Dual-citizenship crisis ensnares more Australian politicians

Opposition Labor Senator Katy Gallagher (pictured) has quit her Senate positions and referred herself to the High Court over her British citizenship, on Dec 6, 2017.
Opposition Labor Senator Katy Gallagher (pictured) has quit her Senate positions and referred herself to the High Court over her British citizenship, on Dec 6, 2017.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY - The Australian government faced more turmoil on Wednesday with additional Federal politicians facing referral to the High Court over dual nationality questions that could further threaten Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's already shaky position in parliament.

The citizenship crisis, which began in July, has swept both sides of the political spectrum and led to much closer examination of all politicians' links to other countries.

Australia's constitution expressly bans parliamentarians from being "a subject or citizen of a foreign power".

Opposition Labor Senator Katy Gallagher referred herself to the High Court on Wednesday and has quit her Senate positions, the Guardian reported.

Ms Gallagher asked for the referral because she was a British citizen on the nomination date for the 2016 election.

Labor MP David Feeney, a close ally of Opposition leader Bill Shorten, is also set to go before the High Court after he flagged that evidence could not be found that he renounced his British citizenship.

A further eight MPs could also face the court, Australian media reported, after their citizenship status was called into question when a deadline for politicians to disclose the birthplace of their parents and grandparents passed on Tuesday.

The escalating dispute has ensnared a growing number of politicians because of unknown or undeclared links via relatives or spouses who were born in other countries or have claims to foreign citizenship. The crisis has threatened Mr Turnbull's government.

In October, the High Court disqualified five MPs and Senators, including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who found that he had New Zealand citizenship. He has since renounced it.

That ruling robbed Mr Turnbull of his one-seat majority in the lower house, which will be restored on Thursday (Dec 7) with Mr Joyce's return to parliament after he was re-elected in a by-election on Saturday (Dec 2).

The other eight who could be referred to the High Court are Ms Rebekha Sharkie from the Nick Xenophon Team party; Labor MPs Susan Lamb, Justine Keay and Josh Wilson and Liberal MPs Jason Falinski, Josh Frydenberg, Julia Banks and Nola Marino.

The citizenship crisis began when Greens MP Scott Ludlam called a surprise press conference in Canberra saying he was stepping down after learning he was a NZ citizen - as well as being Australian.

Soon after, fellow Greens legislator Larissa Waters also quit, saying she had Canadian citizenship.

In a panic, legislators from all parties rushed to check their ancestry and their documentation to ensure they were not dual citizens or that any foreign citizenship had been properly renounced before they became political candidates.