MP for Chisholm Julia Banks

Benjamin Franklin famously said “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days,” and my journalism lecturer told me the same rule can be applied to news stories. However, some things simply refuse to go away. Scott Ludlam resigned on July 14, Larissa Waters on July 17, and Malcolm Roberts hasn’t tweeted about his citizenship status (probably a good idea given his track record of mental gymnastics) since July 25. But section 44 of the constitution is still endangering some MPs’ careers, with Julia Banks, Justine Keay and Nick McKim the latest to attract some unwanted attention. So who is still vulnerable? And who is safe?

Danger zone

Matt Canavan

Yes, Matt Canavan, adult, actually blamed his mum for this debacle. However, while Canavan resigned from his cabinet position because he holds Italian citizenship, his political career is not over yet. As the ABC’s Antony Green explained: “The difference in Senator Canavan’s case is that he is entitled to citizenship by descent rather than by birth, a category of citizenship that the High Court has not previously ruled on.” So, off to the High Court he goes.

Justine Keay

Keay is the latest MP to come into focus, with the Tasmanian MP holding dual Australian-British citizenship before the 2016 election. A spokesman for Keay made a statement trying to hose down the concerns: “She had applied to renounce her UK citizenship prior to the issue of the writs and opening of nominations for the 2016 federal election. Her UK citizenship was renounced.” However, Keay has so far refused to release her declaration of renuniation.

Nick McKim

The Tasmanian Greens Senator was born in London, came to Australia as a child, and claims to have renounced his UK citizenship before entering the Senate in 2015 to replace the departing Christine Milne. However, as the ABC’s Georgie Burgess points out, if an application to renounce UK citizenship is accepted, a declaration of renunciation is provided, but McKim never received such confirmation. “What I’ve got is the letter I sent to the United Kingdom Home Office which renounced my citizenship,” McKim told ABC Radio Hobart. “I did not receive anything back from the UK government, and we’re asking for that because I think that’s what the people want to see.”

Julia Banks

Banks came into focus last week in the a new development of the section 44 drama, which centres on someone being “entitled” to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power. The Victorian Liberal MP’s father has Greek citizenship — does this make her “entitled” to Greek citizenship? While Banks isn’t as prominent as Matt Canavan, as she is a member of the House of Representatives rather than a senator, the repercussions for the Liberal Party would be far worse if she were forced to resign. The Liberal Party holds a one-seat majority and would be forced to contest a byelection in the marginal seat of Chisholm. From a Liberal Party statement on Friday, it appears that Banks is in the clear: “We have received confirmation from the Greek Embassy that, according to records, Julia Banks is not registered as a Greek citizen and also is not entitled as a Greek citizen.”

Other Australian MPs with Greek parents are: Arthur Sinodinos, Maria Vamvakinou and Nick Xenophon.

Pauline Hanson

As Crikey reported last week, Pauline Hanson told a women’s magazine in 2010 that she still had a lot of love for Mother Britain: “… Australia will always be my home. But I love England and Ireland. My mother’s family come from Limerick and my father’s from London. I love the culture.” Could the entitlement chestnut hit Pauline Hanson? According to a 2010 article by the UK Telegraph, Hanson is eligible for a British passport because her grandfather was an immigrant from England in 1908. Unlikely, but who knows …

Malcolm Roberts

All quiet on the western front. Roberts looked to end the discussion last week on Sky News and has since refocused his Twitter attention upon Islam and climate change. However, given he only received confirmation regarding the renunciation of British citizenship six months after nominating as a candidate, he’s probably off to the High Court at some point. Adding to Roberts’ woes is the Indian legal precedent set by the case Bhagawati Prasad Dixit v Rajiv Gandhi (1986). Obscure? Yes. Dangerous? Potentially.

Enter the void

Just to make things perfectly clear, we are now entering steel beams territory. The names below are by no means in serious danger, but have still been swallowed up by the voracious beast that is citizenship discussion.

Alan Tudge

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge was born in Australia, but he held a dual UK citizenship until early 2010, before his election. While Tudge provided confirmation of the renunciation of his UK citizenship, he has still copped flak for how dodgy his paperwork looks. Tudge might have nothing to fear, but his letter from the British High Commission reads like a spam email.

Barnaby Joyce

Joyce’s name came up in The Australian last week, as he was born in Australia to a parent with a New Zealand citizenship. While the article did not suggest Joyce was in any serious danger, it did highlight that a spokeswoman for New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs said someone in Joyce’s position could apply to be a citizen by descent. A blogger took this line of inquiry even further, alleging that Joyce is an NZ citizen by descent.

Mathias Cormann

Cormann has renounced his Belgian citizenship but could apply to get it back. Does that mean he could be caught by the “entitlement” snare? 

Stay tuned

The full list of Australian pollies born overseas, excluding Ludlam and Waters, is as follows:

Mathias Corman (Belgium);

Anne Aly (Egypt);

Eric Abetz (Germany);

Maria Vamvakinou (Greece);

Sam Dastyari (Iran);

Malcolm Roberts (India);

Tony Zappia (Italy);

Penny Wong (Malaysia);

Derryn Hinch (New Zealand);

Sussan Ley (Nigeria);

Ian Goodenough and Peter Whish-Wilson (Singapore);

Tony Abbott, Doug Cameron, Paul Fletcher, Alexander Gallacher, Nick McKim, Brian Mitchell, Brendan O’Connor, Nigel Scullion, Josh Wilson and Rebekha Sharkie (United Kingdom); and

Lucy Gichuhi (Kenya).

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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