In the two weeks since Greens Senator Scott Ludlam resigned from the Senate after revealing that he is also a New Zealand citizen, One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts has taken a number of positions on the issue of dual citizenship within the Australian Parliament — everyone should be audited, he said at first, before the questions started rolling in about whether or not he was eligible to be a senator, as he was born in India to an Australian mother and Welsh father. Has he ever been a citizen of either the UK or India? When did he renounce his citizenship? What does he choose to believe? So here we lay out, just what Roberts said and when he said it, in the hope that eventually we will know the answer.
Friday, July 14: After Ludlam’s resignation, Roberts quotes an old tweet of Ludlam’s about former senator Bob Day, who also fell foul of section 44 of the constitution, with what we are calling the embarrassed face emoji.
Monday, July 17: Greens Senator Larissa Waters resigns from the Senate, revealing that she was a Canadian citizen without her knowledge. Roberts tweets a statement on his own citizenship: “I am a citizen only of Australia and therefore eligible to hold the position as Senator in Australian parliament.”
An hour later he tweets a racist joke about India: “On another note, I do not own, nor have I ever owned, a 7-11. I’m not even a chucker #auspol #NotIndian”
Roberts is referring to cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan, who, whether fully justified or not, was synonymous with the “chucker” tag. Muralitharan is Sri Lankan. Whoops!
Also on July 17, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson tweets: “One Nation can confirm none of its Senators have dual citizenships. After Heather Hill steps were taken to ensure there would be no repeats.”
Just to refresh — in 1999 the High Court ruled that Heather Hill, then One Nation Senator-elect, was not eligible to sit in Parliament, because of, wait for it, her dual citizenship.
Tuesday July 18: Roberts tweets that he wanted an investigation into the citizenship of all MPs. “Today I will write to the President of Senate & Speaker to ask for a full investigation into the citizenship status of all MPs.”
Saturday, July 22: The Australian’s Rachel Baxendale reports that Roberts appears on the General Register Office’s Register of British Nationals Born Overseas 1818-2005, confirming he had, at one point, held British citizenship.
Tuesday, July 25: Roberts posts on Facebook a statutory declaration claiming he isn’t a dual citizen, and saying that he will provide his renunciation documents to the Senate inquiry he has called for.
Later on Tuesday, LNP Senator Matt Canavan resigns from the ministry after revealing his mother had applied for Italian citizenship on his behalf and without his knowledge.
Wednesday, July 26: BuzzFeed‘s Mark Di Stefano reports that shipping registers show that as a child Roberts travelled on a British passport with his parents. Roberts responds to tweets about the story saying “Prior to nominating for the Senate I ensured that I was no longer a British or Indian citizen and have necessary documents.”
Also on Wednesday, Pauline Hanson posts on Facebook that she had seen “first hand” that Roberts had renounced his UK citizenship.
“I have to have a laugh at the media’s witch hunt of my Queensland colleague, Malcolm Roberts again today.
“I can hand on heart assure everyone that Malcolm is not a dual citizen. I saw first hand his renouncement of UK citizenship before he became a candidate for the Senate.”
Thursday, July 27: A spokesman for Malcolm Roberts, Sean Black, claims there is no contradiction because the senator is “choosing to believe that he was never British”, even after the UK government confirmed he was once a citizen.
“He is choosing to believe that he was never British. He is preferring to believe that he was never British because he has no allegiance or exercised any citizenship arrangement. However they have renounced and released him of anything to do with them.”
“… There is nothing wrong or incongruent with Malcolm Roberts putting his hand up and saying as far as I’m concerned I’m not British, never was — the British government may have a different view.”
The Fairfax story reports that Black told Guardian Australia last year that Roberts had never been a citizen of any country other than Australia.
After the story is published, Roberts tells Sky News’ Paul Murray that he contacted the British authorities in June last year to renounce his citizenship before nominating for the Senate, but that the documentation confirming this wasn’t received until December 5 last year — after he had been elected and started serving his term.
Friday, July 28: Fairfax’s Canberra bureau chief Bevan Shields tweets that Roberts’ staff have threatened to call the police on Fairfax journos Adam Gartrell and Amy Remeikis, who asked for documentation backing up the claims Roberts made on Sky News.
So in just two weeks, Roberts has gone from never being a dual citizen, to jokes about his birthplace, to admitting that he tried to renounce his citizenship, but choose to believe he was never British. And now he wants to call the police on the journos trying to make sense of it all.