9781862877016
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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