Four MPs resign as citizenship crisis causes more havoc

by Garry Watts May 10, 2018, 6:44
Four MPs resign as citizenship crisis causes more havoc

Australia's High Court has ruled an 11th lawmaker must leave parliament after discovering she was a dual national, the Australian Broadcasting Corp reported on Wednesday, the latest casualty in a widening citizenship crisis. The fifth MP, Rebekha Sharkie, is part of minor party Centre Alliance.

She had argued to the High Court that she had taken all reasonable efforts to renounce her citizenship and that the failure of the British Home Office to process her renunciation prior to nomination did not prevent her being from constitutionally eligible even under the High Court's much stricter reading of section 44 of the constitution enunciated past year.

Gallagher and lower house MPs Justine Keay, Josh Wilson and Susan Lamb are members of the opposition Labor party.

Mr Joyce who has his own dual citizenship issues and survived a by-election in his seat of New England after a High Court ruling slammed Mr Shorten and Labor as "complete and utter hypocrites".

The court did not accept that and, in a decision handed down Wednesday morning, found Senator Gallagher ineligible.

Under Section 44 of the Australian Constitution, members of parliament are unable to have citizenship in another country, and must prove that they took "all reasonable steps" to renounce their citizenship before being elected.

He said the three Labor MPs had acted in good faith and was confident they would be eligible to contest the upcoming byelections.

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The court found there was no such impediment for Gallagher and the requirements of United Kingdom law to renounce citizenship could not be described as onerous.

The Liberal leader of the house, Christopher Pyne, said Shorten had "faced a character test" over the citizenship of his MPs and he had "failed it quite spectacularly".

Attorney-General Christian Porter declared the court had provided a "crisp and crystal-clear clarification" of the law.

"It is a crystal clear clarification of the law as it was stated in the [Matt] Canavan decision a year ago, and anyone, Bill Shorten or anyone else, who says this is a reinterpretation or a change, is talking absolute rubbish", he said.

Ms Gallagher, who was born in Ecuador to British parents and was conferred British citizenship, filed paperwork and paid processing fees to renounce it more than two months before being elected in July 2016.

"Labor is correct in that every High Court decision sets a precedent of some kind", Professor Williams told AAP on Thursday.

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