The deputy leader of an Australian political party announced Friday that he was ending his nine-year career in Parliament because he had discovered he had technically never been a senator, the AP reports. Scott Ludlam, the 47-year-old deputy leader of the minor Greens party, said he was "personally devastated" to learn that he was a citizen of New Zealand as well as Australia, which made him ineligible for the Senate job he has held since July 2008. The constitution states that a "citizen of a foreign power" is not eligible to be elected to the Australian Parliament. While lawmakers have discovered they were technically ineligible after elections in the past, Ludlam says nine years later seemed to be a record.
"I apologize unreservedly for this," Ludlam tells reporters. "This is an oversight that was avoidable and it's something I should have fixed up in 2006 when I was first nominated." Born in in Palmerston North in New Zealand, Ludlam moved to Perth, Australia, when he was 3 years old. He became an Australian as a teenager and said he hadn't realized that New Zealand citizenship "might be something that sticks to you in that way." He was elected to the Senate three times after stating in nomination forms on each occasion that he was not a dual citizen. He joked: "I can at least vote in the New Zealand elections in September." The government could demand Ludlam repay millions of dollars in salary and expenses that he has claimed since 2008. "I'm hoping common sense prevails," Ludlam says.