More Aussie MPs mired in dual-citizenship crisis

SYDNEY • The Australian government faced more turmoil yesterday 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 bans parliamentarians from being "a subject or citizen of a foreign power".

Opposition Labor Senator Katy Gallagher referred herself to the High Court yesterday and has quit her Senate positions, the Guardian reported. She asked for the referral as she was a British citizen on the 2016 election's nomination date.

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.

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 today with Mr Joyce's return to Parliament after he was re-elected in a by-election on Saturday.

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 rushed to check their ancestry and their documentation to ensure they were not dual citizens or that any foreign citizenship had been renounced before they became political candidates.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2017, with the headline 'More Aussie MPs mired in dual-citizenship crisis'. Print Edition | Subscribe