Another Turnbull government minister has dual citizenship - but won't stand aside

Both foreigners – National Party leader Barnaby Joyce and his deputy leader Fiona Nash. Photo: Stefan Postles/Getty Images.

National Party deputy leader Fiona Nash has just told the senate that she is a dual British-Australian citizen because of her Scottish-born father.

She is the third Turnbull government minister whose case will be referred to the High Court, along with her boss and fellow minister, Barnaby Joyce, who revealed he had New Zealand citizenship on Monday, and former minister Matt Canavan.

Nash told the Senate on Thursday night that based on advice from the solicitor-general she does not resign from the ministry. The Sydney-born senator, who was first elected in 2005, is the minister for local government, regional development and regional communications.

She has two Scottish-born sisters who are dual citizens.

“By Monday evening I was advised that a caseworker at the UK Home Office was of the view that on the basis of the limited facts that I had provided, I was a British citizen by descent through my Scottish-born father,” she told the Senate.

“My parents divorced when I was eight and my mother raised me. I had very little contact with my father throughout his life and he died nine years ago. My mother died five years ago.

“Growing up, my parents always told me that I was not a dual citizen.”

Nash said she sought additional advice and the solicitor-general provided this evening, saying she does not have to stand aside from her portfolio responsibilities.

Nash will be the fifth politician at the mercy of the High Court, along with her two Coalition colleagues and two Greens senators who resigned last month. The status of Queensland One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts also remains under a cloud.

On Monday, deputy prime minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce told parliament he was New Zealand citizen by descent. The Australian-born member for New England, whose father is NZ-born, has legal advice that he can remain deputy PM in the meantime.

Joyce subsequently renounced his New Zealand citizenship, but section 44 of the Constitution bars people with citizenship in a country other than Australia from standing for election, which potentially puts all three Coalition politicians in breach.

The issue has turned into a bitter political fight between the government and opposition, as well as a diplomatic row between New Zealand and Australia after prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said Labor leader Bill Shorten “wants to steal government by entering into a conspiracy with a foreign power”.

Former Turnbull government minister Matt Canavan stepped down from Cabinet after discovering that his mother registered the 36-year-old Australian-born Queensland senator as an Italian citizen a decade ago, but did not tell him.

Two Greens senators resigned from parliament last month after discovering they were dual citizens because of their birthplace.

Western Australian Greens co-leader senator Scott Ludlam, who was born in New Zealand and moved to Australia when he was three, resigned just days after discovering he was a dual citizen last month and a week later, Queensland senator Larissa Waters, who was born in Canada, also stepped down after discovering Canada’s citizenship rules were changed after her birth and she was also a dual citizen.

Following their resignations, Malcolm Turnbull said the Greens were guilty of “incredible sloppiness” and “extraordinary negligence”.

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