The dual citizenship fiasco currently threatening the government will be resolved before Christmas, according to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
“I am very committed and always have been to the disclosures being presented to the Parliament before the end of the year,” he said at a media conference on Wednesday.
Turnbull said he wanted the House and Senate to have the opportunity to review the disclosures before they rise for the summer break, just in case anyone needs to be referred to the High Court.
Less than a fortnight ago, the High Court ruled that four senators, including Nationals deputy Fiona Nash, as well as Joyce, were ineligible to stand for election last year because they were dual citizens. Then Liberal Senate President Stephen Parry resigned suddenly last week after finally checking with the British Home Office last Monday and confirming he was a UK citizen by descent.
The future of the government currently hangs in the balance with NSW MP John Alexander’s tenure under a cloud because his father was born in the UK before coming to Australia as a child. Two days after the problem first emerged, the MP says he is still making enquiries and Turnbull declined to comment further today.
With government numbers currently evenly poised in the lower house after Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce was ousted when the High Court ruled he was ineligible, the PM met with Labor leader Bill Shorten in a bid to reach agreement on when MPs must disclose their citizenship status, based on the plan Turnbull announced on Monday.
Labor has raised concerns about Turnbull’s proposed 21-day window for MPs to reveal their citizenship status after Parliament passes the changes, claiming the Prime Minister is trying to delay the loss of any more MPs.
Today’s two-hour meeting failed to reach a deal, leaving Turnbull with little to say at his press conference, other than to declare that “There is no-one more Australian than Barnaby Joyce”, whose father was born in New Zealand, thus giving him dual citizenship. Joyce is now campaigning as the Coalition candidate in his old seat at the December 2 by-election.
Turnbull’s comments today, however, bring into question to capabilities of sitting MPs who’ve lost their job because they are dual citizens.
These people are paid nearly $200,000 a year — many receive much much more — as national legislators, responsible for laws filled with pages and pages of fine print that shape the lives of every Australian.
Yet the PM continues to present the dual citizenship fiasco as some sort of massive surprise that snuck up on unsuspecting MPs, despite the fact that when the first two victims were Greens senators, Turnbull said they were guilty of “incredible sloppiness” and “extraordinary negligence” before going on to lose two Coalition senators and Joyce to the issue.
The Government’s lawyers put forward the case that Joyce and four other MPs were “ignorant” of their origins, but the Court did not accept the argument.
The PM said today that when standing for office: “People are going to have to be warned in big red flashing letters ‘Dual citizenship is an issue’.”
The “big red flashing letters” are obviously designed to replace the big black bold letters at the top of the nomination form every candidate signs when standing for election, where the Australian Electoral Commission says: “Your attention is drawn in particular to section 44 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia.”
Here it is:
Lawyer Tim Miller has already implemented Turnbull’s plan:
— Tim Miller (@Warbz) November 8, 2017
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