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Aug 18, 2017

Oops, turns out the Nats don’t always ask wannabe MPs about their citizenship

How could the National Party have missed that three of its 22 federal MPs might be dual citizens?

The New South Wales Nationals say their process for ensuring the eligibility of candidates for Parliament is “onerous,” but it has been beefed up in the weeks since the dual citizenship debacle first hit Australian members and senators, but the Victorian Nationals have not asked candidates if they are dual citizens before nominating.

The announcement by deputy Nationals leader Fiona Nash last night that she holds British citizenship through descent as well as Australian citizenship comes after the revelation earlier this week that Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Nationals in Parliament Barnaby Joyce holds New Zealand citizenship, also through descent. 

It means that out of 22 members of the party sitting in federal Parliament, there are now five with clouds over their eligibility when it comes to section 44 of the constitution. As well as Joyce and Nash, Queensland Senator Matt Canavan will be one of the test cases in the High Court after it was revealed his mother had applied for Italian citizenship on his behalf when he was 25. 

The Labor Party has also launched a High Court action against member for Lyne, David Gillespie, who owns a small shopping centre in Port Macquarie where one of the tenants has an arrangement with Australia Post. The Labor case says he has an indirect pecuniary interest with the Commonwealth through the rental agreement.   

Senator Barry O’Sullivan is the final member of the party (so far) with a cloud over his eligibility, as it’s been reported this week that his family’s company, Newlands Civil Construction, has been subcontracted to work on the Toowoomba second range crossing, which is 80% funded by the federal government.

NSW state director of the Nationals Nathan Quigley tells Crikey that Nationals candidates fill out a “fairly onerous declaration” as part of their nomination for Parliament, which includes asking whether prospective MPs are Australian citizens by birth, and whether they hold any other citizenship. Quigley says a question has been added in the last few weeks to ask whether the candidates parents or grandparents that were born overseas or held overseas citizenship. 

The new questions were added in response to the resignations of Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, and the questions regarding One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts’ dual citizenship, Quigley confirmed.

The new process is adequate to test for eligibility, Quigley says, because “asking them about the parents and grandparents is being quite proactive because it then forms the trigger for us to do our own investigations”.

The Nationals are confident that their senators will be found to be eligible by the High Court, and Quigley says people are telling the party they find it “ridiculous” that the issue is getting so much attention. He says the Nationals were aware of Gillespie’s case before he was elected and they stand by his eligibility.

The Victorian Nationals’ have not previously asked candidates for preselection if they are dual citizens, Victorian Nationals president Neil Pankhurst confirmed to Crikey today. It asks nominees when and where they were born, and if they were born overseas, it asks when they were naturalised as Australian citizens. Asked if this was an oversight by the party, Pankhurst said:

“Maybe … yeah, it’s something we maybe should have been more aware of previously. But I think with the number of people that are currently getting caught up in it with the rights of parents, it’s a tricky one.”

The Victorian Nationals will undergo a review of their preselection process, Pankhurst says, as part of a wider change to the party’s preselection processes.

Pankhurst says that while he has not personally spoken to the three Nationals MPs and senators from Victoria about their citizenship status since the debacle started a month ago, “I have had confirmation that everyone is comfortable with their status”.

Crikey has also attempted to contact the campaign director for the Queensland Liberal National Party Lincoln Folo, to ask about the party’s processes when it comes to investigating dual citizenship and other eligibility issues when it comes to nominating for parliament, but didn’t hear back before deadline.

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4 thoughts on “Oops, turns out the Nats don’t always ask wannabe MPs about their citizenship

  1. klewso

    “Gnats – Sorting the Chaff from the Chaff”

    1. klewso

      Why wouldn’t they hate the Greens?
      ….If it hadn’t been for them it would have been (illegitimate) business as usual – providing patrons with a leg-up to that tax-payer funded pork barrel and making it easy for mates and sponsors to make a bigger buck, at someone else’s (down the chain) expense? Easy as robbing the Darling.

  2. AR

    How reassuring – ““I have had confirmation that everyone is comfortable with their status”“.
    Fairly sure that the latest suspects were, until recently, also pretty relaxed & comfortable around the trough, the main consideration being to out snout their colleagues.
    So nice to see the comfortable discomforted.

  3. old greybearded one

    What a collection of dunces! Water thieves, fools, caterpillars on the public purse as well it seems. My own local member looks clever compared to his front bench. Nash already proved herself incompetent with the food standards, yet she is the deputy leader. Barnaby Blatherskite condones and encourages the theft of water, as learned form his cotton growing mates in St George.

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