- He says he renounced his British citizenship a decade ago, but can’t find the paperwork.
- He is the 11th politician to resign over the issue – and will not stand for re-election.
- The future of another federal Labor politician, senator Katy Gallagher, is still uncertain.
Victorian Labor MP David Feeney has resigned from federal politics because he cannot prove he renounced his right to British citizenship, the latest victim of the ongoing dual citizenship fiasco.
He is the first ALP MP to resign in the eight-month saga over politicians in breach of Section 44 of the Constitution. The fate of his senate colleague, Katy Gallagher, who was still a UK citizen when she nominated for the 2016 election, but attempted to renounce it, awaits a ruling from the High Court.
Feeney is the third lower house MP forced to resign after Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and Liberal MP John Alexander, who both reclaimed their seats in subsequent by-elections late last year. Feeney will not re-contest his seat of Batman, saying Labor “deserve a candidate that is able to give the months and the years ahead 150% of their effort, their commitment and their passion”.
“After careful reflection, I don’t believe I’m able to offer this and that tells me that it’s time for me to stand aside for a Labor candidate that can and will,” he said.
It’s not the first time the hapless 47-year-old, who took over the formerly safe Labor seat from Martin Ferguson in 2013, has struggled with paperwork.
In the leadup to the 2016 federal election, he was in political trouble for failing to declare a $2.31 million investment property in his inner Melbourne electorate.
He subsequently caused further embarrassment for Labor in a disastrous TV interview on his party’s election promises.
He told Parliament last December he had renounced dual British citizenship 10 years ago but never received confirmation and had been unable to find documents to verify his claim.
Today, reading a prepared statement, Feeney said that to the best of his memory, he sent renunciations to UK and Irish authorities in October 2007, but he was “unable to disprove” he was a dual citizen.
“The evidence concerning my Irish renunciation is intact and there is no question as to my Irish citizenship. With respect to my British renunciation I have been unable to local the required notice of renunciation. It of course makes no logical sense that I would do one and not the other,” he said.
“Over recent weeks extensive searches have been conducted of personal records, ALP records, the records and archives of the UK home office and the records of the British High Commission and its consular offices. The fact is that after 10 years most records have not been retained.
“I have taken legal advice indicating that the material that has been located to date is insufficient to satisfy the High Court that I did, indeed, renounce my rights 10 years ago.”
Labor leader Bill Shorten issued a statement Feeney told him he would resign late yesterday.
“This decision is the right one and spares the valuable time and resources of the High Court,” he said.
“On behalf of all of us in Federal Labor, I want to wish David, Liberty and Ned all the best for the future.”
A date for the by-election has yet to be set, but Feeney’s departure gives the ALP the chance to regain some of the ground lost to the Greens, who almost snatched the seat from Labor in 2016, to try and stem the bleeding.
This chart from ABC election analyst Anthony Green shows Labor’s problem.
— Antony Green (@AntonyGreenABC) February 1, 2018
Former ACTU boss Ged Kearney is being touted as the Feeney’s replacement as the Labor candidate. The Liberals have indicated they won’t be running a candidate.
The continued drama over dual citizenship has now ended the careers of nine politicians (11 have resigned), including Nationals deputy Fiona Nash, Liberal and former senate president Stephen Parry, One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts, NXT’s Skye Kakoschke-Moore, Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie and the Greens co-deputies Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam.
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