Australian Senate President Stephen Parry is resigning because he's a dual citizen

Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The British Home Office has confirmed that Australian Senate President and Stephen Parry is a UK citizen, forcing the Tasmanian Liberal to resign from Parliament because he is in breach of Section 44 of the Constitution.

The announcement comes just five days after the High Court of Australian ruled deputy prime minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, and four other senators were also ineligible to be in parliament, forcing their immediate removal.

Parry has a British-born father and is the eighth Australian politician caught up in the debacle, which saw the High Court last Friday declare five of seven MPs, including Joyce, Nationals deputy leader Fiona Nash, One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts, and former Greens senators Scott Ludlum and Larissa Waters were in breach of the Constitution when they stood for election last year.

Astonishingly, Parry, a senator since 2004, only sought formal advice from British authorities on Monday, more than three months after the issue first emerged when senators Ludlam and then Waters announced their resignations in mid-July.

Today, he wrote to his fellow senators, saying he will resign on Thursday:

With a heavy heart I inform you that I have received advice from the British Home Office that I am a British citizen by virtue of my father’s birthplace, thereby being a dual citizen under the provisions of the Australian Constitution.

Now that the High Court’s recent ruling has given absolute clarity to the meaning and application of Section 44(1) and as required by Section 17 of the Constitution, I will submit my resignation as both President of the Senate and as a Senator for Tasmania to His Excellency the Governor-General tomorrow.

Because my departure is rapid and an unexpected event, I will not have the usual opportunity to address you in the Senate one last time. I wish to thank all of you as colleagues, many of whom I regard as good friends – from all quarters of the chamber – for your support and confidence in me.

Parry spent 6.5 years as the senate’s deputy president and then president, take home a salary worth nearly $350,000 a year in the top job.

Acting Prime Minister Julie Bishop – she has the job because Joyce is no longer in parliament, and will contest a by-election for his old seat on December 2 – only found out about Parry’s oversight yesterday.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is currently in Israel, now faces the double embarrassment of losing three senior Coalition figures after they failed to properly check their heritage before signing their candidacy papers declaring they had no allegiance to another country, as well as Parry being the first Liberal caught up in the continuing debacle.

In a statement issued yesterday, Parry said Friday’s High Court decision provided “absolute clarity” about Section 44 of the Constitution and that meant he “had cause to examine my citizenship status in relation to my late father having been born in the United Kingdom”.

He said Monday was his first chance to write to the Home Office about his citizenship since the High Court decision.

Parry says his father moved to Australia as a boy in 1951 and “I always regarded my late father as Australian, particularly as he undertook his national service and participated as a member of the Australian Army Reserve and voted in every Australian election since adulthood”.

Parry’s late disclosure also embarrassed his parliamentary colleague and the government leader in the Senate, Attorney-General George Brandis, who, just a day before the outgoing Senate President sought clarification on his citizenship status, told the media “I have no reason whatever to believe that there is any other Coalition member who is in the same position”.

Yes Fairfax Media political reporter Adam Gartrell pointed out that Parry pulled out of joining a parliamentary delegation to India on Friday, just after the High Court handed down its decision.

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